LINGUIST List 17.2084

Tue Jul 18 2006

Qs: Onset [r] Deletion in English

Editor for this issue: Jessica Boynton <>

Directory         1.    Nancy Hall, Onset [r] Deletion in English

Message 1: Onset [r] Deletion in English
Date: 14-Jul-2006
From: Nancy Hall <>
Subject: Onset [r] Deletion in English

Some English words are occasionally pronounced with deletion of an onset [r]. Examples include the following (thanks to Maria Gouskova and Linda Hall for pointing some of these out):

February -> Febuary (this is pretty much standard) veterinarian -> vetinarian Tristram Shandy -> Tristam Shandy respiratory -> respitory spectrogram -> spectogram secretary -> secetary extraordinary -> extodinary (Fiona Apple sings this in ''Extraordinary Machine'')

[A blogging Apple fan comments on this last one, ``For some reason I really like her pronunciation of Extraordinary. It becomes ''extordinary'' because no one on the planet can sing Extraordinary, it's a terrible word.'' (]

Although this deletion seems to be sporadic, the examples above share certain traits, suggesting there is a phonological basis for the deletion. For example, each word contains more than one onset [r], and the [r] that deletes is in a complex onset in a non-initial syllable. Usually it's unstressed, and usually it precedes the other [r].

I would be grateful to anyone who can point out 1) any published or unpublished work on onset [r] deletion; 2) any other examples of onset [r] deletion that you may have noticed (whether or not they are similar to the examples above). I will post a summary if there is sufficient interest.

--Nancy Hall

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology