Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 November 2014
In sound recordings of British English from the first part of the last century we can hear some speakers whose pronunciation of the letter r, in words such as ring, bread and around, sounded just like a /w/. We know, too, from literary texts, that it goes back further. This article is about another, newer, pronunciation of /r/ in British English, close to /w/, but distinct from it, that has increased in frequency and prominence in the last decade. In it, the lips are less pursed than for a /w/ and you sense there is less muscular tension than for what we might call the ‘traditional’ /r/ of speakers of standard English. In ambiguous contexts it could still cause confusion, as between real and wheel, or crack and quack. It may occur less in Scottish, Welsh and Irish accents than in ones from England.