Eyjafjallajokull from an icelander

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Thu Apr 22 17:25:09 UTC 2010

Strictly speaking, these are combinations of t-l, but, except for the
last three in  rapid speech (where you just might get the affricate
Geoffrey is talking about), they involve different places within the
syllable for the /l/.  In bottle, etc., the /l/ (usually a dark,
velarized one) is the PEAK of the syllable--the usual place for a
vowel.  The /t/ before it is an alveolar flap, not quite a /d/, but
voiced like one, closer to a Spanish intervocalic single r.  In the
other 3 cases you mention, the /l/ is in the onset of the syllable.
The /t/ before it is a regular /t/, most of the time, probably
unreleased.  In the /tl/ combinations mentioned here, the whole sound
is best looked at as an affricate, a stop where you give it a lateral
release by dropping the sides of the tongue after alveolar contact--
and has more characteristics of a single sound, the way /tS/ is in
English.  As I say, in rapid speech, this sound is a possibility in
bootlicker, antler, ant lion, but not in the others.  In Icelandic,
it came historically from a long voiceless /l/ (pre-aspirated?), in
turn from a long voiced /l/ (final sonorants devoiced in Old
Icelandic), as the spelling shows.

Paul Johnston
On Apr 22, 2010, at 12:59 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Eyjafjallajokull from an icelander
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> Without suggesting error, I would like an explanation of bottle,
> throttle, mettle, cattle, settle, kettle, little, mantle, subtle and
> boot-licker, antler, ant-lion--and, for good measure, metal, petal,
> portal. US might be closer to [d] in most of these (not boot-licker,
> antler, ant-lion or mantle, and no US variant for little, for some
> reason), but OED says [t] for British. And mantle, little and subtle
> have both schwa and non-schwa variants.
>      VS-)
> On 4/22/2010 11:48 AM, Geoffrey Nathan wrote:
>> ... Since the combination of t-l is impossible in English, native
>> speakers find it hard to deal with, especially at the beginning or
>> ending of a word.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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