Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Most English speakers are familiar with the phenomenon of r-dropping; it divides the English-speaking world into Ireland, Scotland, and most of America (where r is kept throughout), and England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, and the American South and New England (where r is lost after vowels.) Despite this broad distribution, r-dropping somehow seems emblematic of British English, so I was naively surprised to observe it in other languages; yet the same sound-change happens to be observable in Tarifit, the Berber dialect of northeastern Morocco, and seemingly in Korandje, a Songhai language brought from Timbuktu to a northern Saharan oasis, Tabelbala, along the trade route to Sijilmasa in Morocco. Some examples:

* Tarifit ddaa, live! = Kabyle dder (here e=schwa=ə)
* Tarifit thamoath, earth = Kabyle thamurth (th=θ)
* Tarifit adhvea, pigeon = Kabyle ithvir (dh=ð, v=β)
* Korandje bia, big = Timbuktu beer(i)
* Korandje lekhba, news = Arabic al-akhbaar (kh=x)

I wonder what other cases are out there?

PS: Thank you, Language Hat, for your kind welcome!


Claire said...

Hi and welcome to the blogosphere!

I think some varieties of German have r-dropping too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lameen!

Syllable-final [r] is alive and kicking in the south-west of England...

Anonymous said...

As a native speaker, I can assure you that all varieties of German, except the Alemannic dialects (Switzerland and surroundings) turn every /r/ into /&"/ (I'm using Kirshenbaum here) except if it's followed by a vowel. The rules are exactly like in RP. That's why Arnold Schwarzenegger is ['a:nOld(vls) 'Sva:tsn-eg(vls)&"] (the parentheses should be pointy brackets).

Anonymous said...

Oops, that should be [E], not [e].

Anonymous said...

Central Tibetan also has R-dropping (and compensatory lengthening).