Rhoticity in English

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Rhoticity in English refers to the situations in which English speakers pronounce the historical rhotic consonant /r/, and is one of the most prominent distinctions by which varieties of English can be classified. The English dialects of Scotland, Ireland, and most of the United States and Canada preserve historical /r/, and are thus termed the "rhotic varieties".[a] The historical /r/ is not pronounced except before vowels in "non-rhotic varieties";[b] these include all the dialects of modern England except the South West, the southern West Midlands, and parts of west Lancashire, as well as the English dialects of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and some parts of the southern and eastern coastal United States.[1]

In non-rhotic varieties, speakers no longer pronounce /r/ in postvocalic environments—that is, when it is immediately after a vowel and not followed by another vowel.[4][1] For example, a rhotic English speaker pronounces the words hard and butter as /ˈhɑːrd/ and /ˈbʌtər/, whereas a non-rhotic speaker "drops" or "deletes" the /r/ sound, pronouncing them as /ˈhɑːd/ and /ˈbʌtə/. A non-rhotic speaker usually still pronounces the /r/ in the phrase "butter and jam" (the linking R), since the /r/ is followed by a vowel in this case.

Evidence from written documents suggests that loss of postvocalic /r/ began sporadically during the mid-15th century. However, these /r/-less spellings were uncommon and were restricted to private documents, especially ones written by women. In the mid-18th century, postvocalic /r/ was still pronounced in most environments, but by the 1740s to 1770s it was often deleted entirely, especially after low vowels. By the 1790s, fully non-rhotic pronunciation had become common in London and surrounding areas, and was being increasingly used even in more formal and educated speech. By the early 19th century, the southern British standard was fully transformed into a non-rhotic variety, though some variation persisted as late as the 1870s. This loss of postvocalic /r/ in British English influenced southern and eastern American port cities with close connections to Britain, causing their upper-class pronunciation to become non-rhotic while the rest of the United States remained rhotic. Non-rhotic pronunciation continued to influence American prestige speech until the 1860s, when the American Civil War shifted America's centers of wealth and political power to rhotic areas with fewer cultural connections to the old colonial and British elites. The advent of radio and television in the early 20th century established a national standard of American pronunciation that fully preserved historical /r/.

History[edit]

Red areas indicate where rural English accents were rhotic in the 1950s.[5]
Red areas are where English dialects of the late 1900s were rhotic.[6]

The earliest traces of a loss of /r/ in English appear in the early 15th century and occur before coronal consonants, especially /s/, giving modern "ass (buttocks)" (Old English ears, Middle English ers or ars), and "bass (fish)" (OE bærs, ME bars).[1] A second phase of /r/-loss began during the 15th century, and was characterized by sporadic and lexically-variable deletion, such as monyng "morning" and cadenall "cardinal".[1] These /r/-less spellings appear throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, but are uncommon and are restricted to private documents, especially ones written by women.[1] No English authorities describe loss of /r/ in the standard language prior to the mid-18th century, and many do not fully accept it until the 1790s.[1]

During the mid-17th century, a number of sources describe /r/ as being weakened but still present.[7] The English playwright Ben Jonson's English Grammar, published posthumously in 1640, records that /r/ was "sounded firme in the beginning of words, and more liquid in the middle, and ends."[8] Little more is said regarding /r/ until 1740, when one Mather Flint, writing in a primer for French learners of English, said: "...dans plusieurs mots, l’r devant une consonne est fort adouci, presque muet & rend un peu longue la voyale qui le precede." ("...in many words r before a consonant is greatly softened, almost mute, and slightly lengthens the preceding vowel.")[8] By the 1770s, postvocalic /r/-less pronunciation was becoming common around London even in more formal, educated speech. The English actor and linguist John Walker uses the spelling ar to indicate the long vowel of aunt in his 1775 rhyming dictionary.[2] In his influential Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language (1791), Walker reported, with a strong tone of disapproval, that "...the r in lard, bard, [...] is pronounced so much in the throat as to be little more than the middle or Italian a, lengthened into baa, baad...."[8] Americans returning to England after the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783 reported surprise at the significant changes in fashionable pronunciation.[9] By the early 19th century, the southern British standard was fully transformed into a non-rhotic variety, though it continued to be variable as late as the 1870s.[8]

The adoption of postvocalic /r/-less pronunciation as the British prestige standard in the late 18th and early 19th centuries influenced American port cities with close connections to Britain, causing upper-class pronunciation in many eastern and southern port cities such as New York City, Boston, Alexandria, Charleston, and Savannah to become non-rhotic.[10] Like regional dialects in England, the accents of other areas in America remained rhotic in a display of linguistic "lag" that preserved the original pronunciation of /r/.[10] Non-rhotic pronunciation continued to influence American prestige speech until the 1860s, when the American Civil War shifted America's centers of wealth and political power to areas with fewer cultural connections to the British elite.[11] This largely removed the prestige associated with non-rhotic pronunciation in America, such that when the advent of radio and television in the early 20th century established a national standard of American pronunciation, it became a rhotic variety that fully preserves historical /r/.[11]

Modern pronunciation[edit]

In most non-rhotic accents, if a word ending in written "r" is followed closely by a word beginning with a vowel, the /r/ is pronounced—as in water ice. This phenomenon is referred to as "linking R". Many non-rhotic speakers also insert an epenthetic /r/ between vowels when the first vowel is one that can occur before syllable-final r (drawring for drawing). This so-called "intrusive R" has been stigmatized, but nowadays many speakers of Received Pronunciation (RP) frequently "intrude" an epenthetic /r/ at word boundaries, especially where one or both vowels is schwa; for example the idea of it becomes the idea-r-of it, Australia and New Zealand becomes Australia-r-and New Zealand, the formerly well-known India-r-Office and "Laura Norder" (Law and Order). The typical alternative used by RP speakers (and some rhotic speakers as well) is to insert a glottal stop where an intrusive R would otherwise be placed.[12][13]

