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Summary Details

Query:   Interdental /l - Part 1
Author:  Mark Jones
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonetics

Summary:   Some weeks ago I posted a query about a possible interdental realisation of /l in the speech of young females from the West Coast of the USA (Linguist 15.1675). An identical post was made on the American Dialect Society List (ADS-L).

Part 1 of the summary follows: Roger Lass of the University of Cape Town drew my attention to the importance of distinguishing between a truly interdental realisation and a laminal dental realisation. The latter may involve some protrusion of the tongue tip. It is unclear from the comments received whether this possible distinction can be maintained. For now, an /l with tongue tip protrusion will be classed broadly as 'interdental'. Interdental
's were reported for the singer Britney Spears and for Reese Witherspoon's character in the film Legally Blonde: Kati Pedersen of the University of Minnesota put in the effort to find the precise location on the DVD (9th scene, 2447 secs) where a final interdental /l occurs in the phrase 'law school'. Interestingly both Britney Spears and Reese Witherspoon are originally from Louisiana, far from the West Coast (some sources claim that RW is from Tennessee - I will follow Kati and many others on this). These realisations may represent usage of a stereotypical feature, though both are reported from a particular kind of event: a performance.

Two respondents made comments which may link into this observation: Zach Wolff, a native of Kansas uses interdental
's when teaching English to Japanese primary school students in Japan to stress the articulation required; Bruce Mor?n who grew up in Staten Island, New York has interdentals as a result of speech therapy as a child -- this was the method he was taught to produce onset and coda /l and his mother still uses interdental /l when speaking exaggeratedly to his nephew. It appears that interdental /l may be a particularly emphatic articulation used to stress (visually) how the sound is articulated.

Some respondents claimed never to have heard this as a general feature of a particular accent (Jim Fidelholtz, Nick Pharris), but Brook Danielle Lillehaugen of UCLA reported an interdental /l in her own speech. She fits the profile of my original post in that she is young, female and was born and raised in Southern California. Nick Pharris, originally from Northern California, now of the University of Michigan reported having an interdental pharyngealised syllabic /l in words where an alveolar precedes the /l like in 'funnel' and 'huddle'. Alice Faber of Haskins Labs responded to the ADS-L post to say that she misheard the name Galercole as Gathercole (also a possible name), presumably due to an interdental
, and only became aware of the misperception when she saw the name written down. Roger Lass also reported coming across interdental /l occasionally, including in South Africa. Probal Dasgupta of the University of Hyderabad reported his acquisition of an interdental /l when speaking English during a 4 year stay in New York as a child. Miriam Mayerhoff of Edinburgh University, Scotland, reported the use of interdental /l and also /n in Hawai'ian English (see Myerhoff, Miriam 2002. Topics from the tropics. Language Magazine. 2, 4. 39-44), and speculated that this may have been carried to the West Coast via the surfing community (presumably not surfing _all_ the way). Clyde Hankey, retired of Youngstown State University, Ohio, reported hearing flapped laterals in Indiana 45 years ago, which he remarks is a stretch for an origin for this feature, but goes to show that laterals are phonetically very varied.

Part 2 to follow.... Subject-Language: English;Italian; Code: ITN

LL Issue: 15.1836
Date Posted: 17-Jun-2004
Original Query: Read original query


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