17

I was talking to someone about a fight between a scorpion and a beetle before we watch the actual video. We were predicting what would happen.

I wanted to sound informal by saying, "the scorpion 'll kill the beetle". Then suddenly it came to me it would sound wierd (like Lionel) and I wasn't sure how it should be said so I chose the safer choice and said, "the scorpion will kill the beetle".

I know native speakers have no problem saying it and as I checked the possible duplicates, it's actually quite common though there wasn't any question saying how to actually say it.

Long story short, I want the phonetic transcript of "scorpion'll". Should I add schwa after n? i.e. /ˈskɔːpiənəl/. And for a rule of thumb should I do the same with all other consonant sounds? For examlpe, Jim'll, Vladimir'll.

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    Yes, you do need a schwa. English pronunciation is so random anyway that most english speakers don't even realise when they use a schwa. In languages with more rigid pronunciation rules, like arabic, you need to understand when a schwa is necessary. For arabic, you insert one if putting two words together results in a sequence of three or more consonants. Probably by coincidence, it works exactly like that in the consonant + 'll situation. – JavaLatte Apr 13 '16 at 15:44
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    You're right that you generally can't use this construction for anyone whose name already ends in an 'L' (e.g. Lionel). I'd also avoid it when there's possibility of confusion with such a name, e.g. "The lion'll attack Lionel if he gets too close." – Darrel Hoffman Apr 13 '16 at 16:33
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    "Shake and shake / The catsup bottle. / None'll come- / And then a lot'll" - Richard Armour – steeldriver Apr 13 '16 at 20:34
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    For what it's worth, there was a famous TV show called "Jim'll Fix It", which suggests that that particular contraction is acceptable. – TRiG Apr 13 '16 at 23:57
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    @JavaLatte I don't see why you need a schwa. You can certainly have a syllabic liquid. You might argue that a syllabic liquid is underlyingly a phonological schwa + liquid sequence which can be (in this case) realized phonetically with or without schwa, but that's a matter of theory and probably not terribly useful to learners. – snailcar Apr 14 '16 at 22:01
16

It's either a syllabic /l̩/ or /əl/.

These are allophones in English, which means there is no phonemic difference between them—it never changes the meaning. Which one you use depends on which dialect you speak, and maybe also on the consonant before it.

Merriam-Webster uses the rule: use /l̩/ after /t/, /d/, and /n/ (as in little, saddle, and panel) and /əl/ after other consonants (as in pickle). While some Americans may follow this rule, I don't—I use /l̩/ after /t/ and /k/, but I use /əl/ after /n/. Unless you're trying to speak exactly like a native speaker, feel free to use whichever is easier for you.

9

I think you've got the right idea; use the 'll as though you were forming a more standard contraction, such as I'll, he'll, or we'll.

There's plenty of precedent for doing it that way, from this book published almost a century ago:

“It's a biggish hole, but Jim'll be all right in a few days, never fear.”
Source: Jim: The Story of a Backwoods Police Dog by Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, 1919

to this story published just a few years ago:

“You go find Aunt Bess. Me and Bert and Jim'll do the family's share of the fightin'.”
Source: The Pumpkin Rollers by Elmer Kelton, 2011

As for pronunciation, why not simply mimic what the dictionaries say for other contractions?

Collins and CDO show ðeɪl for they'll, for example.

For words like scorpion'll and Jim'll, try looking at words that end with a similar end sound, such as funnel (ˈfʌnəl) and camel (ˈkæməl).

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    Thanks, just a point to clarify, by "you've got the right idea" you're suggesting my generalization about using schwa is right? – Yuri Apr 13 '16 at 15:35
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    Ah, Yuri, you had to ask me the hard question! :-) I think so; the exact sound might vary a little bit based on the last syllable and consonant, so scorpion'll would be phonetically similar to, say, funnel, which is depicted with a schwa. I edited my question to explain that more clearly. – J.R. Apr 13 '16 at 15:45
  • Thanks... BTW the beetle actually got to kill the scorpion! That was a bummer ;) – Yuri Apr 13 '16 at 15:51
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    they'll is slightly different as they ends in a vowel sound. it'll shows the more usual case which Cambridge places somewhere between a syllabic 'l' and schwa plus 'l'. – user52889 Apr 13 '16 at 21:04
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    @user52889: I interpret Cambridge's IPA as either a syllabic 'l' or a schwa plus 'l'. And that's what their key says, as well. You don't need to worry about how to pronounce some sound halfway between them. – Peter Shor Apr 15 '16 at 12:54
6

It a syllabic l, which is perceptually close to, but not identical to, a schwa followed by an l.

Here is a podcast where the syllabic l is pronounced:

http://www.pronuncian.com/podcasts/episode142

So "it'll" rhymes with "little." "That'll" rhymes with "Seattle" or "battle," etc.

edit: thought of an old rhyme from the Simpsons... "some folk'll never eat a skunk, but then again, some folk'll... like Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel." (This is funny but not an accurate example, since in fact "will" doesn't normally contract to 'll when the verb isn't explicitly given afterwards.)

2

You would simply add the sound of "uhl" in American English; i.e., Scopionuhl, Jimuhl, etc. (It's a short "u" sound, either with your tongue down and its tip behind your lower teeth or on the palate right behind the upper teeth.) Also, as Adam noted in his comment, it is never stressed.

  • ...and it is never stressed. (BTW - I put the tip of my tongue behind my upper teeth right at the end) – Adam Apr 13 '16 at 15:20
  • @Mark Hubbard Just to make sure I got it right: you're taking about the same middle sound in book, i.e. /ʊ/? So this would be the transcript: /ˈskɔːpiənʊl/, and not /ˈskɔːpiənəl/. – Yuri Apr 13 '16 at 15:24
  • Thanks, @Adam, good point. Tongue touching the upper palate right behind the teeth works for me too. I've edited my answer accordingly and changed "ull" to "uhl" to make it more clear that it is not like "book." – Mark Hubbard Apr 13 '16 at 15:28
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    @Yuri: It is a syllabic /l/ sound. For me, it is approximately the same sound in "full," which is generally transcribed as /fʊl/. But even though "full" is considered to have the "same" vowel sound as the one in "book," the pronunciation is affected by the following /l/. For me, there is no difference between fully unstressed /ʊl/, /əl/ and /l̩/. But this may differ for other speakers. – sumelic Apr 13 '16 at 15:29
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    What you are describing is a schwa, as @Yuri suggested. englishplus.com/grammar/00000383.htm – JavaLatte Apr 13 '16 at 15:34

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