For non-rhotic speakers, what was historically a vowel plus /r/ is now usually realized as a long vowel. This is called compensatory lengthening, lengthening that occurs after the elision of a sound. So in RP and many other non-rhotic accents card, fern, born are pronounced [kʰɑːd], [fɜːn], [bɔːn] or similar (actual pronunciations vary from accent to accent). This length may be retained in phrases, so while car pronounced in isolation is [kʰɑː], car owner is [ˈkʰɑːɹəʊnə]. But a final schwa usually remains short, so water in isolation is [wɔːtʰə]. In RP and similar accents the vowels /iː/ and /uː/ (or /ʊ/), when followed by r, become diphthongs ending in schwa, so near is [nɪə] and poor is [pʰʊə], though these have other realizations as well, including monophthongal ones; once again, the pronunciations vary from accent to accent. The same happens to diphthongs followed by R, though these may be considered to end in /ər/ in rhotic speech, and it is the /ər/ that reduces to schwa as usual in non-rhotic speech: tire said in isolation is [tʰaɪə] and sour is [saʊə].[14] For some speakers, some long vowels alternate with a diphthong ending in schwa, so wear may be [wɛə] but wearing [wɛːɹɪŋ].

Even General American speakers commonly drop the /r/ in non-final unstressed syllables when another syllable in the same word also contains /r/; this may be referred to as R-dissimilation. Examples include the dropping of the first /r/ in the words surprise, governor and caterpillar. In more careful speech, however, the /r/ sounds are all retained.[15]

Distribution[edit]

Final post-vocalic /r/ in farmer in English rural dialects of the 1950s[16]
GREEN[ə] (non-rhotic)
YELLOW[əʴ] (alveolar)
ORANGE[əʵ] (retroflex)
PINK[əʵː] (retroflex & long)
BLUE[əʶ] (uvular)
VIOLET[ɔʶ] (back & rounded)

Rhotic accents include Scottish English, Irish or Hiberno-English, most varieties of North American English, Barbadian English, Indian English,[17] and Pakistani English.[18]

Non-rhotic accents include most England's English, Welsh English, New Zealand English, Australian English, and South African English.

Semi-rhotic accents have also been studied, such as Jamaican English, in which r is pronounced (as in even non-rhotic accents) before vowels, but also in stressed monosyllables or stressed syllables at the ends of words (e.g. in "car" or "dare"); however, it is not pronounced at the end of unstressed syllables (e.g. in "water") or before consonants (e.g. "market").[19]

Variably rhotic accents, in which speakers often sporadically waver between rhoticity and non-rhoticity without any particular rules of context, are also widely documented. Variably rhotic accents comprise much of Caribbean English, for example, as spoken in Tobago, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Bahamas.[20] They also include current-day New York City English,[21] New York Latino English, and some Boston English.

Non-rhotic accents in the Americas include the rest of Caribbean and Belize.

England[edit]

Though most English varieties in England are non-rhotic today, stemming from a trend towards this in southeastern England accelerating in the very late 1700s onwards, rhotic accents are still found in the West Country (south and west of a line from near Shrewsbury to around Portsmouth), the Corby area, some of Lancashire (north and west of the centre of Manchester), some parts of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and in the areas that border Scotland. The prestige form, however, exerts a steady pressure towards non-rhoticity. Thus the urban speech of Bristol or Southampton is more accurately described as variably rhotic, the degree of rhoticity being reduced as one moves up the class and formality scales.[22]

The red dots show major U.S. cities where Labov, Ash, and Boberg (2006:48) found 50% or higher non-rhotic speech among at least one white resident. African American Vernacular English's non-rhotic speech may be found among working- and middle-class African Americans throughout the country.

United States[edit]

American English is predominantly rhotic today, but at the end of the 1800s non-rhotic accents were common throughout much of the Eastern U.S. and through much of the South along the Gulf Coast. In fact, non-rhotic accents were established in all major U.S. cities along the Atlantic coast except for the Delaware Valley area around Philadelphia and Baltimore. This trend reversed during the early to mid-1900s. Non-rhotic accents have increasingly been perceived by Americans as sounding foreign or less educated with rhotic accents increasingly seen as sounding more "General American".[23]

Today, non-rhoticity in the American South is found primarily among older speakers, and only in some areas such as central and southern Alabama; Savannah, Georgia; and Norfolk, Virginia,[24] as well as in the Yat accent of New Orleans. The local dialects of eastern New England, especially Boston, Massachusetts, extending into the states of Maine and New Hampshire, are largely non-rhotic, as well as the traditional Rhode Island dialect; however, this feature has recently been receding. The New York City dialect is traditionally non-rhotic, though William Labov more precisely classifies its current form as variably rhotic,[25] with many of its sub-varieties now fully rhotic, such as in northeastern New Jersey.

African-American Vernacular English (AAVE for short) is largely non-rhotic, and in some non-rhotic Southern and AAVE accents, there is no linking r, that is, /r/ at the end of a word is deleted even when the following word starts with a vowel, so that "Mister Adams" is pronounced [mɪstə(ʔ)ˈædəmz].[26] In a few such accents, intervocalic /r/ is deleted before an unstressed syllable even within a word when the following syllable begins with a vowel. In such accents, pronunciations like [kæəˈlaːnə] for Carolina, or [bɛːˈʌp] for "bear up" are heard.[27] This pronunciation also occurs in AAVE.[28] This also occurred for many older non-rhotic Southern speakers.[29]

Typically, even non-rhotic modern American English varieties do pronounce the /r/ in /ɜːr/ (as in "bird," "work," or "perky"), realizing it, as in most of the U.S., as [ɝ] or [ɚ] About this sound listen.

