In linguistics, l-vocalization is a process by which an IPA|/l/ sound is replaced by a vowel or semivowel sound. This happens most often to IPA|/ɫ/.

L-vocalization in English

L-vocalization is a notable feature of certain dialects of English, including Cockney and Estuary English, in which an IPA|/l/ sound occurring at the end of a word or before a consonant is replaced with the semivowel IPA|/w/, also lesserly transcribed as the vowels IPA|/o/ and IPA|/ʊ/, resulting in pronunciations such as IPA| [mɪwk] , for "milk", and IPA| [ˈmɪdw] , for "middle".

Especially in Cockney, l-vocalization can be accompanied by phonemic mergers of vowels before the vocalized IPA|/l/. For example, "real", "reel" and "rill", which are distinct in Received Pronunciation, are homophones in Cockney as IPA| [ɹɪw] .

In the accent of Bristol, syllabic IPA|/l/ vocalized to IPA|/o/, resulting in pronunciations like IPA|/ˈbɒto/ (for "bottle"). By hypercorrection, however, some words originally ending in IPA|/o/ had this sound replaced by syllabic IPA|/l/: the original name of the town was "Bristow", but this has been altered by hypercorrection to "Bristol".Fact|date=May 2008

In the United States, the dark L in Pittsburgh and African-American Vernacular English dialects may change to an o, w. In African American Vernacular, it may be omitted altogether (i.e. fool becomes IPA| [fu] , cereal becomes IPA| [ˈsiɹio] ).

L-vocalization in other languages

* In early 15th century Middle Scots IPA|/al/ (except intervocalically and before IPA|/d/), IPA|/ol/ and often IPA|/ul/ changed to IPA|/au/, IPA|/ou/ and IPA|/uː/. For example "all" changed to "aw", "hald" to "haud" (hold), "colt" to "cowt", "ful" to "fou" (full).
*In Dutch, the combinations "old" ('old') and "holt" ('wood') changed to "oud" and "hout" during the Middle Ages.
*In Brazilian Portuguese, IPA|/l/ in the syllable coda position becomes the semivowel IPA| [u̯] . For example, the words "mau" (bad) and "mal" (badly) are both pronounced IPA| [mau̯] .
*In Polish and Sorbian languages, all historical IPA|/ɫ/ have become IPA|/w/, even in word-initial and inter-vocalic position. For example, in Polish "ładny" ("pretty, nice") is pronounced IPA|/ˈwadnɨ/, "słowo" ("word") is IPA|/ˈswɔvɔ/, and "small" in both Polish and Sorbian is "mały", pronounced IPA|/ˈmawɨ/ (cf. Russian малый IPA| [ˈmaɫɨj] ). The IPA|/w/ pronunciation dates back to the 16th century, first appearing among peasants. It was considered an uncultured accent until the mid-20th century when this stigma gradually began to fade. As of the early 2000s, IPA|/ɫ/ can still be used by some speakers of eastern Polish dialects, especially in Belarus and Lithuania.
*In Ukrainian, at the end of a closed syllable, historical IPA|/ɫ/ has become IPA|/w/. For example, the Ukrainian word for "wolf" is "вовк" IPA|/ʋowk/, cf. Russian вoлк IPA| [voɫk] .
*In Serbo-Croatian, a historical IPA|/l/ in coda position has become IPA|/o/ and is now so spelled. For example, the Serbo-Croatian name of Belgrade is "Beograd".
*In Austro-Bavarian, the etymological /l/ is vocalised, only after front vowels, into "i" or "y", e.g. "vui" corresponding with High German "viel" ("much").
*In Bernese German, a historical IPA|/l/ in coda position has become IPA| [w] , a historical IPA|/lː/ (only occurring intervocalically) has become IPA|/wː/, whereas intervocalic IPA|/l/ persists. The absence of vocalization was one of the distinctive features of the upper class variety which is not much spoken anymore. For example, the German name of the city of Biel is pronounced IPA| [ˈb̥iə̯w] .
*In Bulgarian, young people often pronounce the IPA| [ɫ] of the standard language as IPA| [w] or IPA| [o] , especially in an informal context. For example, pronunciations which could be transcribed as IPA| [maʊ̯ko] or IPA| [mao̯ko] occurs instead of standard IPA| [maɫko] ("a little"). Unlike the historical sound changes listed above, this is an example of a synchronic variation between speakers that might not result in a sound change in the long run.
*In early French, IPA|/l/ vocalized in many positions between a preceding vowel and a following consonant, for example "caldus" (Vulgar Latin for "warm, hot") became "chaud" (in the Middle Ages with a diphthong similar to IPA|/au/, today simplified to IPA|/o:/). Another example: The masculine form of the word "new" in Vulgar Latin was "novellus". This was simplified to "nouvells" in Old French, so that /l/ stood next to a consonant and vocalized to /w/. Later, the end-s disappeared resulting in /nou'vew/, which resembles the today written form "nouveau". In the feminine form, /l/ stood between two vowels ("novella"), so the /l/ did not turn into a /w/ and is hearable until today (Modern French: "nouvelle" /nu'vel/).
*In early Italian, IPA|/l/ sometimes vocalized to IPA|/j/, e.g. Latin "flos" > Italian "fiore", Latin "clavis" > Italian "chiave".


*Labov, William, Sharon Ash, and Charles Boberg. 2006. "The Atlas of North American English". Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8.

ee also

* Regional accents of English
* Ł

External links

* [http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/estuary/transcree-uni.htm Transcribing Estuary English, by J. C. Wells] - discusses the phonetics of l-vocalization in Estuary English and Cockney.
* [http://hometown.aol.com/taylor16471/index.html L-vocalisations in Estuary English]

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