In the history of English phonology, there have been many diachronic sound changes affecting vowels, especially involving phonemic splits and mergers. A number of these changes are specific to vowels which occur before /l/, especially in cases where the /l/ is at the end of a syllable (or is not followed by a vowel).

Historical diphthongization before /l/

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Diphthongization occurred since Early Modern English in certain -al- and -ol- sequences before coronal or velar consonants, or at the end of a word or morpheme. In these sequences, /al/ became /awl/ and then /ɑul/, while /ɔl/ became /ɔwl/ and then /ɔul/. Both of these merged with existing diphthongs: /ɑu/ as in law and /ɔu/ as in throw.

At the end of a word or morpheme, this produced all, ball, call, fall, gall, hall, mall, small, squall, stall, pall, tall, thrall, wall, control, droll, extol, knoll, poll (meaning a survey of people,) roll, scroll, stroll, swollen, toll, and troll. The word shall did not follow this trend, and remains /ʃæl/ today.

Before coronal consonants, this produced Alderney, alter, bald, balderdash, false, falter, halt, malt, palsy, salt, Wald, Walter, bold, cold, fold, gold, hold, molten, mould/mold, old, shoulder (earlier sholder), smolder, told, and wold (in the sense of "tract of land"). As with shall, the word shalt did not follow this trend, and remains /ʃælt/ today.

Before /k/, this produced balk, caulk/calk, chalk, Dundalk, falcon, stalk, talk, walk, folk, Polk, and yolk.

This L-vocalization established a pattern that would influence the spelling pronunciations of some relatively more recent loanwords like Balt, Malta, waltz, Yalta, and polder. It also influenced English spelling reform efforts, explaining the American English mold and molt vs. the traditional mould and moult.

Certain words of more recent origin or coining, however, do not have the change and retain short vowels, including Al, alcohol, bal, Cal, calcium, gal, Hal, mal-, pal, Sal, talc, Val, doll, Moll, and Poll (a nickname for a parrot.)

Historical L-vocalization

In most circumstances, the changes stopped there. But in -alk and -olk words, the /l/ disappeared entirely in most accents (with the notable exception of Hiberno-English). This change caused /ɑulk/ to become /ɑuk/, and /ɔulk/ to become /ɔuk/. Even outside Ireland, some of these words have more than one pronunciation that retains the /l/ sound, especially in American English where spelling pronunciations caused partial or full reversal of L-vocalization in a handful of cases:

Words like fault and vault did not undergo L-vocalization, but rather L-restoration, having previously been L-vocalized independently in Old French and lacking the /l/ in Middle English, but having it restored by Early Modern English. The word falcon existed simultaneously as homonyms fauco(u)n and falcon in Middle English. The word moult/molt never originally had /l/ to begin with, instead deriving from Middle English mout and related etymologically to mutate; the /l/ joined the word intrusively.

The Great Vowel Shift changed the diphthongs to their present pronunciations, with /ɑu/ becoming the monophthong /ɔː/, and /ɔu/ raising to /oʊ/.

The loss of /l/ in words spelt with -alf, -alm, -alve and -olm did not involve L-vocalization in the same sense, but rather the elision of the consonant and usually the compensatory lengthening of the vowel.

Variation between /ɔːl/ and /ɒl/ before a consonant in salt and similar words

Some words such as salt, traditionally pronounced by most RP speakers with /ɔːl/ followed by a consonant, have alternative pronunciations with /ɒl/ that are used more frequently by younger British English speakers. This variation between /ɔːl/ and /ɒl/ occurs primarily before voiceless consonants, as in salt, false and alter; less commonly, /ɒl/ may also be used in words where the /l/ comes before a voiced consonant, as in bald, scald and cauldron.[1][2] In Great Britain, this laxing before /l/ was traditionally associated with Northern England and Wales,[3] but has in recent decades become more widespread, including among younger speakers of RP.[2]

Modern L-vocalization

More extensive L-vocalization is a notable feature of certain dialects of English, including Cockney, Estuary English, New York English, New Zealand English, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia English, in which an /l/ sound occurring at the end of a word or before a consonant is pronounced as some sort of close back vocoid, e.g., [w], [o] or [ʊ]. The resulting sound may not always be rounded. The precise phonetic quality varies. It can be heard occasionally in the dialect of the English East Midlands, where words ending in -old can be pronounced /oʊd/. KM Petyt (1985) noted this feature in the traditional dialect of West Yorkshire but said it has died out.[4] However, in recent decades l-vocalization has been spreading outwards from London and the south east,[5][6] John C Wells argued that it is probable that it will become the standard pronunciation in England over the next one hundred years,[7] an idea which Petyt criticised in a book review.[8]

In Cockney, Estuary English and New Zealand English, l-vocalization can be accompanied by phonemic mergers of vowels before the vocalized /l/, so that real, reel and rill, which are distinct in most dialects of English, are homophones as [ɹɪw].

