"The Intrusive L"

Bryan Gick

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unpublished studies by this author and a few others - Lutz, 1984; Gick,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).


Some References:

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,

Edinburgh U.

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.