A cross-language acoustic study of initial and final allophones of /l/

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Formant frequency data for /l/ in 23 languages/dialects where the consonant may be typically clear or dark show that the two varieties of /l/ are set in contrast mostly in the context of /i/ but also next to /a/, and that a few languages/dialects may exhibit intermediate degrees of darkness in the consonant. F2 for /l/ is higher utterance initially than utterance finally, more so if the lateral is clear than if it is dark; moreover, the initial and final allophones may be characterized as intrinsic (in most languages/dialects) or extrinsic (in several English dialects, Czech and Dutch) depending on whether the position-dependent frequency difference in question is below or above 200/300 Hz. The paper also reports a larger degree of vowel coarticulation for clear /l/ than for dark /l/ and in initial than in final position. These results are interpreted in terms of the production mechanisms involved in the realization of the two /l/ varieties in the different positional and vowel context conditions subjected to investigation. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-383
JournalSpeech Communication
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012


  • Clear and dark /l/
  • Darkness degree
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic allophones
  • Spectral analysis
  • Vowel coarticulation


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