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Why is it spelled...?

Why is there an <l> but no [l] in talk?

Talk probably comes from Old English tellan "say, tell," which is the source of our tell and tale. That explains why there is an <l>. In talk the <k> appears to be the fossilized remnant of an obscure suffix that marked frequentative verbs or was an intensifier, as in other verbs like stalk, walk, and lurk. There is no [l] in talk because in Middle English [l] tended to be lost between vowel sounds that became Modern English [o] or [dotted o] and [k], as in stalk and walk, and in balk, calk, chalk. Actually, the [l] is also often lost in a number of settings: between [o] and [k], as in folk and yolk; between [o] or [dotted o] and [m], as in almond, balm, calm, palm, psalm, and between [a] and [m] in salmon. Other words with lost [l]: half, halves, could, should, would. In the contractions shan't and won't the <l> has also been lost.

This loss was not absolutely consistent in earlier centuries, and is not entirely so today. Some of these words have variant pronunciations, with and without [l], the latter cases often being instances of spelling pronunciation (AES, 26.4.2, 27.3.2.7, 28.1.2.2, 28.2.2.4, 31.2.1.2).

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