What is it about?

Worldwide, Englishes can be split into two categories, those where at the end of words is pronounced (e.g. American English, Scottish English, Irish English) and those where is not pronounced (Anglo English, Australian, South African etc.). Loss of in the latter group occurred around three hundred years ago, so we do not fully understand the processes involved. However, over the past few decades, researchers studying working-class Central Scottish accents have noted weakening of word-final. We used ultrasound-tongue-imaging along with audio recordings to study the articulatory features associated with audible weakening of in Central Scottish English, studying both speakers who preserve word-final and those who produce weak variants of word-final. We found that those who weaken tend to delay the tongue gesture, so that some or all of the gesture becomes inaudible. It would seem that changes to the timing of the tongue gesture is one way that word-final can be lost over time.

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Why is it important?

Production, or non-production of word-final is perhaps the most prominent difference between varieties of Englishes world-wide. The loss sound change is particularly important, because it fundamentally changes the vowel systems of English varieties where it occurs. There has been much conjecture about how this sound change comes about, but little direct evidence. We have been able to study the change in progress at the articulatory level and discover the importance that tongue gesture timing plays in rhotic sound change.

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This page is a summary of: The role of gesture delay in coda /r/ weakening: An articulatory, auditory and acoustic study, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, March 2018, Acoustical Society of America (ASA),
DOI: 10.1121/1.5027833.
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