Graham Shorrocks noted extensive L-vocalisation in the dialect of Bolton, Greater Manchester and commented, "many, perhaps, associate such a quality more with Southern dialects, than with Lancashire/Greater Manchester."[9]

In the accent of Bristol, syllabic /l/ can be vocalized to /o/, resulting in pronunciations like /ˈbɒto/ (for bottle). By hypercorrection, however, some words originally ending in /o/ were given an /l/: the original name of the town was Bristow, but this has been altered by hypercorrection to Bristol.[10]

African-American English (AAE) dialects may have L-vocalization as well. However, in these dialects, it may be omitted altogether (e.g. fool becomes [fuː]. Some English speakers from San Francisco - particularly those of Asian ancestry - also vocalize or omit /l/.[11]

Salary–celery merger

The salary–celery merger is a conditioned merger of /æ/ (as in bat) and /ɛ/ (as in bet) when they occur before /l/, thus making salary and celery homophones.[12][13][14][15] The merger is not well studied. It is referred to in various sociolinguistic publications, but usually only as a small section of the larger change undergone by vowels preceding /l/ in articles about l-vocalization.

This merger has been detected in the English spoken in New Zealand and in parts of the Australian state of Victoria, including the capital Melbourne.[16][17] The merger is also found in the Norfuk dialect spoken on Norfolk Island.[15] The salary-celery merger is also characteristic of Chicano English in Los Angeles and has been attested in the Chicano English of northern New Mexico and Albuquerque as well.[18][19][20] /ɛ/ is also often lowered before /l/ in El Paso, but not all speakers show a merger.[21] In varieties with the merger, salary and celery are both pronounced /sæləri/.[13]

The study presented by Cox and Palethorpe at a 2003 conference tested just one group of speakers from Victoria: 13 fifteen-year-old girls from a Catholic girls' school in Wangaratta. Their pronunciations were compared with those of school girl groups in the towns of Temora, Junee and Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. In the study conducted by Cox and Palethorpe, the group in Wangaratta exhibited the merger while speakers in Temora, Junee and Wagga Wagga did not.[13]

Deborah Loakes from Melbourne University has suggested that the salary-celery merger is restricted to Melbourne and southern Victoria, not being found in northern border towns such as Albury-Wodonga or Mildura.[16]

In the 2003 study Cox and Palethorpe note that the merger appears to only involve lowering of /e/ before /l/, with the reverse not occurring, stating that "There is no evidence in this data of raised /æ/ before /l/ as in 'Elbert' for 'Albert', a phenomenon that has been popularly suggested for Victorians."[13]

Horsfield (2001) investigates the effects of postvocalic /l/ on the preceding vowels in New Zealand English; her investigation covers all of the New Zealand English vowels and is not specifically tailored to studying mergers and neutralizations, but rather the broader change that occurs across the vowels. She has suggested that further research involving minimal pairs like telly and tally, celery and salary should be done before any firm conclusions are drawn.

A pilot study of the merger was done, which yielded perception and production data from a few New Zealand speakers. The results of the pilot survey suggested that although the merger was not found in the speech of all participants, those who produced a distinction between /æl/ and /el/ also accurately perceived a difference between them; those who merged /æl/ and /el/ were less able to accurately perceive the distinction. The finding has been interesting to some linguists because it concurs with the recent understanding that losing a distinction between two sounds involves losing the ability to produce it as well as to perceive it (Gordon 2002). However, due to the very small number of people participating in the study the results are not conclusive.