Canada[edit]

Canadian English is entirely rhotic except for small isolated areas in southwestern New Brunswick, parts of Newfoundland, and the Lunenburg English variety spoken in Lunenburg and Shelburne Counties, Nova Scotia, which may be non-rhotic or variably rhotic.[30]

New Zealand[edit]

Although New Zealand English is predominantly non-rhotic, Southland and parts of Otago in the far south of New Zealand's South Island are rhotic from apparent Scottish influence. Some Māori speakers are semi-rhotic although it is not clearly identified to any particular region or attributed to any defined language shift. The Māori accent varies from the European-origin New Zealand accent.

Asia[edit]

The English spoken in Asia is predominantly rhotic. Many varieties of Indian English are rhotic owing to the underlying phonotactics of the native Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages[17] whilst some tend to be non-rhotic. In the case of the Philippines, this may be explained because the English that is spoken there is heavily influenced by the American dialect. In addition, many East Asians (in China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan) who have a good command of English generally have rhotic accents because of the influence of American English. This excludes Hong Kong, whose RP English dialect is a result of its almost 150-year-history as a British Crown colony (later British dependent territory). The lack of consonant /r/ in Cantonese also contributes to the phenomenon (although rhoticity started to exist due to the handover in 1997 and influence by US and East Asian entertainment industry). However, many older (and younger) speakers among South and East Asians speak non-rhotic.

Other Asian regions with non-rhotic English are Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.[citation needed] A typical Malaysian's English would be almost totally non-rhotic due to the nonexistence of rhotic endings in both languages of influence, whereas a more educated Malaysian's English may be non-rhotic due to Standard Malaysian English being based on RP (Received Pronunciation).

A typical teenager's Southeast Asian English would be rhotic, mainly because of prominent influence by American English. Spoken English in Myanmar is non-rhotic, but there are a number of English speakers with a rhotic or partially rhotic pronunciation. Sri Lankan English may be rhotic.

Africa[edit]

The English spoken in Africa (excluding South Africa) is based on British RP and is officially non-rhotic. Pronunciation and variation in African English accents are largely affected by native African language influences, level of education and exposure to western influences. The English accents spoken in the coastal areas of West Africa is primarily non-rhotic as are the underlying varieties of Niger-Congo languages spoken in that part of West Africa. Rhoticity may be present in English spoken in areas where rhotic Afro-Asiatic or Nilo Saharan languages are spoken across northern West Africa and in the Nilotic regions of East Africa. More modern trends show an increasing African-American influence on African English pronunciation particularly among younger urban affluent populations, where the American rhotic 'r' may be over-stressed in informal communication to create a pseudo-Americanised accent. By and large official spoken English used in post colonial African countries is non-rhotic. Standard Liberian English is also non-rhotic because liquids are lost at the end of words or before consonants.[31]

Mergers characteristic of non-rhotic accents[edit]

Some phonemic mergers are characteristic of non-rhotic accents. These usually include one item that historically contained an R (lost in the non-rhotic accent), and one that never did so. The section below lists mergers in order of approximately decreasing prevalence.

Panda–pander merger[edit]

In the terminology of John C. Wells, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets commA and lettER. It is found in all or nearly all non-rhotic accents,[32] and is even present in some accents that are in other respects rhotic, such as those of some speakers in Jamaica and the Bahamas.[32]

Homophonous pairs
/ə/ /ər/ IPA Notes
Ana honor ˈɑːnə With father-bother merger.
area airier ˈɛəriə
Basia basher ˈbæʃə Without trap-bath split.
Carla collar ˈkɑlə With god-guard merger.
Carta Carter ˈkɑːtə
cheetah cheater ˈtʃiːtə
Darla dollar ˈdɑlə With god-guard merger.
Dinah diner ˈdaɪnə
coca coker ˈkoʊkə
coda coder ˈkoʊdə
cola coaler ˈkoʊlə
coma comber ˈkoʊmə
custody custardy ˈkʌstədi
data dater ˈdeɪtə
Easton eastern ˈiːstən
Helena Eleanor ˈɛlənə With h-dropping. Outside North America.
eta eater ˈiːtə
eyen iron ˈaɪən
feta fetter ˈfɛtə
formally formerly ˈfɔːməli
geta getter ˈɡɛtə
ion iron ˈaɪən
karma calmer ˈkɑːmə
kava carver ˈkɑːvə
Lena leaner ˈliːnə
Lima lemur ˈliːmə
Lisa leaser ˈliːsə
Luna lunar ˈl(j)uːnə
Maia Meier ˈmaɪə
Maia mire ˈmaɪə
Maya Meier ˈmaɪə
Maya mire ˈmaɪə
manna manner ˈmænə
manna manor ˈmænə
Marta martyr ˈmɑːtə
Mia mere ˈmiə
miner myna(h); mina(h) ˈmaɪnə
minor myna(h); mina(h) ˈmaɪnə
Mona moaner ˈmoʊnə
Palma palmer; Palmer ˈpɑːmə
panda pander ˈpændə
parka Parker ˈpɑːkə
Parma palmer; Palmer ˈpɑːmə
Patton pattern ˈpætən
PETA peter; Peter ˈpiːtə
pharma farmer ˈfɑːmə
pita peter; Peter ˈpiːtə
Rhoda rotor ˈroʊɾə With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
Rita reader ˈriːɾə With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
Roma roamer ˈroʊmə
rota rotor ˈroʊtə
Saba sabre; saber ˈseɪbə
schema schemer ˈskiːmə
seven Severn ˈsɛvən
soya sawyer ˈsɔɪə
Stata starter ˈstɑːtə With trap–bath split.
taiga tiger ˈtaɪɡə
terra; Terra terror ˈtɛrə
tuba tuber ˈt(j)uːbə
tuna tuner ˈt(j)uːnə
Vespa vesper ˈvɛspə
via veer ˈvɪə
Wanda wander ˈwɒndə
Weston western ˈwɛstən
Wicca wicker ˈwɪkə

