(Non)-rhoticity: Lessons from New Zealand English

Jennifer Hay and Alhana Clendon

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

(Non)-rhoticity: Lessons from New Zealand English

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Sociolinguistics



English dialects are generally classified as either rhotic or non-rhotic. Rhotic dialects produce /r/ non-prevocalically (for example, in sword, car, and heart). Non-rhotic dialects produce these words with no /r/, having abandoned the production of /r/ in non-prevocalic position at some stage in their history. The worldwide geographic distribution of non-rhotic dialects has often been ascribed to the later dates of settlement from Britain. The loss of rhoticity appears to have resulted in the emergence of a system of linking and intrusive /r/ in most dialects. Linking /r/ and intrusive /r/ are together known as “/r/-sandhi,” and are characteristic of most non-rhotic varieties of the English language. This article takes a narrow and specific view of rhoticity and non-rhoticity by focusing on what can be learned from an analysis of the history of New Zealand English. Recent work at the University of Canterbury has investigated various aspects of the loss of rhoticity in this dialect, along with the subsequent emergence of /r/-sandhi.

Keywords: rhoticity; New Zealand; English; dialects; /r/-sandhi; linking /r/; intrusive /r/; University of Canterbury; non-rhoticity; continua; linguistics

Article.  4160 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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