Friday, September 30, 2016

A taster (one of the less frequent AL sounds)

I haven't yet reached the Promised Land (the 'then a miracle happens' moment mentioned here, but here's an amuse-bouche (with the links unchecked, but often working). I've lumped together  /a::l/ and /a:/.
almond 1 calm
almoner 2 calve
Kabbalah 10 palm
alms 3 chorale
half-baked 7 lala
palm oil
aloo 4 dhal
half-breed 7 lip balm
half-caste 7 locale
half-cock 7 marsala 11 qualms 12
half-timbered 8 masala
fly half 5 half-truth 9 morale


  1. almond
    Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes "almond" with this long vowel and no /l/, but many other pronunciations are current among native-speakers of British English. I have heard /ɑ:l/, /ɔ:l/, /æl/ and /ɒl/. Some of these are reported in Cambridge Dictionaries Online and identified as "American".
  2. almoner
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not include "almoner", but other dictionaries (for example, Collins English Dictionary) do. In this and many other "-al-" words the letters "al" represent the phoneme /ɑ:/; there is no /l/.
  3. alms
    Note the plural ending.
  4. aloo
    The Macmillan English Dictionary gives "aloo" this long vowel, but with primary stress on the second syllable, suggesting an /ə/ pronunciation in the first. Other pronunciations are common (as is normal with foreign borrowings).
  5. fly-half
    In this expression (a position in a game of rugby) there is no clear (immediate) sense of "divided by two".
  6. gala
    Used in compounds, probably the most successful being "swimming gala". In many northern dialects the stressed vowel is pronounced /eɪ/. (This pronunciation is identified in the Macmillan English Dictionary as "American", although it is common in many British English dialects.)
  7. half-baked, half-breed and half-caste
    In these and many other words that use the qualifier "half" "half"-ness does not have a direct and/or obvious association with the word that follows "half-".
  8. half-timbered
    In this sort of building, some of the structural timbers (not necessarily half) have a cosmetic function.
  9. half-truth
    In this sort of misleading statement much of what is asserted is true (often – though not necessarily – more than half).
  10. Kabbalah
    The Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this word with the long /ɑ:/ vowel, but the audio sample has a clear /æ/. Both pronunciations are common.
  11. marsala
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not include this word but other dictionaries (for example, Collins English Dictionary) do.
  12. qualms
    The Macmillan English Dictionary gives this in the plural. The plural is indeed more common; the British National Corpus contains 141 instances of the plural and only 30 of the singular, and in the Corpus Of Contemporary American (a much bigger corpus) the preference is even stronger (705:71). But the singular is used - most commonly after a negative, as in the idiom "without a qualm". 
Update: 2016.10.04.11:50 – Fixed two links. (One of these fixes really deserves a new note – TBD. [And whether D stands for Discussed or Done is a matter for my conscience. :-)])

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