clear l and dark l

Anna   Wednesday, September 22, 2004, 10:35 GMT
I'd like to learn to speak in an american accent (maybe Californian) so here's a question to all native speakers: when you pronounce words that end with the soun l like girl, hell, spell.. do you also touch the alveolar ridge with your tongue? I've noticed that I don't, for some reason, so do I make the sound wrong?
Ed   Wednesday, September 22, 2004, 20:38 GMT
Yea, I think you should touch the ridge, but i have many difficulties with that sounds in every language
Ed   Wednesday, September 22, 2004, 20:39 GMT
"that sound", not "sounds"
Anna   Thursday, September 23, 2004, 05:48 GMT
Thanks :)
D   Thursday, September 23, 2004, 10:57 GMT
All three of girl, hell, spell have dark ells in my pronunciation.
I do not touch the tip of my tounge to the alveolar ridge for
dark ells unless I am trying to speak very slowly, in which
case the dark ells sound more like clear ells.
For clear ells I do touch. This is with a American native accent.
Anna   Thursday, September 23, 2004, 12:50 GMT
That's good to know, because most books I've found only deal with the Brittish sounds not the American so I have nothing else to rely on but my own ears (and that sometimes leads to mispronunciation)..
Justin   Thursday, September 23, 2004, 13:59 GMT
I touch the alveolar ridge with my tongue when reading those words. But when I speak fast, I sometimes don't do that. Maybe I just don't realize the difference in the sound between touching the alveolar or not.
Mxsmanic   Thursday, September 23, 2004, 19:11 GMT
Here is a _precise_ description:

The standard 'r' in American English is a postalveolar approximant. To produce it, curl the tip of your tongue backwards and hold it close behind the alveolar ridge. Do not touch the ridge. It should be close enough to have an audible effect on adjacent sounds (so that you hear the 'r'), but not so close that it makes the airflow through the vocal tract turbulent (which would produce the hissing sound of a fricative or sibilant like 's', and you don't want that).

To pronounce the dark 'l' in girl or world, unroll the tongue and press the tip up against the alveolar ridge just behind the teeth. Leave the sides of the tongue down so that air and sound pass laterally out either side of the tongue. For a dark 'l', also raise the back of the tongue a bit so that it presses lightly up against the soft palate. For a clear 'l', leave the back of the tongue down.

It's easy to produce these sounds in world or girl once you know exactly how to say them.

Note that clear 'l' and dark 'l' are allophones of the same phoneme /l/ in standard English, so you can pronounce either of these in any position that requires the /l/ without interfering with comprehension. However, if you pronounce the wrong one in a given position, it may give you an accent.

American English uses the postalveolar approximant for 'r', but so do almost all other varieties of English. Native Anglophones in India often use a true retroflex 'r' (the tongue is curled a bit further back). Some dialects of English (including Scottish and the old-fashioned, "marked" versions of RP) use a trilled 'r' (like Spanish) in some positions.
Jim   Friday, September 24, 2004, 01:11 GMT
You can't help but have an accent unless you don't speak.
Mxsmanic   Friday, September 24, 2004, 17:35 GMT
You can eliminate an accent if you really want to, with proper practice and training. Tom's own example on this site proves this, and there are many others who have accomplished the same thing. It's much harder to eliminate an accent than it is to simply speak fluently, so most people don't bother, but it can certainly be done.
Ailian   Friday, September 24, 2004, 23:54 GMT
Mxsmanic wrote:
>You can eliminate an accent if you really want to, with proper practice
>and training.

Eliminate an accent to... what? A digital, staccato voice? Even newscasters (US) have an accent (typically of the standard/Midwestern American accent variety) and those speaking RP most certainly do as well.

Eliminating a regional (or national for non-native speakers) accent to a standard English (SA, RP, ??) accent, however, is certainly possible, as is adopting a new accent. Is that what you meant?
Mxsmanic   Saturday, September 25, 2004, 03:24 GMT
Accent in the sense of a foreign or incorrect or otherwise non-standard pronunciation.
Jim   Monday, September 27, 2004, 02:13 GMT
Yes, you can eliminate a foreign accent but, of course, you'll still have an accent.
Mxsmanic   Monday, September 27, 2004, 05:05 GMT
It doesn't matter then, as long as it's the same accent as other people around you.