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The lateral liquid /l/
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Features
A possible feature specification of  /l/ is +sonorant, +lateral.

Phonotactic behaviour
/l/ can occur in an onset on its own, like in 1a or as the second/third member of a cluster, such as in 1b and 1c. In three-cononantal clusters, the second member cannot be a fricative: *schl or *sfl do not exist, even though 1d and 1e do. Also, l does not occur after t and d, presumably because of the OCP. It can also occur as the sole member of a coda, such as in 2a, or as the first member of a coda cluster, such as in 2b. A curious constraint is that there are no Dutch words (or syllables) of the shape lV, with V an A-class vowel, although there are several such words with V as a B-class vowel ( 3a, 3b). Words (or syllables) of the shape klVl, plVl, blVl  do not exist at all.

Example 1

Onset
a. lamp lamp
b. klant client
c. splijt split
d. chloor chlorine
e. fluit whistle
Example 2

Coda
a. bel bell
b. help help
Example 3

a. lol fun
b. lul prick

Colouring effect
Before /l/, A-class vowels can become coloured in some varieties of (the Netherlands) Dutch in the direction of their corresponding B-class vowel.

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[+] Articulatory information

Dutch /l/ is a lateralliquidconsonant; its primary place of articulation is alveolar, but in codas it has a secondary velar or pharyngeal constriction, producing a so-called “dark l”. The secondary articulation is velar in Belgian Standard Dutch, and pharyngeal in Northern Standard Dutch (Collins and Mees 1981:166-167; (Verhoeven 2005).

Lateral
Speech sounds produced with the sides of the tongue lowered. See the human speech organs.

Alveolar
Speech sounds produced at alveolar place of articulation, i.e. by a constriction between the corona of the tongue and the alveolar ridge. See the human speech organs.

Velar
Speech sounds produced speech sounds produced at velar place of articulation, between palatal and uvular, i.e. by a constriction between the body of the tongue and the velum. See the human speech organs.

Pharyngeal
Speech sounds produced at pharyngeal place of articulation, i.e. by a constriction between the root of the tongue and the pharynx (throat). See the human speech organs.


Figure 1: The human speech organs

[click image to enlarge]

[+] Acoustic properties of /l/

Alveolar
  • in obstruents, noise or noise bursts characterised by a centre of gravity above 5000 Hz. Second formant transitions into vowels come from around 1800 Hz, and both F2 and F3 stay flat or go in a downward direction.
  • in nasals, indicated by the presence of a spectral peak around 500 Hz and a spectral valley around 1 kHz.

Velar
  • in obstruents, noise or noise bursts characterised by a relatively low centre of gravity (typically around 4200 Hz), an acute noise peak at low frequency (below 2 kHz) and one or more additional ones. Spectrograms show an identifiable formant structure, as opposed to fricatives and stops at other places of articulation; F2 is the most clearly visible formant.
  • in nasals, formant structure characterised by a relatively high F2 and low F3, to the point where the two approach each other.

Dutch /l/ is a typical lateral, which in general is characterised by a high F3 (around 3000 Hz), which is far apart from the F2 (around 1000 Hz, Stevens 1998). Dark l in codas exhibits a lowering of F2 throughout the preceding vowel, to around 800 Hz in the /l/(Botma et al. 2012).

[+] Examples

Table 1: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Northern Standard Dutch /l/
wordgroup phonological context sound waveform/spectogramme
in de la van de kassain the drawer of the cashdesk word-initial
[click image to enlarge]
(...) zijn oog niet vallen op Josien(...) his eye not fall at Josien intervocalic
[click image to enlarge]
hartstikke vuilterribly dirty word-final
[click image to enlarge]

Table 2: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Southern Standard Dutch /l/
wordgroup phonological context sound waveform/spectogramme
in mijn la liggen(...)in my drawer lie (...) word-initial
[click image to enlarge]
(...) dat ze net zo in slaap kon vallen als hij (...)(...) that she could fall asleep if he (...) intervocalic
[click image to enlarge]
nat een vuilwet and dirty word-final
[click image to enlarge]
[+] More detail

Coda “dark l” may in some cases involve lowering of the tongue-tip and some lip-rounding, leading to a realisation that resembles a back rounded vowel or approximant, [ɤ] or [w]. This so-called “l-vocalisation” is a feature of Western urban Netherlandic Dutch, and may be becoming more standard in the Netherlands (Mees and Collins 1982; Van Reenen 1986; Van Reenen and Jongkind 2000). Smakman 2006: 112).

References:
  • Botma, E.D., Sebregts, K. & Smakman, D2012The phonetics and phonology of Dutch mid vowels before /l/Laboratory Phonology3273-298
  • Collins, B. & Mees,I1981The Phonetics of English and DutchLeiden/Boston/KölnBrill
  • Mees, Inge & Collins, Beverley1982A phonetic description of the consonant system of Standard Dutch (ABN)Journal of the International Phonetic Association122-12
  • Reenen, Piet van1986The vocalisation of /l/ in standard Dutch: a pilot study of an ongoing changeLinguistics in the Netherlands189-98
  • Reenen, Pieter van & Jongkind, Anke2000De vocalisering van de /l/ in het Standaard-NederlandsTaal en Tongval52189-199
  • Smakman, Dick2006Standard Dutch in the Netherlands: A Sociolinguistic and Phonetic DescriptionUtrechtLOT
  • Stevens, K. N1998Acoustic phoneticsCambridge MAMIT Press
  • Verhoeven, Jo2005Belgian Standard DutchJournal of the International Phonetic Association35243-247
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