Swallowed ‘r’ in Glasgow

I have a very quick request, for you budding amateur phoneticians out there.

After yesterday’s conversation touched on Glasgow English, I looked for a few samples of this accent on YouTube. Glasgow is perhaps the only city in the English-speaking world whose accent I haven’t researched at least a little bit, so I was curious to see what makes it unique.

I found a rather interesting sample in this young man discussing crime in Glasgow:

There’s something unusual that happens with this speaker when ‘r’ occurs after a vowel (in words like “car,” “father,” etc). At first listen, the accent sounds non-rhotic (the r is dropped). But listening closer, I think ‘r’ in this position is “swallowed” in some way.  And this only seems to occur after vowels.

Anybody have any thoughts as to what’s going on here? Or know of some relevant research?

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About Ben

Ben Trawick-Smith launched his dialect fascination while working in theatre. He has worked as an actor, playwright, director, critic and dialect coach. Other passions include linguistics, urban development, philosophy and film.
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6 Responses to Swallowed ‘r’ in Glasgow

  1. I found this poster about rhoticity in Scotland.

    http://www.qmu.ac.uk/ssrc/ultra/pubs/Scobbie%20et%20al%202008%20Labphon.pdf

    It doesn’t have data from Glasgow in particular, but according to their study, /r/ following vowels is increasingly likely to be deleted in Scotland, and when it occurs following low vowels, the vowel becomes pharyngealized.

  2. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Here’s just what you’ve been looking for:

    http://www.icphs2007.de/conference/Papers/1307/1307.pdf

    There’s seems to be a derhoticisation in progress, with pharyngealisation/uvularisation remaining as a sort of a trace.

  3. Alexis says:

    I did my master’s thesis on a speech synthesis application incorporating Modern Urban Scots dialect voices (specifically Glaswegian voices) in 2004-5. I don’t have my reference list handy, but I do remember that variation in /r/-realization, including lack of post-vocalic /r/, is characteristic of Modern Urban Scots, along with the London-esque /f/ for /th/ replacement that you also hear in this video. If you search the literature using “Modern Urban Scots” you should find a fair bit of work on this.

  4. trawicks says:

    Wow, guys, this is great!

    @Josef/Andrej,

    I’ve interestingly noticed something similar in Ireland (particularly Western Ireland), where the actual “r” is dropped, but a slight bit of velarization (I believe) is retained. Great research!

    @Alexis,

    Speaking of Londonisms, I found it interesting that there seemed to be a lot of “l vocalizing” in Glasgow accents as well. Are these kinds of features due to the spread of Estuary/London English, or are they separate phenomena.

  5. David says:

    This youngster seemed pronounces pre-vocalic r apically and post-vocalic r dorsally. You can hear him say with an apical r and and (flair) with an dorsal r. The sporadic use by some individuals in Scotland (not just Glasgow and not just working class) of a dorsal r is well-known – it even has a name: a burr.

  6. David says:

    Something happened to my post; it should read: This youngster seemed pronounces pre-vocalic r apically and post-vocalic r dorsally. You can hear him say respect with an apical r and and floor (flair) with an dorsal r. The sporadic use by some individuals in Scotland (not just Glasgow and not just working class) of a dorsal r is well-known – it even has a name: a burr.