velar l sound /ɫ/
How to pronounce the velar l
The velar l is an allophone of the l sound. This means it is one of the sounds represented by the broad transcription of /l/ in most dictionaries. The velar l is also sometimes called a dark l which distinguishes it from the normal l sound, called a light l.
A velar l is different from a light l in that the sound is articulated when air passes over the back of the tongue instead of merely alongside the tip of the tongue. While the back of the tongue is high, the center of the tongue dips lower. The tip of the tongue may point upward, but does not necessarily touch the inside of the mouth.
Allophone l usage
The velar l is commonly used at the end of a word or before a consonant sound. A light l is more commonly used at the beginning of a word, especially preceding certain vowel sounds. If the vowel following the l sound is created toward the front of the mouth (as are the long e or short i), a light l is more likely to be used. If the vowel sound is created toward the back of the mouth (as are the oo sound or aw sound) a velar l is more likely.
NOTE: These patterns do not take linking words into account. It is feasible that a word ending in an l sound may be pronounced as a light l if the next word begins with a vowel sound, especially if it is a front vowel. For instance, the l sound in the phrase full enough may be pronounced with a light l.
Comparing the light l and velar l
For the purpose of comparison for ESL/ELL students, the following audio have been pronounced with both a light l and a velar l. Students can decide for themselves the level of study they wish to commit to the l sound allophones.
While it is helpful to understand which l sound allophone is used in a student's native language, it should also be understood that misapplying l sound allophone patterns will not normally lead to miscommunication with native English speakers. In general, this level of detail is appropriate for individuals seeking to fully eliminate their non-native speaking accent.
The typical pronunciation is shown with an asterisk (*).
NOTE: While these patterns are presented for the purposes of teaching and learning, individual native English speakers have a wide degree of differentiation amongst themselves. Also, Americans generally use the velar l more freuqently than British speakers. Therefore, certain regional dialects may be encountered to which these patterns do not strictly apply.