Southern accents: Dropping the L in the middle of words

Back in my second year of Americorps, some of our teammates were making fun of myself and C-Rae-sy for the oft-times perplexing way we said certain words. Keep in mind that I am from Mississippi and that C-Rae-sy is from Arkansas. Our teammates got a big kick out of the way we said words that happened to have an L in the middle, following a vowel.

Although our states are not immediate neighbors, and our Southern accents are not identical, C-Rae-sy and I both pronounced these types of words the same. We tended to drop the mid-point L out, like so:

Wolf: Wuf
Gulf: Guff (as in Guffa Mexico)
Talk: Tawk
Calm: Cahm (actually, the vowels elongate to the point where it can sound like Cahomb).

The major exception I make to this is ‘Milk’, which has an L, even if its very short. However, C-Rae-sy pronounces it as Meeyuk!

Is this a known phenomenon of Southern accents? Do only some Southern accents do this or most or all? Is this a feature of non-Southern English language dialects?

I’m from California, and I’ve never heard anyone with any accent pronounce the “L” in “Talk.”


I think Tawk and Tahk sound different. Even if you don’t make the “L” sound, you can feel the difference in your tongue.

I pronunce the L in “wolf” and “gulf,” but I pronounce “talk” as “tawk” and “calm” as “cahm.” (I’m in Montreal but my mother tongue is English.)

A few years ago the guy who was the head of the Canadian army never pronounced the “L” in the word “soldier.”

People make fun of the way I say “wuff” too.

I think there’s not so much regional variation that “hey, fuck you” would be terribly difficult for undeservedly smug yankees to understand.

When you listen to someone say a word, what difference does it make what you feel in your tongue? And how do you know how they spell a word when you hear them say it?

I’m from Georgia and I hear this all the time in my little corner of the south.

In this part of the country, you cannot hear the difference between “stalk” and “stock”. It seems that the Midwest accent flattens the short “o” so that it approaches a short “a” sound, but further west, that distinction gets lost. Sometimes you will hear the “l” in “caulk” pronounced, just to avoid sounding vulgar. Or, in reference to logger’s boots, the work actually becomes “cork”.

Well, I don’t know how you define neighbors, but Arkansas and Mississippi do border each other.

I find it strange that while dropping the L from some words, like bulb, people here in south Georgia pronounce the L in walk, talk, chalk, and… salmon.

We were visited by a rep from our Fargo ND facility, so of course someone asked her about the movie.

“Whee HAYTE dat moo-vee! Whee don’t TWAWK like dat!”

I don’t know how we managed to contain ourselves.

Interestingly enough, she must have totally missed the fact that almost no part of that movie takes place anywhere near North Dakota. Most of it was set in Minneapolis and near Brainerd, which is on the opposite side of Minnesota from Fargo. Perhaps the opening scene was in or near Fargo, but the rest was eastern Minnesota.

I guess I have a Midwest accent, then? :stuck_out_tongue:

Fair 'nough. I suppose I shoulda said, ‘our communities don’t neighbor each other’, as I am from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and she’s from central Arkansas. We grew up almost five hundred miles and an eight-hour-drive from each other.

Y’all brought up a few more examples:

Chalk: Chawk.
Caulk: Cawk or even CAHW-k with an emphasis on the first syllable to make sure it’s not mistaken for… well, you know.

So it appears L is blending into W, at least in my dialect. Interestingly, ‘dialect’ I’d pronounce as “DIE-lect”, but it’s not a word you’d use in everyday speech. If it were, I could see it morphing into “dieyek” or something similar.

Where do English-speaking people pronounce the L in “chalk”?

I do, in Tennessee.

In my upper appalachian dialect, word-final /l/ has become labialized (ie, more like /w/). I considered naming my son something that had the nickname Cal, but people thot i wwas saying Cow. Grrr.

My wife (born in Boston) insists that the “l” in “palm” is silent. I was born in New Jersey, and I insist the “l” is pronounced.