November 24, 2010
Is Melbourne possibly taking the lead in the development of significant regional variations in the Australian dialect?
The tendency to pronounce “el” as “al” has been heard before in places like New Zealand and Norfolk Island. Linguists call this the /el/-/æl/ sound change, and from a physiological point of view it’s not such a strange occurrence — when the tongue moves to form an “l” sound this encourages a change to the vowel that precedes it. But this is far from the whole story.According to a commenter, this makes the pun in TISM's album title Machiavelli and the Four Seasons rather more obvious ("Machia Valli"), but if that's the case the Melbournian /el/-/æl/ swap has been around since at least 1995.
There’s a related but contrary process called /el/-/æl/ transposition. This is when people say words like “alcohol” and “alpine” as if the first syllable was “el”.
Technical paper (in pdf form) here.
(Do Melbournians still say "Travelling!" when in a hurry to somewhere? Or have they wisely stopped?)