An Intraspeaker Variation Study of Scottish English /r/ Pharyngealisation

  • Ruaridh Purse
  • Euan McGill
Keywords: style shifting, intraspeaker variation, sociophonetics, Scotland


Pharyngealisation— the retraction of the tongue towards the pharynx— of prepausal and preconsonantal /r/ has been recognised as an emergent strategy of derhoticisation in Scotland’s  Central Belt (Stuart-Smith 2007). However, previous studies have focused on the incidence of this phenomenon between speakers, with little attention paid to intraspeaker variation. The question remains: How does Scottish English derhoticisation behave in a situation of style shifting? We explore the intraspeaker variation of comedian Frankie Boyle, a recognisable speaker of Scottish English, comparing his production of apical and pharyngealised /r/ in prepausal and preconsonantal environments in two interview contexts. The acoustic correlates of /r/ pharyngealisation are characterised as a rise in F3 with reduced energy in the formant. This is quite different from the plummeting F3 associated with an apical realisation of /r/, allowing for a binary categorisation of pharyngeal and apical tokens as well as an analysis of F3 frequency as a continuous measure.

We present evidence that Boyle makes significantly more frequent use of pharyngealisation when interviewed by Kevin Bridges, a fellow Glasgow native, than by Richard Osman, a Southern Standard British English (SSBE) speaker. Further, a secondary analysis of phonation quality shows that Boyle uses significantly more creaky voice with Osman than with Bridges, allowing for a fuller understanding of Boyle’s style in each context. Attempts to attribute the observed differences in pharyngealisation rate to factors other than interview context (e.g., linguistic factors or discussion topic) yielded insignificant results, further reinforcing the notion that the style shift is due to interview context. Even within the binary categories of pharyngeal vs. apical, an analysis of formant frequency found that, on average, Boyle produced “ more apical”  apicals with Osman (lower plummeting F3) and “ more pharyngeal”  pharyngeals with Bridges (higher rising F3), suggesting that these forms are dynamic and can be strategically produced to varying degrees. This evident style shift between interview contexts is an ideal platform for a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of various sociolinguistic theories. Ultimately, we conclude that audience design best captures the interactional effects observed, but reference to second order indexicality is required to understand what social meaning Boyle achieves through style shifting.


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How to Cite
Purse, R., & McGill, E. (2006, August 5). An Intraspeaker Variation Study of Scottish English /r/ Pharyngealisation. Lifespans and Styles, 2(2), 36-44.