Pronunciation: rhotic and non-rhotic: world, word, work, heard, earth

Hello, I've been trying to improve my pronunciation in English but I'm getting more and more confused (I've a strong french accent). I working maintly with linguistics alphabet. I have several questions to native english speakers :

Do you pronounce the sound "r" in the words : world, word, work, heard, earth ... ? I hear a light sound 'r' but according to my dictionnary, there is no sound 'r'. I'm getting mad :)

Secondly, do you make a difference between the sound 'o' in words such as note or do and the 'o' in boss ? I can't hear a difference but there is one according to my dictionary. Could you explain me what is the difference ?

Thanks.
 
  • laura1110

    Member
    English/USA
    Bonjour Ning,
    Are you trying to pronounce these words with a British accent or an American one? In AE, there is definitely an R in world, word, work, heard, earth; in British English, these words will suffer an R deletion. The O in 'do' sounds like 'doo' (or 'du' as in German, with a bit of a diphthong), the O in 'boss' sounds like 'baws' (or if you're from Boston, 'bahs'...heehee). Hope that helps a bit!
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Ning said:
    Hello, I've been trying to improve my pronunciation in English but I'm getting more and more confused (I've a strong french accent). I working maintly with linguistics alphabet. I have several questions to native english speakers :

    Do you pronounce the sound "r" in the words : world, word, work, heard, earth ... ? I hear a light sound 'r' but according to my dictionnary, there is no sound 'r'. I'm getting mad :)

    Secondly, do you make a difference between the sound 'o' in words such as note or do and the 'o' in boss ? I can't hear a difference but there is one according to my dictionary. Could you explain me what is the difference ?

    Thanks.
    Hi Ning - you are going to get a range of answers to such questions - so if you are interested in a particular accent of English you should say first:)

    Answering for myself, there is not the slightest hint of an "r" in my pronunciation of those words. To compensate for this the vowel itself is quite long.

    My pronunciation of "o" in boss and do are significantly different. In do it is like it were written "oo", and it is a very short vowel in "boss" very similar to the French vowel, I would have thought.
     

    CAMullen

    Senior Member
    US, English
    Hello Ning.

    In what is called the "received" British accent, the "r" in the words you list is indeed barely audible to someone with (let us say) a Boston accent,while in someone with a Texas accent, they will be strikingly present.

    As far as the pronunciation of "o," in "note," it sounds a little like "beau," in "do," a little like "vous," and I know no French words that sound like the "o" in "boss," but that is a definite third sound.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    CAMullen said:
    I know no French words that sound like the "o" in "boss," but that is a definite third sound.
    Well true for AE accents, but French "bosse" and BE "boss" are not a million miles different.

    Ning - in talking in terms of French we are really stepping outside the scope of this English only forum (not your fault I know) (although it is really difficult not to in such a topic since describing sounds is so difficult in words!!) you might find that you get answers more useful for you personally in the French-English forum on this topic since people there can more accurately discuss French English pronunciation differences.
     
    Thanks a lot for these answers.
    I'm just realizing that the R in actually pronounced in American English and not in British English. I didn't know there were such a difference and it might explain why I was so confused when I was watching american channels on tv with people pronuncing the 'r'. Also I've just found an online dictionnary with both british and american pronunciations whereas my old dictionary only had british pronunciation. (I can't post URL because I don't have enough post on this board).

    Also about the 'o', I am sorry, I wrote 'do' instead of 'go' in my first post by mistake (it's 3am here :D). My real question was : do you hear a difference between the 'o' in go (or note) and the 'o' in boss.
     

    CAMullen

    Senior Member
    US, English
    "do you hear a difference between the 'o' in go (or note) and the 'o' in boss. "
    Yes, definitely. Sorry - I posted exactly the opposite answer a moment ago. I think this indicates I am tired and should now retire for the evening. Good night.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Ning said:
    Also about the 'o', I am sorry, I wrote 'do' instead of 'go' in my first post by mistake (it's 3am here :D). My real question was : do you hear a difference between the 'o' in go (or note) and the 'o' in boss.
    Yes, absolutely. Only speaking for BE "go" is quite a long diphthong, whereas boss is a short simple vowel as described above.
     
    timpeac said:
    Ning - in talking in terms of French we are really stepping outside the scope of this English only forum (not your fault I know) (although it is really difficult not to in such a topic since describing sounds is so difficult in words!!) you might find that you get answers more useful for you personally in the French-English forum on this topic since people there can more accurately discuss French English pronunciation differences.
    Ok thanks, I'm going to ask there.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If you search here for rhotic, you should find information about the topic of pronunciation of r in English.

    Some of us have rhotic accents. We sound r wherever it appears.

    Some are non-rhotic. They ignore r except when it appears before a vowel sound, and often insert r's that don't appear in the text at all.

