iron: /@r/ vs syllabic /r/

Aaron E. Drews aaron at LING.ED.AC.UK
Fri Aug 11 10:15:30 UTC 2000

>         From a more surfacy comparative point of view, it makes sense to
>recognize the /@r/ as a sequence, since then r-less varieties can be
>derived by dropping the /r/, but leaving the /@/.

I would disagree with this.  In short, I would say that RP (and the
like) have /schwa/ in exactly the same places American (rhotic) has
/hooked-schwa/.  But, I also assume that RP is 'underlyingly'
(whatever that means) non-rhotic.

>I'm guessing, without
>checking, that at least some versions of RP in England might drop the
>retroflexion, leaving /ay at n/. Does this ever converge with <ion>?

I don't think there would be retroflexion at all in <iron>. In either
a one-syllable or a two-syllable parse, the (r) is in rhyme, and
cannot, therefore, be realised as [r] ever. In a two syllable parse,
the second syllable would have to be /-r at n/ in order for [r] to be
realised.... leading to a spelling pronunciation.

As for <iron> and <ion> becoming homophonous: definitely possible,
especially in normal speech.  In citation forms, you might get a
short, lax, back, rounded vowel (upside-down script 'a'.... bloody
ascii) for <ion>, but that's listed as a secondary pronunciation in
my pronouncing dictionary.

Aaron E. Drews                               The University of Edinburgh      Departments of English Language and
aaron at                    Theoretical & Applied Linguistics

Bide lang and fa fair  \\  //
                         \\// /

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