Is there a specific/proper/technical term for it? And not just the R-flop, but specifically the L-flop to W.

What would work here:

“I'm watching Formula 1 on Sky Sports and the __________ of the Brit announcers is so annoying - it's killing me."

“Billie Piper is so hot. Her __________ in Dr. Who has me rubbing my legs together like a cricket.”

You get the idea.

  • Rhotacism – I think related to other speech “impediments”, possibly too specific to the letter R, or at least not specific enough, I don't think
  • Elmer Fudd Syndrome – too pejorative
  • Baby Talk – perfect in above sentences, but I think reserved for intentional use.
  • Johnathan Ross Syndrome - ?
  • The L/R to W speech impediment - ?
  • L-vocalization - ?
  • “non-rhotic dialect r fronting” - ?


  • 2
    Wabiawization? Commented May 13, 2015 at 18:12
  • 1
    As far as I can tell, there isn't an official term to encompass both cases besides something general such as speech impediment.
    – Adam
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 18:20
  • 1
    Johnathan Ross Syndrome was the precise name/wording that immediate sprung to my mind before I even read the body of the question itself. Commented May 13, 2015 at 18:27
  • @Janus: I've heard/seen the man himself referred to as Johnathan Woss many times (including, obviously, every time he says it! :). I can't specifically recall whether I've ever heard anyone call what he does wossing, but that would seem such a natural coinage I prolly wouldn't remember it anyway. Commented May 13, 2015 at 21:11
  • Burr is related, but not really the same thing. (I found burr given as the translation of Hungarian raccsolás, which is a speech impediment where the subject is unable to properly roll his Rs, instead producing a sound more akin to H, almost like the CH in Bach.)
    – Marthaª
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 23:56

4 Answers 4


L-vocalization is the term that would be used by linguists. In addition to British English, you can see the change in Polish and Brazilian Portuguese as well (a dark L is pronounced as a vowel or glide instead of as a lateral). Shakespeare himself made a little joke of this in Hamlet:

Gravedigger: It must be se offendendo. It cannot be else. For here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly, it argues an act. And an act hath three branches—it is to act, to do, to perform. Argal, she drowned herself wittingly.

Received Pronunciation is said to be a non-rhotic because speakers do not pronounce the r at the end of words. I'd want to check with some of our UK contributors, but I think that it is a loss of r (and lengthening of the previous vowel) rather than a change from /r/ to /w/.

  • 1
    That’s only one of the two, though. Commented May 13, 2015 at 18:28
  • Maybe “L/R-vocalization”? Anyway, “Will Ferrell” as “Wiwuw Fawuww”, exactly as Johnathan Ross pronounces it in the link, is the most specific thing I'm talking about. It's changing all the L's that is what I hear worst. The R-thing mostly just seems like proper cockney.
    – ipso
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 18:43
  • It may be that the velarization of postvocalic English /l/, as well as the liprounding of the English /r/ in all rhotic positions, conspire to produce a neutralization of both resonants to the resonant /w/, which is just a rounded vowel in the velar position. I've never thought about it before, but they do dovetail nicely that way. I spose that's why Elmer Fudd's accent is so easy to mimic -- we've got natural categories already. Commented May 13, 2015 at 19:50
  • To clarify the Hamlet quote: the gravedigger means "ergo" but has misinterpreted the Latin pronunciation.
    – Max
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 12:12

Liquid vocalization is a general term encompassing vocalization of both /l/ and /r/ sounds.

This is the term used in Lisa J. Green's African American English: A Linguistic Introduction (2002), among others.

It's a simple combination of two linguistics terms:

  1. Liquid. This is defined in David Crystal's Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics (2008) as:

    A term used by some phoneticians in the classification of speech sounds, referring collectively to all the apico-alveolar sounds of the type [l] and [r].

  2. Vocalization. From the same dictionary:

    In phonetics, a term referring to the process of changing a consonant articulation so that it becomes more vowel-like. For example, some regional accents of English, such as Cockney, have vocalized final /-l/, so that /wel/ is pronounced as [weʊ].

So although it's not an especially common term, it should be readily understandable for linguists.



a defect in a person's speech, such as a lisp or stammer. noun: speech impediment; plural noun: speech impediments


I think you can get your intention across by combining the terms rhotacism and lambdacism into lambdarhotacism.

I see there is highly related word, although it does not have any W connotation: lallation:

A lallation (also called cambia-letras or troca-letra, "letter changer", in Latin American countries) is an imperfect enunciation of the letter "L", in which it sounds like "R" (or vice versa), as frequently found in infantile speech.

  • I guess lallation would suggest the creation of the word wawation.
    – jxh
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 18:14
  • Or, should that have been wawwation?
    – jxh
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 18:20

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