The TL cluster

I recently received an email: Rachel, one sound that I’ve always had trouble reproducing convincingly is TL. This is the sound in words like mental, title, brittle, capital, and bottle. The word Seattle is especially difficult for me to say correctly. It would be great if you could make a video on how to produce this sound. Also, is the TL in the words I listed even pronounced the same? It seems like there’s something different going on.

You’re exactly right that the Ts in all those words are not pronounced the same. When it comes to wondering how to pronounce a T, I will put a link on my website to a video that someone else has made that I think is a very good explanation for that. But let’s talk about the pronunciation of these words. Mental. Mental is the one word out of the ones you listed where I would actually say a tt sound for the T. Mental. He is mental. So, tt, to make that, your tongue, tt, has to pull away from your teeth and let air out. It then goes into the dark L because this L is ending a syllable. Ment- al. So, the jaw has to drop and the tongue has to bunch up a little to make that vowel-like sound before the tongue moves to make the L. Mental. Mental. So the tongue pulls away, fattens up a little bit, and then finishes up by curling to make the L. Mental. Now, as I’ve said in previous blog entries about the dark L, the tongue does not always necessarily move up into that position to finish off the L. Mental, mental. You will definitely hear native speakers pronounce it that way. Mental. So in that case, the tongue simply pulls back from the teeth to fatten up to make that vowel-like sound, mental, and leave it at that.

The word title. In this case, the second T is pronounced as a D, -tle, -tle, which means the vocal cords need to keep producing sound through that movement. In this word more so than in the word mental, the movement of the tongue feels very sharp to me. Title. For the D it’s in position here. -tle. And it pulls back very quickly to make that ul sound for the dark L, before the tip of the tongue moves back in. So the tip of the tongue is pressing there for the D, it comes away to make that vowel-like sound, and it moves back up to make the final part of the dark L sound.

Title is the same as the rest of the words you listed: brittle, capital, bottle, where it is a D sound going into a dark L sound. And this is also true of the word Seattle.

Xem thêm:

L in the Middle of a Word

Listen + Repeat Exercises: R + L

Comparing R and L


[l] ‘l’ as in ‘lap’

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