Is there any evidence of rhoticity in historical Australian English?

John Lonergan, Felicity Cox

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution

Abstract

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
Pages1-17
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781742102115
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventAustralian Linguistic Society Annual Conference - Sydney
Duration: 2 Jul 20084 Jul 2008

Conference

ConferenceAustralian Linguistic Society Annual Conference
CitySydney
Period2/07/084/07/08

Keywords

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

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  • Cite this

    Lonergan, J., & Cox, F. (2010). Is there any evidence of rhoticity in historical Australian English? In L. de Beuzeville, & P. Peters (Eds.), Proceedings of the Australian Linguistic Society Conference 2008, held in Sydney (pp. 1-17). Sydney: Australian Linguistic Society, University of Sydney.