Rhoticity in English is the pronunciation of the historical rhotic consonant in all contexts by speakers of certain varieties of English. The presence or absence of rhoticity is one of the most prominent distinctions by which varieties of English can be classified. In rhotic varieties, the historical English sound is preserved in all pronunciation contexts. In non-rhotic varieties, speakers no longer pronounce in postvocalic environments—that is, when it is immediately after a vowel and not followed by another vowel. For example, in isolation, a rhotic English speaker pronounces the words ''hard'' and ''butter'' as and , whereas a non-rhotic speaker "drops" or "deletes" the sound, pronouncing them as and . When an ''r'' is at the end of a word but the next word begins with a vowel, as in the phrase "bette''r a''pples", most non-rhotic speakers will pronounce the in that position (the linking R), since it is followed by a vowel in this case. (Not all non-rhotic varieties use the linking R; for example, it is absent in non-rhotic varieties of Southern American English.) The rhotic varieties of English include the dialects of South West England, Scotland, Ireland, and most of the United States and Canada. The non-rhotic varieties include most of the dialects of modern England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. In some varieties, such as those of some parts of the southern and northeastern United States,Labov, Ash, and Boberg, 2006: pp. 47–48. rhoticity is a sociolinguistic variable: postvocalic ''r'' is deleted depending on an array of social factors such as the speaker's age, social class, ethnicity, or the degree of formality of the speech event. Evidence from written documents suggests that loss of postvocalic /r/ began sporadically during the mid-15th century, although 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 early 19th century, the southern British standard was fully transformed into a non-rhotic variety, though some variation persisted as late as the 1870s. The loss of postvocalic 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 began to shift America's centers of wealth and political power to rhotic areas with fewer cultural connections to the old colonial and British elites. Rhotic speech in particular became prestigious in the United States rapidly after the Second World War, reflected in the national standard of radio and television since the mid-20th century embracing historical .



200px|Red areas are where English dialects of the late 20th century were rhotic. The earliest traces of a loss of in English appear in the early 15th century and occur before coronal consonants, especially , giving modern "ass (buttocks)" (Old English ''ears'', Middle English ''ers'' or ''ars''), and "bass (fish)" (OE ''bærs'', ME ''bars''). A second phase of -loss began during the 15th century and was characterized by sporadic and lexically variable deletion, such as ''monyng'' "morning" and ''cadenall'' "cardinal". These -less spellings appeared throughout the 16th and the 17th centuries but are uncommon and are restricted to private documents, especially ones written by women. No English authorities described loss of in the standard language prior to the mid-18th century, and many did not fully accept it until the 1790s. During the mid-17th century, a number of sources described as being weakened but still present. The English playwright Ben Jonson's ''English Grammar'', published posthumously in 1640, recorded that was "sounded firme in the beginning of words, and more liquid in the middle, and ends." The next major documentation of the pronunciation of appeared a century later, in 1740, when the British author of a primer for French students of English said that "in many words ''r'' before a consonant is greatly softened, almost mute, and slightly lengthens the preceding vowel." By the 1770s, postvocalic -less pronunciation was becoming common around London even in formal educated speech. The English actor and linguist John Walker used the spelling ''ar'' to indicate the long vowel of ''aunt'' in his 1775 rhyming dictionary. 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''...." Americans returning to England after the 1783 end of the American Revolutionary War reported surprise at the significant changes in the fashionable pronunciation. By the early 19th century, the southern British standard had been fully transformed into a non-rhotic variety but continued to be variable as late as the 1870s. The extent of rhoticity across England in the mid-19th century is summarized as widespread in the book ''New Zealand English: its Origins and Evolution'': :e only areas of England... for which we have ''no'' evidence of rhoticity in the mid-nineteenth century lie in two separate corridors. The first runs south from the North Riding of Yorkshire through the Vale of York into north and central Lincolnshire, nearly all of Nottinghamshire, and adjacent areas of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Staffordshire. The second includes all of Norfolk, western Suffolk and Essex, eastern Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, Middlesex, and northern Surrey and Kent.