Homophonous pairs
/æl/ /ɛl/ IPA Notes
Allan Ellen ælən
bally belly bæli
dally Delhi dæli
dally deli dæli
fallow fellow fæloʊ
Hal hell hæl
mallow mellow mæloʊ
Sal cel sæl
Sal cell sæl
Sal sell sæl
salary celery sæləri
shall shell ʃæl

Fill–feel merger

The areas marked in red are where the fill–feel merger is most consistently present in the local accent. Map based on Labov, Ash, and Boberg (2006: 71).[22]

The fill–feel merger is a conditioned merger of the vowels /ɪ/ and /iː/ before /l/ that occurs in some accents. In Europe, it is commonly found in Estuary English. Otherwise it is typical of certain accents of American English. The heaviest concentration of the merger is found in, but not necessarily confined to, Southern American English: in North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, northern Alabama, Mississippi, northern and central Louisiana (but not New Orleans), and west-central Texas (Labov, Ash, and Boberg 2006: 69-73). This merger, like many other features of Southern American English, can also be found in AAE.

Homophonous pairs
/ɪl/ /iːl/ IPA Notes
dill deal dɪl
fill feel fɪl
filled field fɪld
hill heal hɪl
hill heel hɪl
hill he'll hɪl
ill eel ɪl
Jill geal dʒɪl
kill keel kɪl
lil leal lɪl
lil Lille mɪl
mill meal mɪl
nil kneel nɪl
nil Neil nɪl
Phil feel fɪl
pill peal pɪl
pill peel pɪl
rill real rɪl
rill reel rɪl
shill she'll ʃɪl
shilled shield ʃɪld
sill ceil sɪl
sill seal sɪl
silly Seely sɪli
spill spiel spɪl When spiel is not pronounced with initial /ʃ-/
still steal stɪl
still steel stɪl
till teal tɪl
will we'll wɪl
will wheel wɪl With wine-whine merger.
willed wield wɪld

Fell–fail merger

The same two regions show a closely related merger, namely the fell–fail merger of /ɛ/ and /eɪ/ before /l/ that occurs in some varieties of Southern American English making fell and fail homophones. In addition to North Carolina and Texas, these mergers are found sporadically in other Southern states and in the Midwest and West.[23][24]

Homophonous pairs
/ɛl/ /eɪl/ IPA Notes
bell bail bɛl
bell bale bɛl
belle bail bɛl
belle bale bɛl
cell, cel sail sɛl
cell, cel sale sɛl
dell dale dɛl
ell ail ɛl
ell ale ɛl
fell fail fɛl
gel gaol, jail dʒɛl
geld galed gɛld
held hailed hɛld
hell hail hɛl
hell hale hɛl
knell nail nɛl
L, ell ail ɛl
L, ell ale ɛl
Mel mail mɛl
Mel male mɛl
meld mailed mɛld
Nell nail nɛl
quell quail kwɛl
sell sail sɛl
sell sale sɛl
shell shale ʃɛl
swell swale swɛl
tell tail tɛl
tell tale tɛl
weld wailed wɛld
well wail wɛl
well wale wɛl
wells wales wɛlz
wells Wales wɛlz
well whale wɛl With wine-whine merger.
wells wails wɛlz
wells whales wɛlz With wine-whine merger.
yell Yale jɛl

Full–fool merger

The full–fool merger is a conditioned merger of /ʊ/ and /uː/ before /l/, making pairs like pull/pool and full/fool homophones. The main concentration of the pull–pool merger is in Western Pennsylvania English, centered around Pittsburgh. The merger is less consistently but still noticeably present in some speakers of surrounding Midland American English.[25] The Atlas of North American English also reports this merger, or near-merger, scattered sporadically throughout Western American English, with particular prevalence in some speakers of urban Utahn, Californian, and New Mexican English.[26] Accents with L-vocalization, such as New Zealand English, Estuary English and Cockney, may also have the full–fool merger in most cases, but when a suffix beginning with a vowel is appended, the distinction returns: Hence 'pull' and 'pool' are [pʊo], but 'pulling' is /ˈpʊlɪŋ/ whereas 'pooling' remains /ˈpuːlɪŋ/.[27]

The fill–feel merger and full–fool merger are not unified in American English; they are found in different parts of the country, and very few people show both mergers.[28]

Homophonous pairs
/ʊl/ /uːl/ IPA (using for the merged vowel)
bull boule buːl
full fool fuːl
pull pool puːl

Hull–hole merger

The hull–hole merger is a conditioned merger of /ʌ/ and /oʊ/ before /l/ occurring for some speakers of English English with l-vocalization. As a result, "hull" and "hole" are homophones as [hɔʊ]. The merger is also mentioned by Labov, Ash, and Boberg (2006: 72) as a merger before /l/ in North American English that might require further study. The latter merger can also involve /ʊ/ or /ə/ before /l/.

