Class, gender and rhoticity: The social stratification of non-prevocalic /r/ in Edinburgh speech

Victoria Dickson, Lauren Hall-Lew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the prominence of socioeconomic status as a factor in models of English variation, few studies have explicitly considered speakers whose social class status changed over their lifetime. This paper presents an auditory and acoustic analysis of variation in non-prevocalic /r/ among middle-aged adults from Edinburgh, Scotland. The speakers represent three groups: the Established Middle Class (EMC) and the Working Class(WC), both of which are characterized as socioeconomically non-mobile,and a third group we call the New Middle Class (NMC), comprised of individuals born to working class families and living middle class lives atthe time of data collection. The results demonstrate that realizations of /r/have a significant correlation with socioeconomic status, and that the effectof class further interacts with gender. NMC speakers demonstrate the highest level of rhoticity of all three groups. In contrast, WC men show extensive derhoticization and deletion, while WC women show patterns ofrhoticity that are more comparable to the NMC women. The EMC speakers show more non-rhoticity than either the NMC speakers or the WC women.A consideration of the indexical value of weak rhoticity highlights the need for more robust phonetic measures distinguishing non-rhoticity from derhoticization, and to that end we consider the cue of post-vocalicfrication. Overall, the results point to the need to conceptualize socioeconomic status as potentially fluid and changeable across the lifespan, thereby improving models of the relationship between social class and linguistic variation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-259
JournalJournal of English Linguistics
Issue number3
Early online date7 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • sociolinguistics
  • linguistics
  • dialectology
  • Scotland
  • Scottish
  • English
  • variation
  • social class
  • mobility
  • rhoticity
  • sociophonetics
  • gender
  • Edinburgh


Dive into the research topics of 'Class, gender and rhoticity: The social stratification of non-prevocalic /r/ in Edinburgh speech'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this