Father–farther merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets PALM and START. It is found in the speech of the great majority of non-rhotic speakers, including those of England, Wales, the United States, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It may be absent in some non-rhotic speakers in the Bahamas.[32]

Homophonous pairs
/ɑː/ /ɑːr/ IPA Notes
ah are ˈɑː
ah (h)our ˈɑː With smoothing.
alms arms ˈɑːmz
alms harms ˈɑːmz With H-dropping.
balmy barmy ˈbɑːmi
calmer karma ˈkɑːmə
Chalmers charmers ˈtʃɑːməz
Dahmer dharma ˈdɑːmə
fa far ˈfɑː
father farther ˈfɑːðə
Jahn yarn ˈjɑːn
kava carver ˈkɑːvə
lava larva ˈlɑːvə
ma mar ˈmɑː
pa par ˈpɑː
Palma Parma ˈpɑːmə
palmer; Palmer Parma ˈpɑːmə
ska scar ˈskɑː
spa spar ˈspɑː
Stata starter ˈstɑːtə

Pawn–porn merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets THOUGHT and NORTH. It is found in most of the same accents as the father–farther merger described above, but is absent from the Bahamas and Guyana.[32]

Homophonous pairs
/ɔː/ /ɔːr/ IPA Notes
alk orc ˈɔːk
auk orc ˈɔːk
aw or ˈɔː
awe or ˈɔː
awk orc ˈɔːk
balk bork ˈbɔːk
bawn born ˈbɔːn
caulk cork ˈkɔːk
cawed chord ˈkɔːd
cawed cord ˈkɔːd
draw drawer ˈdrɔː
gnaw nor ˈnɔː
hawk orc ˈɔːk With H-dropping.
laud lord ˈlɔːd
lawed lord ˈlɔːd
lawn lorn ˈlɔːn
pawn porn ˈpɔːn
sought sort ˈsɔːt
stalk stork ˈstɔːk
talk torque ˈtɔːk
taught tort ˈtɔːt
taut tort ˈtɔːt
taw tor ˈtɔː
thaw Thor ˈθɔː

Caught–court merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets THOUGHT and FORCE. It is found in those non-rhotic accents containing the pawnporn merger that have also undergone the horse–hoarse merger. These include the accents of Southern England, Wales, non-rhotic New York City speakers, Trinidad and the Southern hemisphere. In such accents a three-way merger awe-or-ore/oar results. However, Labov et al. suggest that, in New York City English, this merger is present in perception not production. As in, although even locals perceive themselves using the same vowel in both cases, they tend to produce the force higher and more retracted than the vowel of thought.[33]

Homophonous pairs
/ɔː/ /ɔər/ IPA Notes
aw oar ˈɔː
aw ore ˈɔː
awe oar ˈɔː
awe ore ˈɔː
baud board ˈbɔːd
baud bored ˈbɔːd
bawd board ˈbɔːd
bawd bored ˈbɔːd
bawn borne ˈbɔːn
bawn bourn; bourne; Bourne ˈbɔːn
caught court ˈkɔːt
caw core ˈkɔː
daw door ˈdɔː
draw drawer ˈdrɔː
flaw floor ˈflɔː
fought fort ˈfɔːt
gaud gored ˈɡɔːd
haw whore ˈhɔː
law lore ˈlɔː
maw more ˈmɔː
maw Moore ˈmɔː
paw pore ˈpɔː
paw pour ˈpɔː
raw roar ˈrɔː
sauce source ˈsɔːs
saw soar ˈsɔː
saw sore ˈsɔː
sawed soared ˈsɔːd
sawed sword ˈsɔːd
Sean shorn ˈʃɔːn
shaw shore ˈʃɔː
Shawn shorn ˈʃɔːn
taw tore ˈtɔː
yaw yore ˈjɔː
yaw your ˈjɔː

Calve–carve merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets BATH and START. It is found in some non-rhotic accents with broad A in words like "bath". It is general in southern England (excluding rhotic speakers), Trinidad, the Bahamas, and the Southern hemisphere. It is a possibility for Welsh, Eastern New England, Jamaican, and Guyanese speakers.

Homophonous pairs
/aː/ /ɑːr/ IPA Notes
aunt aren't ˈɑːnt
calve carve ˈkɑːv
cast karst ˈkɑːst
caste karst ˈkɑːst
fast farced ˈfɑːst

Paw–poor merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets THOUGHT and CURE. It is found in those non-rhotic accents containing the caughtcourt merger that have also undergone the pour–poor merger. Wells lists it unequivocally only for the accent of Trinidad, but it is an option for non-rhotic speakers in England, Australia and New Zealand. Such speakers have a potential four–way merger taw-tor-tore-tour.[34]

Homophonous pairs
/ɔː/ /ʊər/ IPA Notes
gaud gourd ˈɡɔːd
haw whore ˈhɔː
law lure ˈlɔː With yod-dropping.
maw moor ˈmɔː
maw Moore ˈmɔː
paw poor ˈpɔː
shaw sure ˈʃɔː
taw tour ˈtɔː
tawny tourney ˈtɔːni
yaw your ˈjɔː
yaw you're ˈjɔː

Batted–battered merger[edit]

This merger is present in non-rhotic accents which have undergone the weak-vowel merger. Such accents include Australian, New Zealand, most South African speech, and some non-rhotic English speech (e.g. Norfolk, Sheffield).

