This pronunciation phenomenon appears to be more widespread than I'd thought. I've always pronounced lawyer as it's spelled (law-yer), but I've often heard people say loy-er instead. It's not dialectical as far as I can tell, since so many different people say it that way (plus, it's in the dictionary). Why is lawyer so often pronounced loyer?

  • Why is oil widely pronounced oyel? Probably a similar principle. – GEdgar Oct 20 '11 at 18:44
  • I don't know, but it's probably related to whatever caused Bowyer to be pronounced boyer. – Hugo Oct 20 '11 at 18:45
  • So it will rhyme with "sawyer"? – Peter Shor Oct 20 '11 at 19:14
  • @PeterShor Yes, lawyer, sawyer and bowyer can all rhyme. But some families pronounce their surnames differently: Soy-ur, Saw-yur, Boy-ur, Bow-yur are all correct. – Hugo Oct 20 '11 at 19:32
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    @GEdgar: How else could you possibly pronounce it? Oil isn't spelled awyel. – Daniel Jan 23 '12 at 1:15

The OED has both /ˈlɔːjə(r)/ and /ˈlɔɪə(r)/. In my British accent, I tend towards the second. The reason it’s so widespread, if indeed it is, may be because the transition to the vowel /ə/ (schwa) is more readily made from the diphthong /ɔɪ/ than it is from the sequence of /ɔː/, /j/, but I readily yield on the point to any phoneticians among us.

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    That’s basically it. The unusual /-awy-/ [ɔːj] shifts to the more conventional /oi/ [ɔɪ] or [ɔj]. – Jon Purdy Oct 20 '11 at 19:34
  • Except I'm not sure it's so unusual. – Barrie England Oct 20 '11 at 19:40
  • @Jon: Barrie's right; I say it, and most people I hear say it. (I'm American.) What surprises me is how many Americans say it. My gut feeling was that it sounded British, since the British accent often replaces aw with the w vowel (as in tool). – Daniel Oct 20 '11 at 19:54
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    In the US, there is a definite north-south divide, southerners tending toward the former. When I say it like that, I can't help conjuring up a mental image of Foghorn Leghorn. – Sam Oct 20 '11 at 23:49

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