How many syllables are there in your pronunciation of the word "oil"?

How many syllables are there in your pronunciation of the word “oil”?

  • One syllable
  • Two syllables
  • More than two syllables

0 voters

The “one syllable” version I typically hear is a Southern-style “oyl” where the L is nearly silent.

The “two syllable” version that I use myself is “oy-ull” like “royal” or “loyal” minus the r and L, respectively.

I don’t know what “more than two syllables” would sound like, but it’s there just in case.

One syllable, and the ‘L’ is clearly voiced.

2 syllables, as in “royal.”

I’d have characterized my two syllables as “Oh yell”, except I think there’s a custom of putting consonants at the beginning of a later syllable rather than at the end of an earlier one when representing pronunciations (and this is a case where “y” acts as a consonant).

My wife doesn’t have much of a Southern accent, but “oil” just about rhymes with “hole” in her accent.

I would characterize it 1.5 syllables. LOL! It’s a tight diphthong, but I put my check mark on the 2 syllable line because it is oi-yull as opposed to the deep-south “ohll.”

For me it’s essentially a triphthong. The offglide of the oi combines with a back l, which is more like an l-colored vowel.

There’s no y sound in it, though. It’s not OI-yuhl. It’s more oi-ll–with ll being like the le in bottle, or the contraction 'll in he’ll or I’ll.

The IPA is [oɪɫ]

This for me.

Just change the long “I” sound to a long “O” sound and you’ve got it.

Which is close to @Trucelt’s 1.5 syllables idea, but not quite that distinct. The “Y” isn’t a real sound, but rather an artifact of the transition from “O” to “L”. Somewhere along the way my mouth parts transition through the configuration that makes a “Y”. It’s sorta the consonant equivalent of the schwa vowel sound.

Or so it seems to non-expert me.

I can slow down the pronunciation and hear two distinct syllables. My mouth has to change shape between the ‘oy’ and the ‘ll’, same as when I say “I’ll”. If I turn the ‘O’ long the way my hillbilly relatives do then it can rhyme with ‘roll’ and just be one syllable because mouth doesn’t have to change shape, all I have to do is shift my tongue a little. Anyhow, that’s what happens when I pronounce these things.

This is what I would have voted for.

Words like “royal” and “loyal” have two syllables. Words like “coil” and “foil” and, yes, “oil” are pronounced similarly but are not separated into two distinct syllables.

They are when I hear them. Just like royal and loyal.

Back in the very early 60s Allen Funt took Candid Camera down to somewhere in the deep South and asked people to say the words “all” and “oil.” They sounded the same.

ISTM a lot of southern or hillbilly accent is about finding the way to make the least possible effort while still forming something reminiscent of real words.

I recall a guy I worked with in USAF who was a cracker (his term; I’d never heard it before) from small-town central Florida. In his accent every word had just the first syllable followed by an inaudible mumble-sigh. That first syllable was itself barely formed. When asked why his accent was that way he said:

It’s too durn hot back home to say the rest of the words; too much work, too much sweat.

I figure he was mostly pulling a Yankee’s leg, but the more time I’ve spent in the extra-sweaty parts of the USA the more that’s come to make sense. :wink:

Then again he didn’t walk or think or work much faster or more completely than he talked, so maybe it is the legacy of heat and humidity in the Olden Dayes before air conditionin’ twas invented.

Yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to say.

Does anyone here remember the Little Iodine comic by Jimmy Hatlo? One of the characters routinely expressed annoyance at others by exclaiming “Berl him in erl!” I had to get someone to translate that for me. It means “Boil him in oil!”. I think that was supposed to be a New York accent.

I still struggle with the accent that I have heard from some Brits and Aussies that turns “no” into a 3-syllable word.

Make sense. I cannot force my mouth to follow an “oy” sound with an ending “l” sound unless after I say “oy” I raise my jaw and moving my tongue upward. During this movement, there is a faint but perceptible “uh” sound, hence I voted 2 syllables (though I like the 1.5 characterization).

However, I can easily pronounce “all” as one syllable.

I’ve also heard it pronounced as “earl,” as in, “I work in the earl bidnez.”

Oil (or Earl) has the same issue as the word Charles, which is also a one-syllable word, but most people hear two.

The vowel sound in “oil” is a diphthong. That is, there’s actually two vowel sounds in there. Yous start off making one sound and then, while still vocalising, transition to the other. English is full of diphthongs. A diphthong is still considered to be one syllable, not two.

In my variant of English, at any rate, the two vowel sounds that make up the diphthong in “oil” are:

  • the vowel sound in “awe”, transitioning to

  • the vowel sound in “ill”.

If you make that sound, as in the exclamation “oy!”, you’ll find that your jaw, lips, etc are moving. In particular, you will raise your jaw as you transition from the first vowel to the second. If you then add an -L- sound, to make “oil”, the additional movement required is placing your tongue against your hard palate.

Now make the word “all”. That’s a pure vowel, not a diphthong. Your jaw, etc, don’t move as you vocalise the vowel sound. Again, when it comes to the terminal -L-, the movement required is the placing of your tongue against your hard palate; no need to raise your jaw.

So, the raising of your jaw when you say “oil” is not to do with making the terminal -L-; you can make that sound with your jaw in any position, and even after dropping your jaw (as you probably do when you say “laugh”). The raising of the jaw in “oil” is something you need to do to voice the diphthong.

You’re missing part of it–at least, in my accent. As I said, it comes off life a triphthong for me. The reason is that the end of the diphthong (the “i”) is too close for me to make the back L–the jaw is too high to make the sound, leaving me no room to lower the middle of my tongue on one side. The same is true with the word ill, but the movement is slight. A better example is the word “eel”, which sounds almost like “ee-uhl” in my accent.

Sometimes I refer to these vowels as l-colored vowels. You can add the lateral tongue movement to make an open, back vowel into a back l quite easily. But it’s hard to do with a close vowel or a very front vowel. The same is true of r-coloration, at least for me, which is why you hear a slight ee-uhr in my pronuncation of ear, but not an ah-uhr sound in car.

I say that [oɪɫ] sounds like a triphthong. And having two short vowels next to each other almost sounds like an additional syllable.