Learn English – pronouncing “l” as a vowel


I am a native English speaker with a British accent.

When I say words like: lion, liver, below etc. – there is definite contact between my tongue and teeth/roof of the mouth.

When I say words like:
golf, golfer, wolf, else.

  1. I don't notice my tongue touching my teeth or roof of the mouth. Is this normal?
    If I make a conscious effort to make contact when saying "golf" it sounds odd.

  2. Should there always be contact (between the tongue and teeth/roof of mouth) when pronouncing the "l" in these words?

Best Answer

It sounds very much as though the Original Poster has a vocalised /l/. What this means is that when /l/ occurs at the end of a syllable, it is realised as as a vowel, usually [ö] or [ʊ].

This is becoming more common in Southern Standard British English (aka RP) and in other regional varieties too. It is especially common in London regional English.

Although this is now very common, it used to be sneered at by RP speakers. However, it has long been the case that many RP speakers regularly use this allophone of /l/ after bilabial consonants, for example in the final syllable of the word people.

In short, this is a common allophone of /l/ often found in syllable codas. The Original Poster has nothing to worry about!