I don't think Debbie will agree.
I am wondering whether the 'l' in the word 'will' should be pronounced
as a dark l (since the preceding sound is a vowel?) or a clear l
(since the following sound is a vowel?).
Let me say right away that the nature of the preceding sound is entirely irrelevant. (You get clear l in black, but dark l in tables. The preceding consonant is b in both cases.)
I am even more puzzled when I listen to the examples in Longman
Dictionary of Contemporary English for the word 'capital':
'Washington D.C., the capital of the United States' I heard a dark l
in the word 'capital'.
'Hollywood is the capital of the movie industry' Here, I heard a clear
l in the same word 'capital'.
So how can this be? In reply I said
You can get either clear or dark l in this position (word-final before a vowel in the next word). Partly it depends on syntax (how closely are the words linked together?), partly on speech rate, partly on personal differences. Generally speaking I would use a clear l unless there was a major syntactic boundary between the words, or unless I paused at that point.
I must confess that that reply is not based on any evidence beyond tradition and my own introspection. The account in the current (7th) edition of Gimson’s Pronunciation of English, edited by Alan Cruttenden, has this to say (p. 216):
When an affix beginning with a vowel is added or the next word begins with a vowel (fiddling, fiddle it, finally, parcel of books), the lateral may remain as dark and may remain syllabic or become non-syllabic; alternatively the lateral may become clear , in which cases it is usually non-syllabic. The lateral is less likely to become clear in those cases where the following word begins with an accented syllable, where a [ʔ] may intervene, as in real ale [riːɫ ˋʔeɪɫ], cf. real estate [ˋriːl esteɪt].
I think it would have been better to deal separately with the question of loss of syllabicity (which I call ‘compression’), because this is sensitive to the strength of the following vowel — it is an option available only if the following vowel is weak. The possible insertion of ʔ (‘hard attack’) is also a separate issue.
And personally I wouldn’t be caught dead saying riːl instead of rɪəl for real — but now I’m showing my age, and I’m well aware that hardly anyone nowadays distinguishes real from reel in the way that I do.
I expect someone somewhere has carried out experimental measurements of clear vs. dark l in a variety of contexts, including unscripted connected speech, but I can’t refer you to any such research. Nor can I lay my finger on Abercrombie’s interesting observation, made half a century or more ago, that we use a clear l in feel in the sentence I feel ill, but in the sentence I may not look ill, but I do feel ill we use a dark one.
I also suspect that Abercrombie used, and I use, a clear lateral in some contexts where Cruttenden has a dark one. (Although not sounding in general like northerners, Abercrombie and I grew up in the northwest of England, whereas Cruttenden grew up in London.)
Felix was delighted with my answer, but still came up with a further poser.
In the phrase 'annual leave', I should pronounce a dark l then a clear l at the boundary between the two words?
We might also consider such examples as tell lots, full length, table lamp, feel lonely. I said
Theoretically, yes. In practice, in fast speech at least, you get assimilation making both parts of the lateral clear.
You may not all agree with this, and there are obviously social and regional differences. Again, has anyone ever made systematic observations relating to this point?
_ _ _
I’m sorry there was no posting to this blog yesterday. This was for reasons beyond my control.