That’s howl I talk

Happy new year, phonoloblog readers.

Over the past three nights, Karen and I watched the three-part PBS Frontline film Country Boys by David Sutherland (some of which I also commented on here yesterday). There’s lots of good stuff to say about the film; the best I can do is to recommend that you just watch it.

What I want to briefly note here is an example of intrusive [l] from the film’s theme song, Country Boy (written and performed by Ray Riddle, the father of the girlfriend — now wife — of one of the boys featured in the film).
The chorus of the song goes like this:

I’m just a country boy, that’s how I was raised
I’ll stay a country boy until they put me in my grave.

Now listen here to the second part of that first line. Here’s a relatively clear spectrogram of the “how I” part, showing the dip in F2 that is characteristic of [l] (frequency range 0-5000Hz):

As far as I know, Riddle is from the Appalachian region of Eastern Kentucky (the film takes place mostly in Prestonsburg, KY), where intrusive [l] is not as typical as it is of, say, southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, but it’s also not unexpected. Here’s a map of the distribution of intrusive [l] from this 2002 American Speech article by Bryan Gick:

What I found particularly interesting about this example is the occurrence after “how”, which arguably could only happen in a dialect in which it is pronounced something between [ha] and [hɔ] as opposed to the standard diphthong [haʊ]. A monophthongal pronunciation of this vowel (and standard [aɪ]) is typical of most of Kentucky, so it all fits.

In case you didn’t know, Bryan also published an earlier article in Phonology on intrusive consonants in English more generally. Check it out.

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