Homophonous pairs
/ʌl/ /oʊl/ /ʊl/ /əl/ IPA Notes
adult a dolt əˈdVlt Adult as /əˈdʌlt/.
bold bulled bVld
bowl bull bVl
bowled bulled bVld
culled cold kVld
cull coal kVl
cull cole kVl
cult colt kVlt
dull dole dVl
foal full fVl
foaled fulled fVld
fold fulled fVld
gull goal ɡVl
hull hole hVl
hull whole hVl
hulled hold hVld
hulled holed hVld
mull mole mVl
mulled mold mVld
mulled mould mVld
null gnoll nVl
null knoll nVl
pole pull pVl
poll pull pVl
Seminole seminal ˈsɛmɪnVl
skulled scold skVld
sull sole sVl
sull soul sVl
sulled sold sVld
sulled soled sVld
sulled souled sVld

Gulf-golf merger

The gulf-golf merger is the merger of the diaphonemes /ʌ/ and /ɒ/ before /lC/, where C denotes a consonant. It is attested in Australian English, in which it can co-occur with the Doll-dole merger. In Australian English the result of this 2-3 way merger is [ɔ], the vowel of LOT.[29]

Doll–dole merger

The doll–dole merger is a conditioned merger, for some Londoners, of /ɒ/ and /əʊ/ before syllable-final (or non-prevocalic) /l/, resulting in homophony between pairs like doll and dole.[30] The distinction between /ɒ/ and /əʊ/ is maintained in derived forms containing prevocalic /l/, such as d[ɒ]lling herself up vs. d[ɒʊ]ling it out, which means that the underlying vowel is recoverable if the /l/ is morpheme-final, as in doll and dole.[30] But when the /l/ is followed by a consonant within the same morpheme, as in solve, the distinction is not recoverable; this may be the cause, via hypercorrection, of pronunciations such as [səʊlv] for solve in place of RP [sɒlv].[30]

Homophonous pairs
/ɒl/ /oʊl/ IPA (using ɒ for the merged vowel) Notes
Balt bolt bɒlt When Balt is not pronounced as /bɔːlt/[a]
doll dole dɒl
malt moult mɒlt When malt is not pronounced as /mɔːlt/[a]
moll mole mɒl
paltry poultry pɒltri When paltry is not pronounced as /pɔːltri/[a]
poll pole pɒl Already homophonous in dialects that pronounce poll as /poʊl/[b]
vol vole vɒl
vault volt vɒlt When vault is not pronounced as /vɔːlt/[a]

Goat split

The goat split is a process that has affected London dialects, Australian English, and Estuary English.[33][34] In the first phase of the split, the diphthong of goat /əʊ/ developed an allophone [ɒʊ] before "dark" (nonprevocalic) /l/. Thus goal no longer had the same vowel as goat ([ɡɒʊɫ] vs. [ɡəʊʔ]).[33] In the second phase, the diphthong [ɒʊ] spread to other forms of affected words. For example, the realization of rolling changed from [ˈɹəʊlɪŋ] to [ˈɹɒʊlɪŋ] on the model of roll [ɹɒʊɫ]. This led to the creation of a minimal pair for some speakers: wholly /ˈhɒʊli/ vs. holy /ˈhəʊli/ and thus to phonemicization of the split. The change from /əʊ/ to /ɒʊ/ in derived forms is not fully consistent; for instance, in cockney, polar is pronounced with the /əʊ/ of goat even though it is derived from pole /ˈpɒʊl/.

In broad Cockney, the phonetic difference between the two phonemes may be rather small and they may be distinguished by nothing more than the openness of the first element, so that goat is pronounced [ɡɐɤʔ] whereas goal is pronounced [ɡaɤ].[33]

Goose split

Similar to the Goat split, the Goose vowel has developed contrasting phonetic outcomes before /l/ in some Southeastern English dialects, exhibited by the pair ruler (measuring instrument), pronounced with a fronter vowel that can be transcribed [yː][35] or [ʉw],[36] and ruler ('one who rules'), pronounced with a backer vowel that can be transcribed [uː],[35] [ʊw] or [oː].[36] This contrast developed from an allophonic distribution where a back variant of the goose vowel is used before tautosyllabic /l/, as in rule /ˈruːl/ [ˈɹuːɫ], but a fronted variant closer to [yː] is used elsewhere, as in ruler (instrument) /ˈruː.lə/ [ˈɹyː.lə].

