Date: Tue, 24 Jan 1995 11:19:19 +0000

From: Maik Gibson llrgbson[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]READING.AC.UK

Subject: poor and pour (was Re: TV and dialect)

How interesting that poor and pour are becoming homophonous: if it's

snooty, or trying to be un-British like by being closer to the original

pronunciation, well most English young people pronounce these words the

same as well (but without the final r, as 'po:'. By o: I mean the

"backawrds C", in England the vowel in "caught"). I still have the

distinction, but often don't use it.

I'm intersted because I considered the progressive coalesence of /u[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]/ and

/o:/ (itself sometimes originiting from the now rare /o[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]/), was due to the

odd structure of a diphthong like /u[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]/, and its other counterparts which

arose with r-deletion. All non-Rhotic dilaects of English that I know

about are trying like mad to get rid of these anomalous diphthongs ending

in schwa. RP's most stable one is i[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE], but even that is often pronounced

as e:, (=backwards 3, and the vowel in "there", which is still,

archaically (well, some people still use it) normally transcribed as


So, that it's occurring in New York, formerly a non-rhotic area, doesn't

surprise me. And we all know that once a distinction's been lost, it's

difficult to re-establish, so in learning rhoticism, a New Yorker

might well pronounce "poor" as /por/.

But I'm confused as to the link with Merry, Mary, marry: may be something

more general is going on before /r/ even when it hasn't been dropped. Do

dialects which do this tense the vowel, I wonder?

If people are interested, I can describe what's happening in England as well!

Maik Gibson

University of Reading