L in the Middle of a Word

I recently got an email from someone asking about the light L and dark L. She said, if an L is in the middle of a word, isn’t it always a dark L. And the answer is no. An L can be in the middle of the word, but still at the beginning of a syllable. Let’s take for example the word ‘elongate’ – to make something longer. This can be pronounced several ways, I pronounce it with the ‘ee’ as in ‘she’ vowel in the first syllable. But no matter how it is pronounced, the middle syllable is always begun with the L consonant sound. And since it is beginning the syllable, it is a light L. So it is the ‘ee’ as in ‘she’ followed by a light L beginning that second syllable. Elongate.

We can compare that with the word ‘eel’ which has the ‘ee’ as in ‘she’ followed by the L. The L here is at the end of the syllable, therefore it is a dark L. Elongate, eel. Do you here this—uh—dark sound that comes before the L in the word eel? Ee-uh-l. In the word elongate, elongate, there is not that dark sound. This is because the tongue, ee-uh-l, which pulls back for the dark L, does not do it in the word elongate. Elongate. The tip simply moves straight up to the top without pulling back first. So an L at the beginning of a word, that can only be a light L. L at the end of a word, that can only be a dark L. But an L that comes in the middle of a word can be light or dark, depending on if it is beginning or ending the syllable. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.

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Listen + Repeat Exercises: R + L

Comparing R and L

The TL cluster


[l] ‘l’ as in ‘lap’

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