This distribution has become complicated by morphology in a way that is leading to a phonemic split in words with pre-vocalic /l/: those where the /l/ is stem-final are pronounced with the phonetically back vowel [uː] (as in ruler (monarch), a morphologically transparent derivative of rule), whereas those where the /l/ is stem-medial are pronounced with a fronted vowel [yː] (as in ruler (measuring instrument), which is treated as an unanalyzable unit). The difference in vowel quality is presumably accompanied by a difference in the pronunciation of the following /l/[35] ([ɫ] after [uː], [l] after [yː]).

A similar backing change has occurred in many North American dialects,[37] but this has remained allophonic. For example, in California English, the Goose vowel is realized as a back vowel in words such as school where it is followed by /l/, but is fronted in words where it is not followed by /l/, such as new.[38]

Fool–fall merger

For some English speakers in the UK, the vowels of goose and thought may be merged before dark syllable-final /l/, which may be caused by the raising of the thought vowel to [oː] or [ʊː] in combination with the backing of the goose vowel before /l/ as part of the Goose split.[39] This neutralization has been found to exist for clusters of speakers in the southern UK, especially for speakers from areas of the south coast and the Greater London area.[40]

Homophonous pairs
/uːl/ /ɔːl/ IPA (using for the merged vowel)
boule ball boːl
boule bawl boːl
cool call koːl
cruel crawl koːl
drool drawl droːl
fool fall foːl
ghoul gall goːl
ghoul Gaul goːl
pool pall poːl
pool Paul poːl
schooled scald skoːld
stool stall stoːl
tool tall toːl
Yule yawl joːl

Vile–vial merger

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The vile–vial merger is where the words in the vile set ending with /-ˈaɪl/ (bile, file, guile, I'll, Kyle, Lyle, mile, Nile, pile, rile, smile, stile, style, tile, vile, while, wile) rhyme with words in the vial set ending with /-ˈaɪəl/ (decrial, denial, dial, espial, Niall, phial, trial, vial, viol).[41] This merger involves the dephonemicization of schwa that occurs after a vowel and before /l/, causing the vowel-/l/ sequence to be pronounced as either one or two syllables.

This merger may also be encountered with other vowel rhymes too, including:

For many speakers, the vowels in cake, meet, vote and moot can become centering diphthongs before /l/, leading to pronunciations like [teəl], [tiəl], [toəl] and [tuəl] for tail, teal, toll and tool.

Merger of non-prevocalic /ʊl/, /ʉːl/, /əl/, /oːl/ with /oː/

In Cockney, non-prevocalic /ʊl/ (as in bull), /ʉːl/ (as in pool), /əl/ (as in bottle) and /oːl/ (as in call) can all merge with the /oː/ of thought, thus reintroducing the phoneme in the word-final position where, according to one analysis, only /ɔə/ can occur (see thought split): /ˈboː, ˈpoː, ˈbɒtoː, ˈkoː/. The last three words can contrast with the open variety of THOUGHT (which is not distinct from NORTH and FORCE and often also encompasses CURE - see cure-force merger), as in core, bore and paw: /ˈkɔə, ˈbɔə, ˈpɔə/, also in pairs such as stalled /ˈstoːd/ - stored /ˈstɔəd/.

The merger of /əl/, /oːl/ and /oː/ is the most usual and leads to musical being homophonous with music hall as /ˈmjʉːzɪkoː/. Cockney speakers usually regard both syllables of awful as rhyming: /ˈoːfoː/.[42]

The merger of /oːl/ with /oː/ has been reported to occur in New Zealand English, which does not feature the THOUGHT-split (leading to a larger number of potential homophones).[43]

In the following list, the only homophonous pairs that are included are those involving /oː/ and /oːl/. As the merger is restricted to non-rhotic accents with close THOUGHT, /oː/ in the fifth and sixth columns is assumed to cover not only THOUGHT but also NORTH and FORCE. In the case of Cockney, the sixth column does not participate in the merger.