North America

The loss of postvocalic in the British prestige standard in the late 18th and the early 19th centuries influenced American port cities with close connections to Britain and caused upper-class pronunciation in many eastern and southern port cities, such as New York City, Boston, Alexandria, Charleston, and Savannah, to become non-rhotic. Like regional dialects in England, the accents of other areas in America remained rhotic in a display of linguistic "lag," which preserved the original pronunciation of . 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 old colonial and British elite. This largely removed the prestige associated with non-rhotic pronunciation in America, and when the advent of radio and television in the 20th century established a national standard of American pronunciation, it became a rhotic variety that has preserved historical . That trend seems to have accelerated after the Second World War.

Modern pronunciation

In most non-rhotic accents, if a word ending in written "r" is followed immediately by a word beginning with a vowel, the is pronounced, as in ''water ice''. That phenomenon is referred to as "linking R". Many non-rhotic speakers also insert an epenthetic between vowels when the first vowel is one that can occur before syllable-final ''r'' (''drawring'' for ''drawing''). The so-called "intrusive R" has been stigmatized, but many speakers of Received Pronunciation (RP) now frequently "intrude" an epenthetic at word boundaries, especially if 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 wherever an intrusive R would otherwise have been placed. For non-rhotic speakers, what was historically a vowel, followed by , is now usually realized as a long vowel. That is called compensatory lengthening, which occurs after the elision of a sound. In RP and many other non-rhotic accents ''card, fern, born'' are thus pronounced , , or similar (actual pronunciations vary from accent to accent). That length may be retained in phrases and so ''car'' pronounced in isolation is , but ''car owner'' is . However, a final schwa usually remains short and so ''water'' in isolation is . In RP and similar accents, the vowels and (or ), when they are followed by ''r'', become diphthongs that end in schwa and so ''near'' is and ''poor'' is . However, they 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'', but they may be considered to end in rhotic speech in , which reduces to schwa, as usual, in non-rhotic speech. Thus, in isolation, ''tire'', is pronounced and ''sour'' is . For some speakers, some long vowels alternate with a diphthong ending in schwa and so ''wear'' may be but ''wearing'' . The compensatory lengthening view is challenged by Wells, who stated that during the 17th century, stressed vowels followed by and another consonant or word boundary underwent a lengthening process, known as pre-r lengthening. The process was not a compensatory lengthening process but an independent development, which explains modern pronunciations featuring both (''bird'', ''fur'') and (''stirring'', ''stir it'') according to their positions: was the regular outcome of the lengthening, which shortened to after r-dropping occurred in the 18th century. The lengthening involved "mid and open short vowels" and so the lengthening of in ''car'' was not a compensatory process caused by r-dropping. Even General American speakers commonly drop the in non-final unstressed syllables if another syllable in the same word also contains , which may be referred to as ''r-dissimilation''. Examples include the dropping of the first in the words ''surprise'', ''governor'', and ''caterpillar''. In more careful speech, however, all sounds are still retained.


Rhotic accents include most varieties of Scottish English, Irish or Hiberno-English, North American English, Barbadian English and Philippine English. Non-rhotic accents include most varieties of English English, Welsh English, New Zealand English, Australian English, South African English, and Trinidadian and Tobagonian 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"). Variably rhotic accents are also widely documented, in which deletion of ''r'' (when not before vowels) is optional; in these dialects the probability of deleting ''r'' may vary depending on social, stylistic, and contextual factors. Variably rhotic accents comprise much of Indian English, Pakistani English, and Caribbean English, for example, as spoken in Tobago, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Bahamas. They also include current-day New York City English most modern varieties of Southern American English, New York Latino English, and some Boston English, as well as some varieties of Scottish English. Non-rhotic accents in the Americas include those of the rest of the Caribbean and Belize. Additionally, there are people with non-rhotic accents who are children of at least one rhotic-accented parent but grew up, or were educated, in non-rhotic countries like Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, or Wales. By contrast, people who have at least one non-rhotic-accented parent but were raised, or started their education, in Canada, any rhotic Caribbean country, Ireland, Scotland, or the United States, speak with rhotic accents.


Though most English varieties in England are non-rhotic today, stemming from a trend toward this in southeastern England accelerating in the very late 18th century 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 toward 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.


Most Scottish accents are rhotic, but non-rhotic speech has been reported in Edinburgh since the 1970s and Glasgow since the 1980s.


Welsh English is mostly non-rhotic, however variably rhotic accents are present in accents influenced by Welsh, especially in North Wales. Additionally, while Port Talbot English is largely non-rhotic, some speakers may supplant the front vowel of ''bird'' with .

