Saturday 21 April 2012


What do you make of the following statement? 

Is epenthesis really possible in English in the phonetic environments described above? (Click on the picture to enlarge it.) Any comments most gratefully received.

NB The symbol with the l upside down simply stands for ‘dark l’, whereas the letters i, a and b are to be taken to mean ‘International English’, ‘American English’ and ‘British English’ respectively.

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The scan above is taken from Luciano Canepari's English PronunciationS (2010; 2nd edition. Aracne. Volume 1, p.127). You can take a look at parts of his book here.

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I shall be busy throughout the whole month of May. So my next post will be Saturday 26th May. (In the meantime, keep your comments coming!)


  1. I'm aware of one speaker who has an epenthetic /t/ between /l/ and /s/. At least in the word 'else', as far as I can remember.

    I've never systematically set out to listen for it in other speakers, but considering that I'm constantly struck by epenthetic plosives in the usual environment (nasal + voiceless fricative) then I'd've thought I'd've noticed it if it was frequently occurring after /l/ too.

    By the way, I think I can guess the author of the passage.

    If the inverted dark l stands for dark l, then what does it mean when it's the right way up, I wonder? Or maybe it's not worth asking. If I ever get my hands on the original and get round to reading it, I'll find out then.

  2. Paul, you certainly know who the author of the passage is!

  3. On a somewhat side issue, could you tell me what the transcription method is called? As an amateur I've just about learnt to cope(ish) with IPA but this looks odd to me, such as the small-caps E. Thanks!

    1. Michael, the type of transcription you see in the passage above is not IPA. I'll reveal who the author is next week.

    2. Alex, I guess the author is a very special friend of yours! Till next week!

    3. Yes, Petr. He definitely is!

  4. Take a look at the online Merriam-Webster or Cambridge dictionaries, and you'll see that both give a variant with an inserted stop for "Welsh":

    M-W also for "else":

    and "healthy":

    It seems like the statement above is correct, though the word "frequent" is somewhat debatable, but his observations are usually spot-on.

    The upside down [ɫ] is similar to a dark l, but it doesn't have any contact between the tongue and the alveolar ridge. This explains why the sounds represented by this symbol in the passage above do not trigger epenthesis.

    1. Yes, I, too, find the word "frequent" not well chosen.

      Also, as far as I know, "Welsh" - and I mean both the noun and adjective, NOT the verb - is /welʃ/ not /weltʃ/ in BrE.

      "his observations are usually spot-on": that's debatable!

  5. [ls] → [lts] Yes:

    "You can raise welts
    Like nobody else,
    As we dance to the Masochism Tango!"
    ~ Tom Lehrer

    [lθ] → [ltθ] and [lʃ] → [ltʃ] are very dubious IMO, which is odd because [nθ] → [ntθ] and [nʃ] → [ntʃ] are extremely common.

    1. Off topic: Tom Lehrer was the one who also sang this pungent, ironical song about Wernher von Braun.

  6. Transcriptionwise, I'm in the same boat as Michael Apr 21, 2012 03:59 PM. (Maybe we should row it ashore.) What seems odd to me is using a lowercase sigma as the transcription of a noun. Intuitively, symbols that look like letters should be more or less similar in sound to the letter. But I learned long ago that my intuitions are completely irrelevant.

  7. Noun????? Jeepers. I meant "vowel." Embarrassing.

  8. I have no problem about its authorship.
    I pronounce Welsh as /welʃ/ even in The Welch Regiment
    but I luv the /t/ in /skweltʃ/

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