Potentially homophonous pairs
/ʊl/ /ʉːl/ /əl/ /oːl/ Morpheme-internal /oː/ Morpheme-final /oː/ (Cockney /ɔə/) IPA Notes
all awe ˈoː
all or ˈoː With the strong form of or.
all ore ˈoː
alls ores ˈoːz
alls ors ˈoːz
alls Hawes whores ˈoːz With h-dropping.
Alt hawk ˈoːʔ With h-dropping and glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/.
Alt hork ˈoːʔ With h-dropping and glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/.
Alt ort ˈoːt
Alt orc ˈoːʔ With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/.
Auld ord awed ˈoːd
bull Boole ball boar ˈboː
bull Boole ball bore ˈboː
bulled bald bawd bored ˈboːd
bulled bald board bored ˈboːd
bulled balled bawd bored ˈboːd
bulled balled board bored ˈboːd
bulls Booles balls boars ˈboːz
bulls Booles balls bores ˈboːz
cool call core ˈkoː
coolled called cord ˈkoːd
cools calls cause cores ˈkoːz
drool drawl draw ˈdroː
drooled drawled drawed ˈdroːd
drools drawls draws ˈdroːz
false force ˈfoːs
fault fork ˈfoːʔ With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/.
fault fort ˈfoːt
fault fought ˈfoːt
fault thought ˈfoːt With th-fronting.
faults forks ˈfoːʔs With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/.
faults forts ˈfoːts
faults thoughts ˈfoːts With th-fronting.
full fool fall for ˈfoː With the strong form of for
full fool fall fore ˈfoː
full fool fall four ˈfoː
full fool fall thaw ˈfoː With th-fronting.
fulled foolled ford ˈfoːd
fulled foolled ford thawed ˈfoːd With th-fronting.
fulls fools falls fours ˈfoːz
Galt gork ˈɡoːʔ With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/.
Galt gorp ˈɡoːʔ With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /p/.
gault gorp ˈɡoːʔ With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /p/.
hall whore ˈhoː
halls Hawes whores ˈhoːz
halt hawk ˈoːʔ With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/. Normally with h-dropping.
halt hork ˈoːʔ With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/. Normally with h-dropping.
halt ort ˈoːt With h-dropping.
halt orc ˈoːʔ With h-dropping and glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/.
halting Hawking ˈoːʔɪn With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/. Normally with h-dropping and g-dropping.
halting horking ˈoːʔɪn With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/. Normally with h-dropping and g-dropping.
halts hawks ˈoːʔs With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/. Normally with h-dropping.
halts horks ˈoːʔs With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/. Normally with h-dropping.
halts orts ˈoːts With h-dropping.
halts orcs ˈoːʔs With h-dropping and glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/.
hard call hardcore ˈhɑːdkoː Homophony depends on where the stress falls in hard call.
help full help fool helpful help fall help for ˈhɛopfoː With emphatic stress on help in the phrases and with the strong form of for (as in What do you need my help for?)
help full help fool helpful help fall help four ˈhɛopfoː With emphatic stress on help in the phrases.
in stool install in store ɪnˈstoː
in stool install in-store ɪnˈstoː
in stools installs in stores ɪnˈstoːz
mall more ˈmoː
malt mort ˈmoːt
musical music hall ˈmjʉːzɪkoː With h-dropping.
pull pool Paul paw ˈpoː
pull pool Paul poor ˈpoː With the cure-force merger.
pull pool Paul pore ˈpoː
pull pool Paul pour ˈpoː With the cure-force merger.
pulled pooled pawed ˈpoːd
pulled pooled poured ˈpoːd With the cure-force merger.
pulls pools Pauls pause paws ˈpoːz
pulls pools Pauls pause pores ˈpoːz
pulls pools Pauls pause pours ˈpoːz With the cure-force merger.
pulls pools Paul's pause paws ˈpoːz
pulls pools Paul's pause pores ˈpoːz
recool recall riːˈkoː Recall is also pronounced with initial /rɪ-/ and /rə-/
recooled recalled record (v.) riːˈkoːd Recalled and record are also pronounced with initial /rɪ-/ and /rə-/
salt Sauk ˈsoːʔ With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/. In contemporary RP salt often has /ɒl/: /ˈsɒlt/
salt sort ˈsoːt In contemporary RP salt often has /ɒl/: /ˈsɒlt/
salt sought ˈsoːt In contemporary RP salt often has /ɒl/: /ˈsɒlt/
salted sorted ˈsoːtɪd In contemporary RP salted often has /ɒl/: /ˈsɒltɪd/
salting sorting ˈsoːtɪŋ In contemporary RP salting often has /ɒl/: /ˈsɒltɪŋ/
salts Sauks ˈsoːʔs With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/. In contemporary RP salts often has /ɒl/: /ˈsɒlts/
salts sorts ˈsoːts In contemporary RP salts often has /ɒl/: /ˈsɒlts/
Saul saw ˈsoː
Saul sore ˈsoː
school score ˈskoː
schooled scald scored ˈskoːd
stool stall store ˈstoː
stooled stalled stored ˈstoːd
stools stalls stores ˈstoːz
tool tall tore ˈtoː
tool tall tour ˈtoː With the cure-force merger.
true-false true force ˌtrʉːˈfoːs
will full will fool willful will fall ˈwɪofoː With emphatic stress on will in the phrases.
wolf wharf ˈwoːf
wolf Wharfe ˈwoːf
wolf Whorf ˈwoːf
wool wall war ˈwoː
Walt walk ˈwoːʔ With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /k/.
Walt warp ˈwoːʔ With glottal replacement of both /t/ and /p/.
Walt wart ˈwoːt
wools walls wars ˈwoːz