United States

American English is predominantly rhotic today, but at the end of the 1800s non-rhotic accents were common throughout much of the coastal Eastern and Southern U.S., including 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, with its early Scots-Irish influence, centered around Philadelphia and Baltimore. Since the American Civil War and even more intensely during the early to mid-1900s (presumably correlated with the Second World War), rhotic accents began to gain social prestige nationwide, even in the aforementioned traditionally non-rhotic areas. Thus, non-rhotic accents are increasingly perceived by Americans as sounding foreign or less educated due to an association with working-class or immigrant speakers in Eastern and Southern cities, while rhotic accents are increasingly perceived as sounding more "General American". 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, 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 (less so) New Hampshire, show some non-rhoticity, as well as the traditional Rhode Island dialect; however, this feature has been receding in the recent generations. The New York City dialect is traditionally non-rhotic, though William Labov more precisely classifies its current form as variably rhotic, with many of its sub-varieties now fully rhotic, such as in northeastern New Jersey. African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) is largely non-rhotic, and in some non-rhotic Southern and AAVE accents, there is no linking ''r'', that is, at the end of a word is deleted even when the following word starts with a vowel, so that "Mister Adams" is pronounced . In a few such accents, intervocalic is deleted before an unstressed syllable even within a word when the following syllable begins with a vowel. In such accents, pronunciations like for ''Carolina'', or for "bear up" are heard. This pronunciation also occurs in AAVE and also occurred for many older non-rhotic Southern speakers. Typically, even non-rhotic modern varieties of American English pronounce the in (as in "bird," "work," or "perky") and realize it, as in most rhotic varieties, as (an r-colored mid central vowel) or (a sequence of a mid central vowel and a postalveolar or retroflex approximant).


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.


The prestige form of English spoken in Ireland is rhotic and most regional accents are rhotic although some regional accents, particularly in the area around counties Louth and Cavan are notably non-rhotic and many non-prestige accents have touches of non-rhoticity. In Dublin, the traditional local dialect is largely non-rhotic but the more modern varieties, referred to by Hickey as "mainstream Dublin English" and "fashionable Dublin English", are fully rhotic. Hickey used this as an example of how English in Ireland does not follow prestige trends in England.


The English spoken in Asia is predominantly 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 and because of Spanish influence in the various Philippine languages. In addition, many East Asians (in Mainland 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 (and later, a 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 have a non-rhotic accent. Speakers of Semitic (Arabic, Hebrew, etc), Turkic (Turkish, Azeri, etc), Iranian languages (Farsi, Kurdish, etc) in West Asia would also speak English with a rhotic pronunciation due to the inherent phonotactics of their native languages. Indian English is variably rhotic, and can vary between being non-rhotic due to most education systems being based on British English or rhotic due to the underlying phonotactics of the native Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages and the influence of American English. Other Asian regions with non-rhotic English are Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. 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). The classical English spoken in Brunei is non-rhotic. But one current change that seems to be taking place is that Brunei English is becoming rhotic, partly influenced by American English and partly influenced by the rhoticity of Standard Malay, also influenced by languages of Indians in Brunei (Tamil and Punjabi) (rhoticity is also used by Chinese Bruneians), although English in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore remains non-rhotic; rhoticity in Brunei English is equal to Philippine dialects of English and Scottish and Irish dialects. Non-rhoticity is mostly found in older generations, its phenomenon is almost similar to the status of American English, wherein non-rhoticity reduced greatly. 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.


The English spoken in most of Africa is based on RP and is generally 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 are 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 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. South African English is mostly non-rhotic, especially Cultivated dialect based on RP, except for some Broad varieties spoken in the Cape Province (typically in -''er'' suffixes, as in ''writer''). It appears that postvocalic is entering the speech of younger people under the influence of American English, and maybe an influence of Scottish dialect brought by Scottish settlers.


Standard Australian English is non-rhotic. A degree of rhoticity has been observed in a particular sublect of Australian Aboriginal English spoken on the coast of South Australia, especially in speakers from the Point Pearce and Raukkan settlements. These speakers realise /r/ as in the preconsonantal postvocalic position – after a vowel but before another a consonant – but only within stems. For example: oːɹd"board", ʃɜɹtʃ"church", ɜɹθ"Perth"; but læː"flour", ɒktə"doctor", ɪəz"years". It has been speculated that this feature may derive from the fact that many of the first settlers in coastal South Australia – including Cornish tin-miners, Scottish missionaries, and American whalers – spoke rhotic varieties.

