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I can definitely hear a distinct difference but I am not sure if it is from the long vowel or from the "r".

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    Which British and American pronunciations?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 10 at 9:00

2 Answers 2

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There is a definite difference in the /r/; see this on rhotic and non-rhotic accents where rhotic accents are typical in most of America but not in England outside the south-west. So for girl (/ɡɝl/ and /ɡɜːl/) and world (/wɝld/ and /wɜː(ɹ)ld/) the /r/ is almost not pronounced in non-rhotic accents, though the vowels are similar in both accents.

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    I'm not sure what phonetically you mean by "almost" not pronounced. If you have evidence of some kind of residual pronunciation of an /r/ in "non-rhotic" accents, then this would be a very interesting finding, but unless you're putting such evidence forward, I think it's safer to assume that there is no /r/ in non-rhotic accents. Commented Mar 20, 2011 at 20:06
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    @Neil Coffey: You are probably right. I am used to various Irish and Shropshire relations who change register and become less rhotic and more London RP as they become more careful in their speech; it sounds to me more of a fading away than a shift - so much so that I cannot tell when it has gone.
    – Henry
    Commented Mar 20, 2011 at 20:55
  • The vowels are not the same in both accents. The American vowel is usually either the consonant /ɹ/ used as a vowel, or the "bunched r", which is an r-colored vowel that sounds almost exactly the same. In particular, I don't believe many Americans actually follow a vowel with an 'r' in /ɝ/ (with other vowels, following them with an [ɹ] is quite common). Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 17:37
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Well, in American English, the Rs in "world" and "girl" (as well as others in the NURSE set of words) are nearly universally pronounced, even in otherwise non-rhotic varieties, the sole exceptions that I can think of being a few elderly New Yorkers, New Englanders and Southerners (over the age of 80 years old), those with rhotacism (inability to pronounce Rs, even at the beginning of words), and people who immigrated from countries where the dominant standard accent is completely non-rhotic. In British English on the other hand (at least the official standard accent of Received Pronunciation and accents related to it) the Rs in those words are dropped.

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