There is a large amount of potential homophones involving adjectives with the suffix -able and phrases consisting of a related verb, the indefinite article and the nouns bull, ball and boar. However, they require not only emphatically stressing the verb but also no glottal stop before the indefinite article (e.g. afford a bull/ball/boar cannot be pronounced as [əˌfoːdəˈboː], [əˌfoːdʔəˈboː] nor [əˈfoːdʔəboː]), which makes the homophony between the phrases and the adjectives ending in -able less likely than the homophony between the phrases themselves for speakers who have the merger. Again, phrases involving the noun boar are distinct for speakers with the thought split regardless of stress: [əˌfoːdəˈbɔə, əˌfoːdʔəˈbɔə, əˈfoːdʔəbɔə, əˈfoːdəbɔə] ('afford a boar').

Other mergers

Labov, Ash, and Boberg (2006:73) mention four mergers before /l/ that may be under way in some accents of North American English, and which require more study:[44]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Words like Balt, malt, paltry and vault can be pronounced with /ɒlt/ or /ɔːlt/ in British English, but the /ɒlt/ pronunciation is used by the majority of younger speakers, see #Variation between /ɔːl/ and /ɒl/ before a consonant in salt and similar words.
  2. ^ Poll is variably pronounced as /pɒl/ and /poʊl/ in British English, while pole is always pronounced /poʊl/ by speakers without the merger.[31][32]