A large number of homophonous pairs involve the syllabic -es and agentive -ers suffixes, such as merges-mergers and bleaches-bleachers. Because there are so many, they are excluded from the list of homophonous pairs below.

Homophonous pairs
/ɪ̈/ /ər/ IPA Notes
batted battered ˈbætəd
betted bettered ˈbɛtəd
busted bustard ˈbʌstəd
butches butchers ˈbʊtʃəz
butted buttered ˈbʌtəd
charted chartered ˈtʃɑ:təd
chatted chattered ˈtʃætəd
founded foundered ˈfaʊndəd
humid humo(u)red ˈhjuːməd
masted mastered ˈmæstəd, ˈmɑːstəd
matted mattered ˈmætəd
modding modern ˈmɒdən With G-dropping.
patted pattered ˈpætəd
patting pattern ˈpætən With G-dropping.
satin Saturn ˈsætən
scatted scattered ˈskætəd
splendid splendo(u)red ˈsplɛndəd
tatted tattered ˈtætəd
tended tendered ˈtɛndəd
territory terror tree ˈtɛrətriː With happy-tensing.

Dough–door merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets GOAT and FORCE. It may be found in some southern U.S. non-rhotic speech, some speakers of African American Vernacular English, some speakers in Guyana and some Welsh speech.[32]

Homophonous pairs
/oʊ/ /oʊr/ IPA Notes
beau boar ˈboʊ
beau bore ˈboʊ
bode board ˈboʊd
bode bored ˈboʊd
bone borne ˈboʊn
bone Bourne ˈboʊn
bow boar ˈboʊ
bow bore ˈboʊ
bowed board ˈboʊd
bowed bored ˈboʊd
chose chores ˈtʃoʊz
coast coursed ˈkoʊst
coat court ˈkoʊt
code cored ˈkoʊd
doe door ˈdoʊ
does doors ˈdoʊz
dough door ˈdoʊ
doze doors ˈdoʊz
floe floor ˈfloʊ
flow floor ˈfloʊ
foe fore ˈfoʊ
foe four ˈfoʊ
go gore ˈɡoʊ
goad gored ˈɡoʊd
hoe whore ˈhoʊ
hoed hoard ˈhoʊd
hoed horde ˈhoʊd
hoed whored ˈhoʊd
hose whores ˈhoʊz
lo lore ˈloʊ
low lore ˈloʊ
moan mourn ˈmoʊn
Moe Moore ˈmoʊ
Moe more ˈmoʊ
Mona mourner ˈmoʊnə
mow Moore ˈmoʊ
mow more ˈmoʊ
mown mourn ˈmoʊn
O oar ˈoʊ
O ore ˈoʊ
ode oared ˈoʊd
oh oar ˈoʊ
oh ore ˈoʊ
owe oar ˈoʊ
owe ore ˈoʊ
owed oared ˈoʊd
Po pore ˈpoʊ
Po pour ˈpoʊ
Poe pore ˈpoʊ
Poe pour ˈpoʊ
poach porch ˈpoʊtʃ
poke pork ˈpoʊk
pose pores ˈpoʊz
pose pours ˈpoʊz
road roared ˈroʊd
rode roared ˈroʊd
roe roar ˈroʊ
rose roars ˈroʊz
row roar ˈroʊ
rowed roared ˈroʊd
sew soar ˈsoʊ
sew sore ˈsoʊ
sewed soared ˈsoʊd
sewed sored ˈsoʊd
sewed sword ˈsoʊd
shone shorn ˈʃoʊn
show shore ˈʃoʊ
shown shorn ˈʃoʊn
snow snore ˈsnoʊ
so soar ˈsoʊ
so sore ˈsoʊ
sow soar ˈsoʊ
sow sore ˈsoʊ
sowed soared ˈsoʊd
sowed sored ˈsoʊd
sowed sword ˈsoʊd
stow store ˈstoʊ
Thoth tort ˈtoʊt With th-stopping.
toad toward ˈtoʊd
toe tore ˈtoʊ
toed toward ˈtoʊd
tone torn ˈtoʊn
tow tore ˈtoʊ
towed toward ˈtoʊd
woe wore ˈwoʊ
whoa wore ˈwoʊ With wine–whine merger.
yo yore ˈjoʊ
yo your ˈjoʊ

Show–sure merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets GOAT and CURE. It may be present in those speakers who have both the dough–door merger described above, and also the pour–poor merger. These include some southern U.S. non-rhotic speakers, some speakers of African American Vernacular English and some speakers in Guyana.[32] It can be seen in the term "Fo Sho", an imitation of "for sure".

Homophonous pairs
/oʊ/ /ʊːr/ IPA Notes
beau Boer ˈboʊ
beau boor ˈboʊ
bow Boer ˈboʊ
bow boor ˈboʊ
goad gourd ˈɡoʊd
hoe whore ˈhoʊ
lo lure ˈloʊ With yod-dropping.
low lure ˈloʊ With yod-dropping.
Moe moor ˈmoʊ
Moe Moore ˈmoʊ
mode moored ˈmoʊd
mow moor ˈmoʊ
mow Moore ˈmoʊ
mowed moored ˈmoʊd
Po poor ˈpoʊ
Poe poor ˈpoʊ
shew sure ˈʃoʊ
show sure ˈʃoʊ
toad toured ˈtoʊd
toe tour ˈtoʊ
toed toured ˈtoʊd
tow tour ˈtoʊ
towed toured ˈtoʊd
yo your ˈjoʊ
yo you're ˈjoʊ

Often–orphan merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets CLOTH and NORTH. It may be present in old-fashioned Eastern New England accents,[35] New York City speakers[36] and also in some speakers in Jamaica and Guyana. The merger was also until recently present in the dialects of southern England, including Received Pronunciation—specifically, the phonemic merger of the words often and orphan was a running gag in the Gilbert and Sullivan musical, The Pirates of Penzance.

