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


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. Mar 20 '11 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
    Mar 20 '11 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). Aug 28 '13 at 17:37

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