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L/R dialectal variation in W

From:Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>
Date:Friday, February 25, 2000, 3:38
The standard dialect has a phoneme /l/ with allophone [r] (alveolar
approximate) following dentalveolar consonants (t, d, n, s, z), thus
/sli/ (three) = [sri]

However, other dialects have different usages.  Many dialects use only
[l] or only [r].  Originally I thought that /l/ was the original
phoneme, since /l/ is by far more common than /r/ - most dialects don't
even have [r] as an allophone.  However, I have discovered that some
dialects underwent a change early on where intervocalic /z/ became the
sound whose modern reflex is either /l/ or /r/.  Since /z/ --> /l/ isn't
a common change (indeed, are there any examples of that?), it seems far
more reasonable to theorize that the change was /z/ --> /r/ (merging
with already-existing /r/), which then, in many dialects, became /l/.
Incidentally, some dialects have acquired a phonemic distinction between
/l/ and /r/ via interdialectal borrowing.

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believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of
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