Homophonous pairs
/ɔː/ /ɔːr/ IPA Notes
boss bourse ˈbɔːs
hoss[37] horse ˈhɔːs
moss Morse ˈmɔːs
off Orff; orfe; orf ˈɔːf
often orphan ˈɔːfən "Often" is pronounced with a sounded T by some speakers.

God–guard merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets LOT and START. It may be present in non-rhotic accents that have undergone the father–bother merger. These may include some New York accents,[38] some southern U.S. accents,[39] and African American Vernacular English.[40]

Homophonous pairs
/ɑ/ /ɑr/ IPA Notes
bob; Bob barb; Barb ˈbɑb
bock bark ˈbɑk
bocks barks ˈbɑks
bocks Berks ˈbɑks
bod bard ˈbɑd
bod barred ˈbɑd
boff barf ˈbɑf
bot Bart ˈbɑt
box barks ˈbɑks
box Berks ˈbɑks
clock Clark; Clarke ˈklɑk
clock clerk ˈklɑk
cob carb ˈkɑb
cod card ˈkɑd
collar Carla ˈkɑlə
collie Carlie ˈkɑli
cop carp ˈkɑp
cot cart ˈkɑt
dock dark ˈdɑk
dollar Darla ˈdɑlə
dolling darling ˈdɑlɪŋ
don; Don darn ˈdɑn
dot dart ˈdɑt
god garred ˈɡɑd
god guard ˈɡɑd
hock hark ˈhɑk
holly; Holly Harley ˈhɑli
hominy harmony ˈhɑməni With weak vowel merger.
hop harp ˈhɑp
hot hart ˈhɑt
hot heart ˈhɑt
hottie hardy ˈhɑɾi With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
hottie hearty ˈhɑti
hough hark ˈhɑk
hovered Harvard ˈhɑvəd
knock narc ˈnɑk
knock nark ˈnɑk
knocks narcs ˈnɑks
knocks narks ˈnɑks
Knox narcs ˈnɑk
Knox narks ˈnɑk
lock lark ˈlɑk
Locke lark ˈlɑk
lodge large ˈlɑdʒ
lop larp ˈlɑp
mock mark; Mark ˈmɑk
mocks marks; Mark's ˈmɑks
mocks Marx ˈmɑks
mod marred ˈmɑd
modge Marge ˈmɑdʒ
moll; Moll marl ˈmɑl
molly; Molly Marley ˈmɑli
mosh marsh ˈmɑʃ
nock narc ˈnɑk
nock nark ˈnɑk
nocks narcs ˈnɑks
nocks narks ˈnɑks
Nox narcs ˈnɑk
Nox narks ˈnɑk
ox arcs ˈɑks
ox arks ˈɑks
pock park; Park ˈpɑk
pocks parks; Park's ˈpɑks
polly; Polly parley; Parley ˈpɑli
pot part ˈpɑt
potch parch ˈpɑtʃ
potty party ˈpɑti
pox parks ˈpɑks
shod shard ˈʃɑd
shock shark ˈʃɑk
shop sharp ˈʃɑp
shopping sharpen ˈʃɑpən With weak vowel merger and G-dropping.
sock Sark ˈsɑk
sod Sard ˈsɑd
Spock spark ˈspɑk
spotter Sparta ˈspɑtə
stock stark ˈstɑk
tod tard ˈtɑd
tod tarred ˈtɑd
Todd tard ˈtɑd
Todd tarred ˈtɑd
top tarp ˈtɑp
tot tart ˈtɑt
yon yarn ˈjɑn

Shot–short merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets LOT and NORTH. It may be present in some Eastern New England accents.[41][42]

Homophonous pairs
/ɒ/ /ɒr/ IPA Notes
bon born ˈbɒːn
box borks ˈbɒːks
cock cork; Cork ˈkɒːk
cocks corks; Cork's ˈkɒːks
cops corpse ˈkɒːps
cox corks; Cork's ˈkɒːks
cod chord ˈkɒːd
cod cord ˈkɒːd
con corn ˈkɒːn
dock dork ˈdɒːk
fox forks ˈfɒːks
dom dorm ˈdɒːm
mog morgue ˈmɒːɡ
mot Mort ˈmɒːt
odder order ˈɒːdə
otter order ˈɒːɾə With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
ox orcs ˈɒːks
pond porned ˈpɒːnd
pock pork ˈpɒːk
posh Porsche ˈpɒːʃ
pot port ˈpɒːt
scotch; Scotch scorch ˈskɒːtʃ
shoddy shorty ˈʃɒːɾi With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
shot short ˈʃɒːt
snot snort ˈsnɒːt
sob Sorb ˈsɒːb
solder sorter ˈsɒːɾə With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
sot sort ˈsɒːt
Spock spork ˈspɒːk
spot sport ˈspɒːt
stock stork ˈstɒːk
swan sworn ˈswɒːn
swat swart ˈswɒːt
tock torque ˈtɒːk
tot tort ˈtɒːt
tox torques ˈtɒːks
wabble warble ˈwɒːbəl
wad ward ˈwɒːd
wad warred ˈwɒːd
wan warn ˈwɒːn
wand warned ˈwɒːnd
watt wart ˈwɒːt
whap warp ˈwɒːp With wine–whine merger.
what wart ˈwɒːt With wine–whine merger.
whop warp ˈwɒːp With wine–whine merger.
wobble warble ˈwɒːbəl
yock York ˈjɒːk

Bud–bird merger[edit]

A merger of /ɜː(r)/ and /ʌ/ occurring for some speakers of Jamaican English making bud and bird homophones as /bʌd/.[43] The conversion of /ɜː/ to [ʌ] or [ə] is also found in places scattered around England and Scotland. Some speakers, mostly rural, in the area from London to Norfolk exhibit this conversion, mainly before voiceless fricatives. This gives pronunciation like first [fʌst] and worse [wʌs]. The word cuss appears to derive from the application of this sound change to the word curse. Similarly, lurve is coined from love.

