"The Intrusive L"
Yale University, Department of Linguistics (and Haskins Laboratories).
(preliminary abstract, copyright Bryan W. Gick, 1996)
In this paper I shall discuss a very widespread and linguistically
highly significant yet almost completely unnoticed phenomenon of English
speech that is, to the best of my knowledge, utterly unique to American
dialects*. After a long-standing tradition of study of a parallel phenomenon
well known in dialects of English - intrusive (and linking) R - I refer to
it as the "intrusive L" (after Gick, 1991).
The intrusive L, to those who have heard it, is very similar to the
intrusive R of many dialects of English (e.g. "I saw[r]it,"
"draw[r]ing"), and is the quite unmistakable "intrusion" or epenthesis of
a "clear" [l] into the hiatus between a low vowel (i.e., [a] or "open o,"
though these two are merged in many of the L-intruding dialects) and a
following vowel, thus: "saw it" becomes "saw[l]it," "drawing" and "drawling"
merge into "draw[l]ing," and the expression "awe inspiring" is often
reanalyzed as "all inspiring."
Perhaps the most surprising fact about the intrusive L is its
almost complete lack of recognition in either decriptive or analytical
terms, despite its distinctive nature and its broad distribution
throughout some of the most thoroughly studied linguistic regions of
America (it is attested, to the best of my knowledge, only in
unpublished studies by this author and a few others - Lutz, 1984; Gick,
1991; Miller, 1993 - as extending at least from Philadelphia through much
of Southern and Central Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, across Southern
Ohio and continuing strongly through the Ohio/West Virginia/Kentucky
tri-state area, and surely beyond).
Until now, the "hiatus consonant" market has been completely
dominated by discussion of intrusive R (surely because of its marked
presence in prestige dialects of Southern England). The present
study of the implications of intrusive L will (briefly) call upon recent
work in both theoretical and laboratory (articulatory) phonology to better
understand the phenomenon itself and to show that these different intrusive
consonants in English are in some sense instances of the same phenomenon
- that this phenomenon can no longer simply be explained away as a one-
off lexical anomaly, but must be seen as driven by a much more general
tendency of the English language.
*the only similar case to my knowledge outside of the U.S. is in the
dialect of Bristol, England. There are some (perhaps damning)
differences, but it presents an interesting parallel. The single extensive
work on this dialect to my knowledge is in German (Weissmann, 1970).
Ash, Sharon. 1982. "The Vocalization of Intervocalic /l/ in
Philadelphia." SECOL Review 6:162-175.
Browman, Catherine P. and Louis Goldstein. 1992. "Articulatory Phonology:
An Overview." Phonetica 49:155-180.
Gick, Bryan. 1991. A Phonologically Motivated Theory of Intrusive
Consonants and Related Phenomena in English. Unpublished thesis,
Lutz, John. A Study of a Midwestern Dialect Using a Computational Model
for Linguistic Variation. Unpublished thesis, Harvard U.
McCarthy, John. 1993. "A Case of Surface Constraint Violation." Canadian
Journal of Linguistics 38:169-195.
Miller, Corey. 1993. "Intrusive l in Delaware English." (unpublished)
paper presented at NWAVE 22, Ottowa.
Sproat, Richard and Osamu Fujimura. 1993. "Allophonic Variation in
English /l/ and Its Implications for Phonetic Implementation."
Journal of Phonetics 21:291-311.
Weissmann, E. 1970. "Phonematische Analyse des Stadtdialektes von
Bristol." Phonetica 21:151-181,211-240.