Labialization

R-labialization

R-labialization is a process occurring in Cockney speech where the /r/ phoneme is realized as a labiodental approximant [ʋ] in contrast to an alveolar approximant [ɹ]. To speakers who are not used to [ʋ], this can sound like a /w/.

Although traditionally regarded as an idiosyncrasy, speech defect, or infantilism, use of labiodental /r/ is increasing in many accents of British English. The majority of speakers using this realization are from the southeastern part of the country, particularly in London. It is also occasionally heard in some speakers of Boston and New York City English.

The /r/ realization may not always be labiodental: bilabial and velarised labiodental realisations have been reported.

R-labialization leads to pronunciations such as the following:

  • red - [ʋɛd]
  • ring - [ʋɪŋ]
  • rabbit - [ʋæbɪt]
  • merry Christmas -

References

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