Is there any evidence of rhoticity in historical Australian English?

John Lonergan, Felicity Cox

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


    Australian English is traditionally regarded as having been non-rhotic throughout its history, but a recent study by Trudgill and Gordon (2006) has found rhoticity levels of 1% to 20% in audio recordings of six Australian men born near the end of the 19th century, suggesting that Australian English was once a rhotic dialect. The present study re-examines the three most rhotic speakers in the Trudgill and Gordon dataset, as well as archival recordings from an additional seven speakers, to further investigate the presence of rhoticity in Australian English around the turn of the 20th century. Approximately 30 minutes of audio interview data from each speaker was examined impressionistically for the presence of non-prevocalic /r/. Other postvocalic instances of /r/ were also identified in order to explore the relationship between non-prevocalic /r/, linking /r/ and intrusive /r/. On re-examination, the three subjects from Trudgill and Gordon (2006) were found to exhibit little or no rhoticity according to our criteria. Analysis of the additional seven speakers further weakens the argument for rhoticity in Australia at the end of the nineteenth century. Some speakers do, however, have traces of rhoticity, and only one shows consistent use of linking /r/. In this paper, we will explore the phonetic conditioning environments for the vestigial rhoticity in historical Australian English and will discuss some implications for phonological theory.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the Australian Linguistic Society Conference 2008, held in Sydney
    EditorsLouise de Beuzeville, Pam Peters
    Place of PublicationSydney
    PublisherAustralian Linguistic Society, University of Sydney
    Number of pages17
    ISBN (Print)9781742102115
    Publication statusPublished - 2010
    EventAustralian Linguistic Society Annual Conference (2008) - Sydney, Australia
    Duration: 2 Jul 20084 Jul 2008


    ConferenceAustralian Linguistic Society Annual Conference (2008)


    • phonetics
    • Australian English
    • rhoticity
    • historical linguistics
    • linking /r/


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