'Speech defect' concerning the English 'R'

Paulski   Monday, November 01, 2004, 12:09 GMT
Does anyone know anything about a speech defect in English where the 'R' sounds more like a 'W'?

I am an Englishman who 'suffers' from this and I would like to know more about this, although can find no info on the subject.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, it is often associated with the British TV broadcaster Jonathan Ross (with a lot of jokes made since he pronounces his name 'Woss'). Also Margaret thatchers daughter, Carol, speaks with the same defect.

Is this an accent or a speech defect?

I remember a teacher at school pointing it out in class, saying that it is only found with people from the south east of England, and is a sign of aristocracy. (I must have been adopted...)

Funnily enough, I speak French, Spanish, Dutch and German where the R is pronounced in a different way - (with no problems), although I cannot pronounce the letter in my native language.

I'm not bothered by it, just find it interesting if anyone has info to share.
Joanne   Monday, November 01, 2004, 18:30 GMT
<<Does anyone know anything about a speech defect in English where the 'R' sounds more like a 'W'?>>

<<I am an Englishman who 'suffers' from this and I would like to know more about this, although can find no info on the subject.>>

Good God, there are more people like you across the pond, too? Just kidding! =D I thought that "defect" was exclusive to New England accents (but not all of them). The television journalist Barbara Walters (Bawbaw Walltews) speaks like that. I believe she comes from an affluent family, and just couldn't shake the accent for GAE, which is standard in American news reporting.
Tiffany   Monday, November 01, 2004, 21:40 GMT
It's called a lisp. It's a speech impediment. I find it hard to believe you can't find anything on it. but maybe you should google "lisp" (google is a search engine for those who don't know and to google is to type into google and search).
Xatufan   Tuesday, November 02, 2004, 02:09 GMT
I didn't know that one, Tiffany.

I think you speak with a stong British accent, so you just can't make the sound of the American r. When I try to speak Chinese, I don't make any sound at all because I'm not used.
Paulski   Tuesday, November 02, 2004, 06:59 GMT
No I think a lisp is different - when making a 'sp' sound which is more like a 'th'. May be it's connected though since at a young age I had that too, although managed to train myself to speak without it.
Easterner   Tuesday, November 02, 2004, 09:25 GMT

We have some people who speak like this in Hungary, and I have also heard that it is "aristocratic", that is, it was used by aristocrats to mark their status (there are even jokes about this). It is usally an uvular "r", but there are people who pronounce the "r" more as a dark "l", together with slight labialisation. I think it is due to failure to learn how to make your tongue flap against your palate to make the "r" (its tip should curl upwards during this process). My guess is that weak tongue muscles may have a play here, but I'm not a speech therapist... I think it is more of a speech defect, but you can live with it, I personally don't find this so weird. It may even be less weird in Southern England, because of the non-rhotic accent there. In Hungary this way of speaking is more marked, because the "r" here is pronounced with a strong trill.
Ben   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 15:22 GMT
Where are you from, Paulski?
It is true that in Southeastern England there can sometimes be a tendency in guttural accents to give the "r" something of a "w' sound. This is because the accents of that area are very forward in the mouth, meaning a lot of sounds get pushed "forward," the most common example being the way that the word "mouth" turns into "mouf" in Cockney.
Paulski   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 15:58 GMT
Norfolk, East Anglia
although my accent is what I would call 'neutral English' or - ie not from my region - an English person would not be able to tell where I'm from.