[Ads-l] Pertition

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 18 20:06:02 UTC 2023

You'll find lots of similar "r" spellings in 19th-century US sources, like
"proberbly" and "princerple," as I discussed in these old posts:


My sense is these spellings could be construed as either non-rhotic (with
"er" representing an eye-dialect version of schwa) or rhotic (with "er"
representing an r-colored schwa), depending on the speaker in question. In
the case of "pertition," I could imagine some influence from "perdition"
encouraging the non-standard spelling.


On Fri, Aug 18, 2023 at 3:46 PM Michael Newman <Michael.Newman at qc.cuny.edu>

> Hi all,
> In looking through the Baltimore municipal archives, we found a found
> spellings like “pertition” for petition from 1839. One interpretation is
> that it is a sign of non-rhoticity in the writer, who then would likely not
> be a Baltimorean. However, I’m wondering if it could be a lexical or
> phonological variant of its own.
> Any ideas?
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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