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Answering this requires going into some detail about how we
produce different sounds, using the organs of our mouths and
throats. By the way, in the following I'll be distinguishing
between letters of the alphabet and speech sounds. Letters will
be enclosed in angle brackets <>, and speech sounds in slashes //.
This is important because letters and sounds are very different
The r-coloring that you hear, and write as an , is really a
side-effect of how you produce the vowel sound in the first
syllable of Washington. The vowel itself is what we call a low
back vowel. That is, it's pronounced with the tongue positioned
as low and as far back as it can go and still allow air to pass
freely up and over it. People who have the r-colored sound for
the in Washington pull their tongues back just a little
farther, and this is what produces the r-like quality of the
vowel. It's not that you're putting in an /r/ that's not there;
rather you're forming the vowel so that it sounds like there's an
/r/ there as well. If you listen carefully to speakers from other
parts of the country, you'll here a good variety of different
vowel sounds for that syllable.
Herbert F. W. Stahlke, Ph.D.
Professor of English
Ball State University
Muncie, IN 47306
>>> email@example.com 03/13/01 10:32PM >>>
From: Jeff Stauter
Why do I say "Warshington" DC instead of "Washington" DC?