Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

(r) we there yet? The change to rhoticity in New York City English

  • Kara Becker (a1)

Labov (1966, 1972b) described the variable production of coda /r/ in New York City English (NYCE) as a change in progress from above in the direction of rhoticity. Since then, scholars have commented on the slow rate of change toward rhoticity in NYCE and characterized (r) as a superposed feature restricted to formal speech (Fowler, 1987; Labov, 1994; Labov, Ash, & Boberg, 2006). This study's ethnically diverse sample of speakers from the Lower East Side of Manhattan (n = 65) shows a mean rate of /r/ production of 68%, with young people, women, and middle-class speakers leading in the production of /r/ in apparent time. Speakers from five ethnic backgrounds—African American, Chinese, Jewish, Puerto Rican, and white—show coherence for the internal constraints on variable nonrhoticity. However, only Chinese, Jewish, and white speakers participate in the change toward rhoticity. These findings highlight the role of ethnicity in patterns of variation and change and demonstrate that the change toward rhoticity in NYCE has accelerated and is no longer restricted to formal speech.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Kara Becker . (2009). /r/ and the construction of place identity on New York City's Lower East Side. Journal of Sociolinguistics 13(5):634658.

Carmen Fought . (1999). A majority sound change in a minority community: /u/-fronting in Chicano English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 3(1):523.

Yakira Frank . (1948). The speech of New York City. PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

William Labov . (2006). The social stratification of English in New York City. 2nd ed.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Raven I. McDavid Jr. (1948). Postvocalic /r/ in South Carolina: A social analysis. American Speech 23:192203.

John Myhill . (1988). Postvocalic /r/ as an index of integration into the BEV speech community. American Speech 63:203213.

John R. Rickford . (2006). Down for the count? The Creole Origins Hypothesis of AAVE at the hands of the Ottowa Circle, and their supporters. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 21(1):97155.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language Variation and Change
  • ISSN: 0954-3945
  • EISSN: 1469-8021
  • URL: /core/journals/language-variation-and-change
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 15
Total number of PDF views: 157 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 461 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.