"r" pronounced as a flap between vowels?


Senior Member
English, USA
In some British English dialects, I remember hearing the letter r pronounced as a flap (perhaps sometimes as a trill) between vowels:

[ə'pʰɛɾəntʰli] "apparently"

[aj now ju wəɾ 'igɜ tʰə bi 'ðɛɜ, 'ɹɔbɜt] "I know you were eager to be there, Robert" (the flap appears between "were" and "eager")

In this pronunciation, the letter "r" is only a flap/trill between vowels, not word-initially (thus the name "Robert" is pronounced [ɹɔbɜt]), and not between a vowel and a consonant (therefore, the word "eager" is pronounced ['igɜ] before the consonant-initial word "to").

Does anyone know where (in the English-speaking world) this pronunciation is commonly found?

(By the way, I may have made some mistakes with the transcription of vowels above, but I'd like to focus only on the "r"-sound for the purposes of this thread.)

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  • Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    (My own) Merseyside dialect has this for some speakers (myself not as much as others, but for my brother, yes pretty much consistently)*.
    I don't think it'd be trilled in your example, but in something like "What are you doing?", IPA: [wɔɾəjədu:wɪn] it would be.
    From my own understanding it's not acceptable in word-initial position (reminds me of a Scottish accent).

    *The sociolinguistics of it are complicated to explain.



    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    As Alex has indicated the flap r is common in Scottish accents (not all though), but this is not limited to intervocalic positions. (I lived in Edinburgh for 4 years and heard a lot of it. :))


    Senior Member
    UK English
    North East dialects like what's spoken in Teeside and some (most?) parts of Cumbria have this, too, I believe. I'm not sure of the environments, but in the NE I think you can have it on the end of words. Cumbria I know less about because unlike what I've read about dialect pronunciations in NE England, with Cumbria I'm going off personal memory and experience from the vast amount of people I used to talk to on the phone daily with (for work). It's there but I don't know if it goes beyond intervocalic or not. The Wiki page on Lancashire dialect points out that it's rhotic like the West County dialect, but it's of a different quality (trilled). West County is really obvious for its rhoticity and it's really clearly an approximant rather than a trill. This looks like its using the older border definitions when in fact that quality should be more confined to the Cumbria area and not under the whole blanket name of "Lancashire", although it used to cover the wider distance. This also makes mentioned of the feature in "Cumberland dialect".

    BBC Voices includes an analysis of a speaker from the Shetland Isles and has this to say:
    Like most people from Scotland she's a rhotic speaker - that is she pronounces the sound after a vowel, at one time a feature of speech throughout the UK. Nowadays, however, it's increasingly restricted to the West Country and the far south-west of England, a small area of Lancashire and most of Scotland and Ireland. The specific articulation of all her sounds, however, has a particularly striking quality - fourteen-year-old, wears, compare, jumpers, Umbro, whereas, hardly, never and worn. In common with many speakers on the Shetland Islands she uses a rolled or trilled sound and in many cases this has a voiceless quality.
    So, there as well, but it's hardly a shock if it's Shetland, really (being linked closely to Scotland).
    But still, given it's much closer to the Faroe Isles than Edinburgh, maybe the link shouldn't be considered so tight, especially considering the fact that voiceless trilled r-s are really common in Faroese as well as Icelandic. Who knows what Viking influences might have passed over all the way up there.
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