Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Thu Dec 14 18:38:37 UTC 2006

You might want to separate out words that involve an /rs/ combination
too--your cuss, bust, hoss, ass (buttocks) type.  These have an exceedingly
wide distribution on both sides of the Pool, including many rhotic areas,
and /rs/ > /s/ is a much earlier process than /r/-dropping in other
environments, going back to ME at least in some regions, while the earliest
I've seen other non-final /r/ dropping in spellings is 17th century, and for
final /r/, it's later than that.  I don't know where the spread to other
alveolars (/rd/, /rn/ especially) fits in--it's an Eastern England thing
that has at least one American reflex---"johnnycake" for "journey cake".
found, of course, in the North < Lincolnshire probably, maybe East Anglia.
The English East Midlands seems to be the focal area for all /r/ droppings,
just at different times.
      I suspect that the /rs/ rule was once almost entirely complete in many
early American dialects, but the /r/ got put back as a spelling
pronunciation.  Fust, wust seem awfully common over here if you go back far

Paul Johnston
----- Original Message -----
From: "Alison Murie" <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM>
Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2006 1:10 PM
Subject: Re: "Fo'ward"

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Alison Murie <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "Fo'ward"
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  Beverly Flanigan  writes:
> >And they were all reduced in England before colonization, as far as I
> >know.  We have Wooster and Glouster in Ohio too, founded, I believe, by
> >early settlers from Old and New England for whom these were already
> >in speech, and respelling followed pronunciation.  As I understand it,
> >concern now is with recent, seemingly unexplainable, r-lessness in
> >r-ful speakers.
> ~~~~~~~
> Beverly, of course, gets my point. If non-rhotic speakers were involved
> there'd be no question.  I did think of another example, though it's
> perhaps somewhat old-fashioned.  The word "ornery" (for which OED gives
> "dialectal for ordinary")  was pronounced by some  r-ful speakers as
> "onry."  Hardly ever hear it in any context any more.
> AM
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