New Zealand

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. Older Southland speakers use variably after vowels, but today younger speakers use only with the vowel and occasionally with the vowel. Younger Southland speakers pronounce in ''third term'' (General NZE pronunciation: ) but sometimes in ''farm cart'' (same as in General NZE). However, non-prevocalic among non-rhotic speakers is sometimes pronounced in a few words, including ''Ireland'' , ''merely'' , ''err'' , and the name of the letter R (General NZE pronunciations: ). The Māori accent varies from the European-origin New Zealand accent; some Māori speakers are semi-rhotic like most European New Zealand speakers, although it is not clearly identified to any particular region or attributed to any defined language shift. The Māori language itself tends in most cases to use an r with an alveolar tap , like Scottish dialect.

Mergers characteristic of non-rhotic accents

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.

Batted–battered merger

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). The third edition of ''Longman Pronunciation Dictionary'' lists (and mentioned below) as possible (though less common than and ) British pronunciations, which means that the merger is an option even in RP. 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.

Bud–bird merger

A merger of and occurring for some speakers of Jamaican English making ''bud'' and ''bird'' homophones as ., pp. 136–37, 203–6, 234, 245–47, 339–40, 400, 419, 443, 576 The conversion of to or 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'' and ''worse'' . The word ''cuss'' appears to derive from the application of this sound change to the word ''curse''. Similarly, ''lurve'' is coined from ''love''.

– merger

In the terminology of John C. Wells, this consists of the merger of the lexical sets comm''a'' and lett''er''. It is found in all or nearly all non-rhotic accentsWells (1982) and is present even in some accents that are in other respects rhotic, such as those of some speakers in Jamaica and the Bahamas. In some accents, syllabification may interact with rhoticity and result in homophones for which non-rhotic accents have centering diphthongs. Possibilities include ''Korea–career'', ''Shi'a–sheer'', and ''Maia–mire'', and ''skua'' may be identical with the second syllable of ''obscure''.

Dough–door merger

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 English, some speakers in Guyana and some Welsh speech.


The merger of the lexical sets , and is possible in Jamaican English and partially also in Northern East Anglian English. In Jamaica, the merger occurs after deletion of the postvocalic in a preconsonantal position, so that ''fade'' can be homophonous with ''feared'' as , but ''day'' is normally distinct from ''dear'' , though vowels in both words can be analyzed as belonging to the same phoneme (followed by in the latter case, so that the merger of and / does not occur). In Jamaican Patois, the merged vowel is an opening diphthong and that realization can also be heard in Jamaican English, mostly before a sounded (so that ''fare'' and ''fear'' can be both and ), but sometimes also in other positions. Alternatively, can be laxed to before a sounded , which produces a variable Mary-merry merger: . It is possible in northern East Anglian varieties (to ), but only in the case of items descended from ME , such as ''daze''. Those descended from ME (such as ''days'') have a distinctive vowel. It appears to be receding, as items descended from ME are being transferred to the class; in other words, a pane-pain merger is taking place. In the southern dialect area, the pane-pain merger is complete and all three vowels are distinct: is , is and is . A near-merger of and is possible in General South African English, but the vowels typically remain distinct as (for ) and (for ). The difference between the two phonemes is so subtle that ''they're'' can be misheard as ''they'' (see zero copula). In other varieties the difference can be greater, e.g. vs. in Broad SAE and vs. in the Cultivated variety. Even in General SAE, can be or , strongly distinguished from . remains distinct in all varieties, typically as . In the Cardiff dialect can also be similar to cardinal (though long , as in South Africa), but typically has a fully close ending point and thus the vowels are more distinct than in the General South African accent. An alternative realization of the former is an open-mid monophthong . Formerly, was sometimes realized as a narrow diphthong , but this has virtually disappeared by the 1990s. is phonemically distinct, normally as before any (a near-fleece merger) and a disyllabic elsewhere. In Geordie, the merger of and is recessive and has never been categorical ( has always been a distinct vowel), as can instead be pronounced as the closing diphthong or, more commonly, the close-mid front monophthong . The latter is the most common choice for younger speakers who tend to reject the centering diphthongs for , which categorically undoes the merger for those speakers. Even when is realized as an opening-centering diphthong, it may be distinguished from by the openness of the first element: or for vs. for . Some of the words listed below may have different forms in traditional Geordie. For the sake of simplicity, the merged vowel is transcribed with .