Homophonous pairs
/ʌ/ /ɜːr/ IPA Notes
blood blurred ˈblʌd
bub burb ˈbʌb
buck Burke ˈbʌk
Buckley Berkeley ˈbʌkli
bud bird ˈbʌd
bud burred ˈbʌd
budging burgeon ˈbʌdʒən With weak vowel merger and G-dropping.
bug berg ˈbʌɡ
bug burg ˈbʌɡ
bugger burger ˈbʌɡə
bugging bergen; Bergen ˈbʌɡən With weak vowel merger and G-dropping.
bummer Burma ˈbʌmə
bun Bern ˈbʌn
bun burn ˈbʌn
bunt burnt ˈbʌnt
bused; bussed burst ˈbʌst
bust burst ˈbʌst
but Bert ˈbʌt
but Burt ˈbʌt
butt Bert ˈbʌt
butt Burt ˈbʌt
button Burton ˈbʌtən
buzz burrs ˈbʌz
chuck chirk ˈtʃʌk
cluck clerk ˈklʌk
colo(u)r curler ˈkʌlə
coven curving ˈkʌvən With weak vowel merger and G-dropping.
cub curb ˈkʌb
cub kerb ˈkʌb
cud curd ˈkʌd
cud curred ˈkʌd
cud Kurd ˈkʌd
cuddle curdle ˈkʌdəl
cuff you curfew ˈkʌfju
cull curl ˈkʌl
culler curler ˈkʌlə
cunning kerning ˈkʌnɪŋ
cuss curse ˈkʌs
cut curt; Curt ˈkʌt
cutting curtain ˈkʌtɪn With G-dropping.
dost durst ˈdʌst
doth dearth ˈdʌθ
duck dirk ˈdʌk
ducked dirked ˈdʌkt
ducks dirks ˈdʌks
duct dirked ˈdʌkt
dust durst ˈdʌst
dux dirks ˈdʌks
fud furred ˈfʌd
fun fern ˈfʌn
fussed first ˈfʌst
fuzz furs ˈfʌz
gull girl ˈɡʌl
gully girly ˈɡʌli
gutter girder ˈɡʌɾə With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
hub herb ˈ(h)ʌb With or without H-dropping.
huck Herc ˈhʌk
huck irk ˈʌk With H-dropping.
huddle hurdle ˈhʌdəl
hull hurl ˈhʌl
hum herm ˈhʌm
Hun earn ˈʌn With H-dropping.
Hun urn ˈʌn With H-dropping.
hush Hirsch ˈhʌʃ
hut hurt ˈhʌt
love lurve ˈlʌv
luck lurk ˈlʌk
lucks lurks ˈlʌks
lunt learnt ˈlʌnt
luxe lurks ˈlʌks
much merch ˈmʌtʃ
muck merc ˈmʌk
muck mirk ˈmʌk
muck murk ˈmʌk
muddle myrtle ˈmʌɾəl With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
mudder murder ˈmʌdə
mull merl ˈmʌl
mutter murder ˈmʌɾə With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
mutton Merton ˈmʌtən
oven Irving ˈʌvən With weak vowel merger and G-dropping.
puck perk ˈpʌk
pudge purge ˈpʌdʒ
pup perp ˈpʌp
pus purse ˈpʌs
pussy (pus) Percy ˈpʌsi
putt pert ˈpʌt
scut skirt ˈskʌt
shuck shirk ˈʃʌk
spun spurn ˈspʌn
stud stirred ˈstʌd
such search ˈsʌtʃ
suck cirque ˈsʌk
suckle circle ˈsʌkəl
suffer surfer ˈsʌfə
sully surly ˈsʌli
Sutton certain ˈsʌtən With weak vowel merger.
thud third ˈθʌd
ton(ne) tern ˈtʌn
ton(ne) turn ˈtʌn
tough turf ˈtʌf
tuck Turk ˈtʌk
tucks Turks ˈtʌks
Tuttle turtle ˈtʌtəl
tux Turks ˈtʌks
us Erse ˈʌs
wont weren't ˈwʌnt

Oil–earl merger / coil–curl merger[edit]

In Wells' terminology, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets CHOICE and NURSE preconsonantally (so that "stir" and "boy" never rhymed). It was present in older New York and New Orleans regional accents, but became stigmatized and is sharply recessive in those born since the Second World War.[44] This merger is known for the word soitanly, used often by the Three Stooges comedian Curly Howard as a variant of certainly in comedy shorts of the 1930s and 1940s.

