American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

After /t,d/, as in subtle, muddle, the voiced tap is laterally released, unless /l/ is vocalized. The brief closure required for the voiced tap is turned into a lateral contact by prolonging the tip contact and allowing the air to escape abruptly along the sides of the tongue. This is called lateral plosion.

Words like babbling cuddly, settler, startling, and wobbly, may be pronounced in two ways: with two or with three syllables. The latter pronunciation, in which /l/ is syllabic, would seem to be more common. Note that in this case we would expect the /t/ in startling and settler to be voiced and flapped rather than glottaled and /l/ to be dark rather than clear. Compare [ˈstɑɾʔlɪŋ] and [ˈstɑrɾɫɪŋ].

babbling – [ˈbæblɪŋ]

babbling – [ˈbæbəɫɪŋ]

cuddly – [ˈkʰʌdli]

cuddly – [ˈkʰʌɾəɫi]

settler – [ˈsɛʔlər]

settler – [ˈsɛɾəɫər]

startling – [ˈstɑɾʔlɪŋ]

startling – [ˈstɑrɾəɫɪŋ]

wobbly – [ˈwɑːbli]

wobbly – [ˈwɑːbəɫi]