In non-rhotic accents, words like ‘near‘ and ‘fear‘ generally exhibit two pronunciation patterns: either a ‘centering’ diphthong (ɪə), which might crudely be transcribed ‘ih-uh;’ or as a monophthong, which is usually a lengthened version of the vowel in ‘kit‘ (ɪ:).
But which accents use the monophthong, and which the diphthong? In fact, there’s a lot of variability from speaker to speaker.
For example, I’ve heard broad, Tony Soprano-esque impressions of the New York City accent with exaggerations like ‘whaddaya doin’ hih!’ (that last word is hɪ:, like ‘hit’ without the ‘t’). But in reality, I’ve rarely heard authentic sentences like that in the Big Apple. I usually find that New York ‘here’ has the diphthong hɪə.
I’ve heard Australian accents in which ‘beer‘ sounds nearly like ‘bee.’ This results from the tenseness of the Aussie vowel in ‘kit’ combining with the monopthongization of the ‘eer’ vowel. Hence ‘I’ll have another pint of bee!’ (bi:) But there’s quite a bit of variation in Australia, with some speakers more inclined toward iɪ or
the more broad iə.
In the aforementioned accents, the monophthong is probably a possibility, but not as widespread as one might think. Yet in Southeast England, monophthongal ‘near’ does seem preferred by many speakers. A piece of anecdotal evidence: the International Dialects of English Archive transcribes the speech of two suburban Londoners who both have a monophthong or greatly weakened diphthong* for the final vowel in ‘idea‘ (usually the same vowel as ‘near’ in non-rhotic accents).
Yet as if in reaction to this trend, some urban Londoners have a strongly diphthongal ‘-ear’ vowel. Two celebrity examples I’ve noticed are Adele and Idris Elba, both with accents located near the Cockney/Estuary border. In words like ‘here,’ both have a very pronounced diphthong: where ‘ee-uh’ is a crude approximation in most cases, it’s actually fairly accurate here (iə).
It also seems possible for an accent to have a mixture of both types of pronunciations. My earlier impressions pertain to situations where the vowel appears in a prominent position. But I can see how a New Yorker might use a monophthong in the phrase ‘I feared the worst’ (i.e. with the vowel occurring in the middle of a phrase and before a consonant), but use a diphthong in the phrase ‘that’s a serious fear‘ (i.e. with the vowel at the end of a phrase). It’s just so variable.
For you non-rhotic speakers out there, do you use a monophthong, a diphthong, or both?
*Both are centralized as well, and the ‘weakened diphthong’ is of the type ɘə.