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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?

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  • Why is oil widely pronounced oyel? Probably a similar principle.
    – GEdgar
    Oct 20, 2011 at 18:44
  • I don't know, but it's probably related to whatever caused Bowyer to be pronounced boyer.
    – Hugo
    Oct 20, 2011 at 18:45
  • So it will rhyme with "sawyer"? Oct 20, 2011 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, 2011 at 19:32
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    @GEdgar: How else could you possibly pronounce it? Oil isn't spelled awyel.
    – Daniel
    Jan 23, 2012 at 1:15

1 Answer 1

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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, 2011 at 19:34
  • Except I'm not sure it's so unusual. Oct 20, 2011 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, 2011 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, 2011 at 23:49

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