Query: /w/ for /r/ in any British dialects?

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Mon Nov 25 00:23:52 UTC 2013

Yes.  Like most American r's of this kind (like you'll find as a dialect feature in some parts of Massachusetts), it's unrounded, and so, contrasts with /w/.  Peter Trudgill said he'd found it in Norwich, England sporadically when he first surveyed there, but dismissed it as a speech defect.  Twenty years later, he found it had spread to all kinds of working-class male speakers there.  When he examined similar speakers in London, he found it was even more established there, and older speakers used it.  It appears to have been a complex of Cockney pronunciation features that is spreading through the rest of Southern England too.   I have a feeling it was always there at a low level, and I've heard it from upper-class London men; I can't remember where I read it, but Beau Brummel was supposed to have had a lip /r/.  If it was fashionable dandy speech in 1800, that'd be your link to the American "dudes"--but how it "went underground" to be a London vernacular feature, I'm not s!
 ure.  I don't recall it in descriptions of Cockney until recently.

Paul Johnston

I heard a similar type of approximant, though a lip-rounded uvular one, among really old speakers from Northumberland 35 years ago.  The lip-rounded type was particularly common from Alnwick to the Bedlington/Ashington area.  It's probably extinct now.
On Nov 24, 2013, at 3:39 PM, "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at MST.EDU> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at MST.EDU>
> Subject:      Query: /w/ for /r/ in any British dialects?
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> Are there any British dialects where /w/ can be substituted for /r/, such as "gwand" for "grand" and "dweadful" for "dreadful"? This feature turned up in the speech of at least some 19th century (U.S.) "dudes", who somehow took it to be refined British speech.  Was it based on anything actually spoken in Britain?
> Gerald Cohen
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