Father–farther and god–guard mergers

In Wells' terminology, the father–farther merger 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. Minimal pairs are rare in accents without the father-bother merger. In non-rhotic British English (especially the varieties without the trap-bath split) and, to a lesser extent, Australian English, most commonly corresponds to in American English, therefore it is most commonly spelled with . In most non-rhotic American English (that includes non-rhotic Rhode Island, New York City, some Southern U.S., and some African-American accents), the spelling is equally common in non-word-final positions due to the aforementioned father-bother merger. Those accents have the god-guard merger (a merger of LOT and START) in addition to the father–farther merger, yielding a three-way homophony between ''calmer'' (when pronounced without ), ''comma'' and ''karma'', though minimal triplets like this are scarce.

Foot–goose-thought-north-force and foot-cure mergers

The foot–goose-thought-north-force merger occurs in cockney in fast speech, so that ''hood'' can sound the same as ''who'd'' and ''horde'' , as . The distinction is always recoverable, and the vowels are readily distinguished by length (or length and quality) in more deliberate speech: vs. vs. ( is commonly dropped in cockney). Because of the cure-force merger, some of the words also join this neutralization, resulting in the foot-cure merger. The neutralization with // occurs only in morphologically closed syllables, so that ''cored'' cannot fall together with ''could'' , unlike ''cord'' and ''chord'' (both ). There are not many possible homophones due to the restricted distribution of ; see foot-strut split. This neutralization is not fully restricted to (morphologically) closed syllables, as the morpheme- and word-final can also have an -like quality. More neutralizations are possible due to l-vocalization; see Merger of non-prevocalic , , , with . The vowel often occurs in morphologically open syllables, so that ''assured'' is always distinct from ''a should'' . While there are very few (if any) minimal pairs with , does occur in the morpheme-internal position, as in ''curious'' , where it can have the quality and length of due to the merger with : .

Lot–thought-north-force and lot-cure mergers

The lot-thought-north-force merger occurs in cockney in fast speech (though only in the morpheme-final position in the case of //; in the morpheme-internal position is used instead - see thought split), so that ''ignored'' may rhyme with ''nod'' as vs. . The distinction is always recoverable, and the vowels are readily distinguished by length (or length and quality) in more deliberate speech: or vs. or . Because of the cure-force merger, some of the words also join this neutralization, resulting in the lot-cure merger. The lot-thought-north merger (with a distinct vowel ) may be also present in some Eastern New England accents. The lot-thought-north-force merger is also present in Singapore English. A complete merger of with can be alternatively called the ''shot-short merger''. The name is inappropriate in the case of cockney, where ''short'' is always distinct from ''shot'' . Therefore, the columns labelled as ''morpheme-internal'' always have a distinct vowel in cockney. Unlike the vowel itself, this neutralization is not restricted to closed syllables; in open syllables, // and can also have an -like quality, merge to or stay distinct as vs. . Morpheme-internal and and any can neutralize with in fast speech.

Pawn–porn and caught–court mergers

In Wells' terminology, the pawn–porn merger 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. 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 / vowel higher and more retracted than the vowel of . Most speakers with the pawn-porn merger also have the same vowels in ''caught'' and ''court'' (a merger of THOUGHT and FORCE), yielding a three-way merger of ''awe''-''or''-''ore/oar'' (see horse-hoarse merger). These include the accents of Southern England, non-rhotic New York City speakers, Trinidad and the Southern hemisphere. The lot-cloth split coupled with those mergers produces a few more homophones, such as ''boss–bourse''. Specifically, the phonemic merger of the words ''often'' and ''orphan'' was a running gag in the Gilbert and Sullivan musical, ''The Pirates of Penzance''. In cockney and some Estuary English the merged THOUGHT-NORTH-FORCE vowel has split into what can be analyzed as two separate phonemes which Wells writes and - see THOUGHT split.

Paw–poor merger

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 ''caught''–''court'' 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''.