    Wiki has a clear enough summary.
     

    ecce cor meum

    New Member
    Argentinean Spanish
    In British English, a rhotic sound "r" is certainly NEVER pronounced whn not followed by a vowel. So, in words like third, work, heart, fork, dark, girl, learn, and many others; nor is it pronunced in word final position, such as in letter, doctor, teacher, mister, etc., unless a vowel follows at the beginning of the next syllable.
    In American English, "r" is always pronunced, in whatever collocation.

    :)
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In British English, a rhotic sound "r" is certainly NEVER pronounced whn not followed by a vowel. So, in words like third, work, heart, fork, dark, girl, learn, and many others; nor is it pronunced in word final position, such as in letter, doctor, teacher, mister, etc., unless a vowel follows at the beginning of the next syllable.
    In American English, "r" is always pronunced, in whatever collocation.

    :)
    Those are generalisations.

    There are many BE speakers who are rhotic.
    There are many AE speakers who are non-rhotic.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    There is no such thing as a ''British'' accent for one thing.
    As regards Irish English, the word R, being a rhotic dialect, is pronounced in all the above words, and is clearly heard.
     

    ecce cor meum

    New Member
    Argentinean Spanish
    I'm awfully sorry... I shouldn´t have interfered. Iwas certainly "flat out wrong". Thanks for lettiang me know.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I'm awfully sorry... I shouldn´t have interfered. Iwas certainly "flat out wrong". Thanks for lettiang me know.
    You'll find that "never" is a dangerous word to use in these forums, ecce:). Without the "never", as a very broad generalisation as Panjandrum says, I don't think you're so wrong.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    You'll find that "never" is a dangerous word to use in these forums, ecce:). Without the "never", as a very broad generalisation as Panjandrum says, I don't think you're so wrong.
    I agree; the problem was the "never". For example, the local native accent in many parts of New York City and the surrounding area is non-rhotic. It would certainly not be correct, though, to state that since the natives of America's largest city have a non-rhotic accent that New Yorkers do not speak American English. It would be even stranger to say that a good many of the residents of Vermont, or Massachusetts, or Maine, or New Hampshire don't speak American English either because their accents are also non-rhotic.
     

    ghk128

    Member
    English - Canada/US
    /rw/ and /rj/ are pertty rare; in 'narwhal' the 'r' would not be pronounced by non-rhotic speakers. I can't think of any words with /rj/, but in either of these situations the 'r' will be at a syllable coda and therefore not be pronounced. (Unless you count 'Rwanda' which will be pronounced because the 'r' is syllable-initial.)

    What dialects of BE are rhotic?
     

    dadane

    Senior Member
    English (London/Essex)
    /rw/ and /rj/ are pertty rare; in 'narwhal' the 'r' would not be pronounced by non-rhotic speakers. I can't think of any words with /rj/, but in either of these situations the 'r' will be at a syllable coda and therefore not be pronounced. (Unless you count 'Rwanda' which will be pronounced because the 'r' is syllable-initial.)

    What dialects of BE are rhotic?
    By BE do you mean British Isles English or English English? In this case they are markedly different.
     

    dadane

    Senior Member
    English (London/Essex)
    Many Scots and Irish English and dialects are rhotic. As for English, that is more tricky, I, personally, would consider Brummie to be semi-rhotic. Scouse, which logically you would expect to be rhotic, isn't. As for the rest of England, I'm stumped!

    PS. I physically, despite much coaching in other countries, cannot roll an R.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Have a look at this map from wikipedia. It marks out the rhotic areas in England. It marks out the West Country, and south-west England in general, as well as the area around Lancashire. Traditionally, northern Yorkshire has also been rhotic.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    There are couple of words with <ru> in unstressed position where I sometimes use [rj]: ferrule and virulent are the two that occur to me. The more systematic alternative is [ru:] in ferrule and [rə] in virulent, and I'd recommend learners of BrE use these instead of having a rare sequence [rj], which might sound too old-fashioned to be natural.
     

    dadane

    Senior Member
    English (London/Essex)
    Have a look at this map from wikipedia. It marks out the rhotic areas in England. It marks out the West Country, and south-west England in general, as well as the area around Lancashire. Traditionally, northern Yorkshire has also been rhotic.
    <<YouTube link deleted.>>
    From the middle of your Red Zone. Fully rhotic? I'm not convinced.
     
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    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Is R pronounced before /w/ (woman) and /j/ (yellow) in non-rhotic accent?
    As you may know /w/ and /j/ are known as semi-vowels (or indeed semi-consonants) because they have some characteristics of vowels, and some of consonants. In English (but not in all languages) the "rules" of the language more often treat them as consonants. So for the same reason you don't say "an woman" a non-rhotic person wouldn't pronounce an "r" before them.
     
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