  1. ^ Wells, John (2010). "scolding water" (February 16). John Wells’s phonetic blog. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  2. ^ a b Lindsey, Geoff (2019). English After RP: Standard British Pronunciation Today. p. 39-41, 125. ISBN 9783030043568.
  3. ^ Wells, John C. (June 1999). "British English pronunciation preferences: a changing scene". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 29: 36. Retrieved 2023-09-01.
  4. ^ KM Petyt, Dialect & Accent in Industrial West Yorkshire, John Benjamins Publishing Company, page 219
  5. ^ Asher, R.E., Simpson, J.M.Y. (1993). The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Pergamon. p. 4043. ISBN 978-0080359434
  6. ^ Kortmann, Bernd et al. (2004). A Handbook of Varieties of English. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 196. ISBN 978-3110175325.
  7. ^ Wells (1982), p. 259.
  8. ^ Petyt, KM (1982). "Reviews: JC Wells: Accents of English". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. Cambridge. 12 (2): 104–112. doi:10.1017/S0025100300002516. S2CID 146349564. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  9. ^ Shorrocks, Graham (1999). A Grammar of the Dialect of the Bolton Area. Pt. 2: Morphology and syntax. Bamberger Beiträge zur englischen Sprachwissenschaft; Bd. 42. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. p. 255. ISBN 3-631-34661-1. (based on the author's thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Sheffield, 1981)
  10. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Bristol". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  11. ^ L Hall-Lew & RL Starr, Beyond the 2nd generation: English use among Chinese Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area, English Today: The International Review of the English Language, Vol. 26, Issue 3, pp. 12-19. [1]
  12. ^ Cox, F.; Palethorpe, S. (2001). "The Changing Face of Australian Vowels". In Blair, D.B.; Collins, P (eds.). Varieties of English Around the World: English in Australia. John Benjamins Publishing, Amsterdam. pp. 17–44.
  13. ^ a b c d Cox, F. M.; Palethorpe, S. (2004). "The border effect: Vowel differences across the NSW–Victorian Border". Proceedings of the 2003 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society: 1–14.
  14. ^ Palethorpe, Sallyanne; Cox, Felicity (2003). Vowel Modification in Pre-lateral Environments (PDF). International Seminars on Speech Production. ISBN 1-86408-871-0. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-03-07.
  15. ^ a b Ingram, John. Norfolk Island-Pitcairn English (Pitkern Norfolk) Archived 2009-02-25 at the Wayback Machine, University of Queensland, 2006
  16. ^ a b Are Melburnians mangling the language?
  17. ^ The /el/-/æl/ Sound Change in Australian English: A Preliminary Perception Experiment, Deborah Loakes, John Hajek and Janet Fletcher, University of Melbourne
  18. ^ Penfield, Joyce (1985). Chicano English: an ethnic contact dialect. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins Pub. Co. p. 45. ISBN 9789027248657.
  19. ^ Hernández, Pilar (1993). "Vowel shift in Northern New Mexico Chicano English". Mester. 22 (2): 227–234. doi:10.5070/M3222014266.
  20. ^ Brumbaugh, Susan (2017). Anglo and Hispanic Vowel Variation in New Mexican English (PhD). University of New Mexico. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  21. ^ Williams, Lance Levi (2010). /ӕ/ and /e/ in El Paso English (MA). University of Texas at El Paso.
  22. ^ "Map 4". Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  23. ^ "Map 7". Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  24. ^ "Chapter 11". Archived from the original on 28 October 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  25. ^ "Map 5". Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  26. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:70)
  27. ^ "Transcribing Estuary English". Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  28. ^ "Map 6". Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  29. ^ Lewis, Eleanor. "/ɐlC/-/ɔlC/ Sound change in Australian English: Preliminary res[ɔ]lts". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  30. ^ a b c Wells (1982), p. 317
  31. ^ "POLL | English meaning". Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved 2023-09-03.
  32. ^ "POLE | English meaning". Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved 2023-09-03.
  33. ^ a b c Wells (1982), pp. 312–313
  34. ^ Altendorf, Ulrike (2003). Estuary English: Levelling at the Interface of RP and South-Eastern British English. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag. p. 34. ISBN 3-8233-6022-1.
  35. ^ a b c Wells, John (3 February 2012). "newly minimal". John Wells’s phonetic blog. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  36. ^ a b Lindsey, Geoff (24 December 2013). "GOOSE backing". Speech Talk blog. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  37. ^ William Labov: The Changing Patterns of Philadelphia English, retrieved 2022-09-26
  38. ^ Eckert, Penelope. "Vowel Shifts in California and the Detroit Suburbs". Retrieved July 5, 2023.
  39. ^ Lindsey, Geoff (11 September 2016). "People fool in love (extended mix)". Speech Talk Blog. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  40. ^ MacKenzie, Laurel; Bailey, George; Turton, Danielle (2016). "Who pronounces 'fool' and 'fall' the same?". Our Dialects: Mapping variation in English in the UK. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  41. ^ According to, dial, trial and vial all specify variable /-ˈaɪəl/ or /-ˈaɪl/ pronunciations, while words like bile and style only specify /-ˈaɪl/ pronunciations.
  42. ^ Wells (1982).
  43. ^ Gordon & Maclagan (2004), pp. 611–612.
  44. ^ Labov, William; Sharon Ash; Charles Boberg (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton-de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8.


  • Gordon, Elizabeth; Maclagan, Margaret (2004), "Regional and social differences in New Zealand: phonology", in Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Kortmann, Bernd; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive (eds.), A handbook of varieties of English, vol. 1: Phonology, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 603–613, doi:10.1515/9783110197181-039, ISBN 3-11-017532-0
  • Horsfield, Rachel (2001). The Changing Vowels of New Zealand English (Thesis). University of Otago.
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