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/l/ variation in american english


Corpus phonetics
Forced alignment

How to Cite

Yuan J, Liberman M. /l/ variation in american english: a corpus approach. J. of Speech Sci. [Internet]. 2021 Feb. 3 [cited 2024 Apr. 24];1(2):35-46. Available from:


We investigated the variation of /l/ in a large speech corpus through forced alignment. The results demonstrated that there is a categorical distinction between dark and light /l/ in American English. /l/ in syllable onset is light, and /l/ in syllable coda is dark. Intervocalic /l/ can be either light or dark, depending on the stress of the vowels. There is a correlation between duration (the rime duration and the duration of /l/) and /l/-darkness for dark /l/, but not for light /l/. Intervocalic dark /l/ is less dark than canonical syllable-coda /l/, but it is always dark, even in very short rimes. Intervocalic light /l/ is less light than canonical syllable-onset /l/, but it is always light. We argue that there are two levels of contrast in /l/ variation. The first level is determined by its affiliation to a single position in the syllable structure, and the second level is determined by its phonetic contexto.


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Copyright (c) 2011 Jiahong Yuan, Mark Liberman


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