Show–sure merger

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 English (in both cases towards ) and some speakers in Guyana. It can be seen in the term "Fo Sho", an imitation of "for sure". In Geordie, the merger (towards , phonetically ) is variable and recessive. It is also not categorical, as can instead be pronounced as the close-mid monophthongs and . The central is as stereotypically ''Geordie'' as the merger itself, though it is still used alongside by young, middle-class males who, as younger speakers in general, reject the centering diphthongs for (females often merge with instead, see thought-goat merger). This categorically undoes the merger for those speakers. Even when is realized as an opening-centering diphthong, it may be distinguished from by the openness of the first element: or vs. . Some of the words listed below may have different forms in traditional Geordie.


Up-gliding is a diphthongized vowel sound, , used as the pronunciation of the phoneme . This up-gliding variant historically occurred in some non-rhotic dialects of American English and is particularly associated with the early twentieth-century (but now extinct or moribund) dialects of New York City, New Orleans, and Charleston, likely developing in the prior century. In fact, in speakers born before World War I, this sound apparently predominated throughout older speech of the Southern United States, ranging from "South Carolina to Texas and north to eastern Arkansas and the southern edge of Kentucky." This variant happened only before a consonant, so, for example, ''stir'' was never ; rather ''stir'' would have been pronounced .

Coil–curl merger

In some cases, particularly in New York City, the sound gliding from a schwa upwards even led to a phonemic merger of the vowel classes associated with the General American phonemes as in with the of ; thus, words like ''coil'' and ''curl'', as well as ''voice'' and ''verse'', were homophones. The merged vowel was typically a diphthong , with a mid central starting point, rather than the back rounded starting point of of in most other accents of English. The merger is responsible for the "Brooklynese" stereotypes of ''bird'' sounding like ''boid'' and ''thirty-third'' sounding like ''toity-toid''. 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. The songwriter Sam M. Lewis, a native New Yorker, rhymed ''returning'' with ''joining'' in the lyrics of the English-language version of ''Gloomy Sunday''. Except for New Orleans English, this merger did not occur in the South, despite up-gliding existing in some older Southern accents; instead, a distinction between the two phonemes was maintained due to a down-gliding sound: something like . In 1966, according to a survey that was done by William Labov in New York City, 100% of the people over 60 used for bird. With each younger age group, however, the percentage got progressively lower: 59% of 50- to 59-year-olds, 33% of 40- to 49-year-olds, 24% of 20- to 39-year-olds, and finally, only 4% of people 8–19 years old used . Nearly all native New Yorkers born since 1950, even those whose speech is otherwise non-rhotic, now pronounce ''bird'' as . However, Labov reports this vowel to be slightly raised compared to other dialects.

Effect of non-rhotic dialects on orthography

Certain words have spellings derived from non-rhotic dialects or renderings of foreign words through non-rhotic pronunciation. In rhotic dialects, spelling pronunciation has caused these words to be pronounced rhotically anyway. Examples include: * ''Er'', used in non-rhotic dialects to indicate a filled pause, which most rhotic dialects would instead convey with ''uh'' or ''eh''. * The game Parcheesi, from Indian Pachisi. * British English slang words: ** ''char'' for ''cha'' from the Cantonese pronunciation of (= "tea" (the drink)) * In Rudyard Kipling's books: ** ''dorg'' instead of ''dawg'' for a drawled pronunciation of ''dog''. ** Hindu god name Kama misspelled as ''Karma'' (which is a concept in several Asian religions, not a god). ** Hindustani / ' ("paper") spelled as ''kargaz''. * The donkey Eeyore in A.A. Milne's stories, whose name comes from the sound that donkeys make, commonly spelled ''hee-haw'' in American English. * Southern American ''goober'' and ''pinder'' from KiKongo and ''ngubá'' and ''mpinda'' *''Burma'' and ''Myanmar'' for Burmese and * ''Orlu'' for Igbo * Transliteration of Cantonese words and names, such as ''char siu'' () and Wong Kar-wai () * The spelling of ''schoolmarm'' for ''school ma'am'', which Americans pronounce with the rhotic consonant. *The spelling ''Park'' for the Korean surname (), which does not contain a liquid consonant in Korean.

See also

*English-language vowel changes before historic /r/




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * {{History of English Category:English phonology Category:Rhotic consonants