Homophonous pairs
/ɔɪ/ /ɜr/ IPA Notes
adjoin adjourn əˈdʒɜɪn
boil burl ˈbɜɪl
Boyd bird ˈbɜɪd
Boyle burl ˈbɜɪl
Boyd bird ˈbɜɪd
coil curl ˈkɜɪl
coin kern ˈkɜɪn
coitus Curtis ˈkɜɪtəs With weak vowel merger.
foil furl ˈfɜɪl
goitre; goiter girder ˈɡɜɪɾər With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
hoist Hearst ˈhɜɪst
hoist hurst; Hurst ˈhɜɪst
Hoyle hurl ˈhɜɪl
loin learn ˈlɜɪn
oil earl ˈɜɪl
poil pearl ˈpɜɪl
poise purrs ˈpɜɪz
toyed turd ˈtɜɪd
voice verse ˈvɜɪs
Voight vert ˈvɜɪt

Other mergers[edit]

In some accents, syllabification may interact with rhoticity, resulting in homophones where non-rhotic accents have centering diphthongs. Possibilities include Korea–career,[45] Shi'a–sheer, and Maia–mire,[46] while skua may be identical with the second syllable of obscure.[47]

Effect of non-rhotic dialects on orthography[edit]

Certain words have spellings derived from non-rhotic dialects or renderings of foreign words through non-rhotic pronunciation. Examples include:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Other terms for "rhotic" varieties include "/r/–pronouncing" and "r–ful".[1][2]
  2. ^ Other terms for "non-rhotic" varieties include "/r/-deleting",[1] "r-dropping",[3] "r-vocalized", and "r–less".[2]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Lass (1999), p. 114.
  2. ^ a b c Labov, Ash, and Boberg (2006): 47.
  3. ^ Wells (1982), p. 216.
  4. ^ Paul Skandera, Peter Burleigh, A Manual of English Phonetics and Phonology, Gunter Narr Verlag, 2011, p. 60.
  5. ^ Based on H. Orton, et al., Survey of English Dialects (1962–71). Some areas with partial rhoticity, such as parts of the East Riding of Yorkshire, are not shaded on this map.
  6. ^ Based on P. Trudgill, The Dialects of England.
  7. ^ Lass (1999), pp. 114–15.
  8. ^ a b c d Lass (1999), p. 115.
  9. ^ Fisher (2001), p. 73.
  10. ^ a b Fisher (2001), p. 76.
  11. ^ a b Fisher (2001), p. 77.
  12. ^ Wells, Accents of English, 1:224-225.
  13. ^ Gimson, Alfred Charles (2014), Cruttenden, Alan, ed., Gimson's Pronunciation of English (8th ed.), Routledge, pp. 119–120, ISBN 978-1-4441-8309-2 
  14. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
  15. ^ Wells, Accents of English, p. 490.
  16. ^ Wakelyn, Martin: "Rural dialects in England", in: Trudgill, Peter (1984): Language in the British Isles, p.77
  17. ^ a b Wells, J. C. (1982). Accents of English 3: Beyond the British Isles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 629. ISBN 0-521-28541-0. 
  18. ^ [1][dead link]
  19. ^ Wells, Accents of English, pp. 76, 221
  20. ^ Schneider, Edgar (2008). Varieties of English: The Americas and the Caribbean. Walter de Gruyter. p. 396. 
  21. ^ McClear, Sheila (2 June 2010). "Why the classic Noo Yawk accent is fading away". New York Post. Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  22. ^ Trudgill, Peter (1984). Language in the British Isles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-28409-7. 
  23. ^ Milla, Robert McColl (2012). English Historical Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 25–26. ISBN 978-0-7486-4181-9. 
  24. ^ Labov, Ash, and Boberg, 2006: pp. 47–48.
  25. ^ Trudgill, Peter (2010). Investigations in Sociohistorical Linguistics. Cambridge University Press. 
  26. ^ Gick, Bryan. 1999. A gesture-based account of intrusive consonants in English. Phonology 16: 1, pp. 29–54. (pdf). Retrieved 12 November 2010.
  27. ^ Harris 2006: pp. 2–5.
  28. ^ Pollock et al., 1998.
  29. ^ http://www.atlas.mouton-content.com/secure/generalmodules/varieties/unit0000/virtualsession/vslessons/thomas.pdf] p. 16
  30. ^ Trudgill, Peter (2000). "Sociohistorical linguistics and dialect survival: a note on another Nova Scotian enclave". In Magnus Leung, ed. Language Structure and Variation. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International. p. 197. 
  31. ^ Brinton, Lauren and Leslie Arnovick. The English Language: A Linguistic History. Oxford University Press: Canada, 2006
  32. ^ a b c d e f Wells (1982)
  33. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 235
  34. ^ Wells, p. 287
  35. ^ Wells, p. 524
  36. ^ Wells (1982), p. 503
  37. ^ Dialectal variant of "horse"
  38. ^ Wells (1982), p. 504
  39. ^ Wells (1982), p. 544
  40. ^ Wells (1982), p. 577
  41. ^ Wells, p. 520
  42. ^ Dillard, Joey Lee (1980). Perspectives on American English. The Hague; New York: Walter de Gruyter. p. 53. ISBN 90-279-3367-7. 
  43. ^ Wells, John C. (1982). Accents of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-22919-7. , pp. 136–37, 203–6, 234, 245–47, 339–40, 400, 419, 443, 576
  44. ^ Wells (1982), pp. 508-509
  45. ^ Wells (1982), p. 225
  46. ^ Upton, Clive; Eben Upton (2004). Oxford rhyming dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 59. ISBN 0-19-280115-5. 
  47. ^ Upton, Clive; Eben Upton (2004). Oxford rhyming dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-19-280115-5. 

Works cited[edit]

  • Fisher, John Hurt (2001). "British and American, Continuity and Divergence". In Algeo, John. The Cambridge History of the English Language, Volume VI: English in North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 59–85. ISBN 0-521-26479-0. 
  • Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8. 
  • Lass, Roger (1999). "Phonology and Morphology". In Lass, Roger. The Cambridge History of the English Language, Volume III: 1476–1776. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 56–186. ISBN 0-521-26476-6. 
  • Pollock, Bailey, Berni, Fletcher, Hinton, Johnson, Roberts, & Weaver (17 March 2001). "Phonological Features of African American Vernacular English (AAVE)". Retrieved 8 November 2016. 
  • Trudgill, Peter (1984). Language in the British Isles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Wells, J. C. (1982). Accents of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.