In this paper we present a production study designed to explore the relationship between three observations which have previously been made about liquids in British English: first, that laterals have prosodically-determined ‘clear’ (syllable-initial) and ‘dark’ (syllable-final) variants; second, that some varieties of English have either clear  in all positions or dark [l] in all positions; third, that some varieties with clear  have dark [r] while some varieties with dark  have clear [r] (in broad phonetic transcription). We take F2 as an acoustic correlate of clearness/darkness and report on F2 variation in two representative varieties of British English, one which has clear initial  (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and one with dark initial  (Leeds). We show that Newcastle English has higher F2 frequencies in  than in [r] and that the reverse pattern is found in Leeds English. These patterns can also be found in adjacent unstressed vowels but not in adjacent stressed vowels. Final  in both varieties has a lower F2 than initial . In intervocalic contexts, these F2 distinctions in the liquids are observed in iambic words for both varieties. In trochaic words they are observed for Leeds only, though the vowel effects can be observed in both varieties. We discuss some phonological consequences of these findings.
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