An informal term for a pronunciation of r
that is perceived as ‘rough’, like a burr (a flower head that sticks to one's clothes), especially the uvular trill once widespread in northeast England
(the Durham/Northumbrian/Northumberland burr
) and southeast Scotland
(the Berwick/Berwickshire burr
). This ‘Parisian’ r
is prestigious in French (r grasseyé
: GUTTURAL r
) but often stigmatized in English, speech therapists traditionally treating it as a defect. Commentators on strong r
-pronunciation do not, however, always distinguish uvular from alveolar; defining burr
in the OED
(1880s), James A. H. Murray noted: ‘Writers ignorant of phonology often confuse the Northumberland burr
with the entirely different Scotch r, which is a lingual trill.’ The term is also used for an accent in which a burr is prominent: ‘ Miss Keith spoke with a Scotch burr’ ( Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge
, 1967). See ACCENT
, NEW ZEALAND ENGLISH
, RHOTACISM, R-SOUNDS
, WEST COUNTRY.
burr / bər/ •
n. 1. [in sing.] a rough sounding of the sound r, esp. with a uvular trill (a "French r") as in certain Northern England accents. ∎ (loosely) a regional accent charcterized by such a trill: a soft Scottish burr. 2. (also bur) a rough edge or ridge left on an object (esp. of metal) by the action of a tool or machine. 3. (also bur) a small rotary cutting tool with a shaped end, used chiefly in woodworking, medicine, and dentistry. 4. variant spelling of bur.
uvular pronunciation of r
, characteristic of Northumberland XVIII; rough whirring sound XIX. prob. imit., but perh transf. application of BUR
to a ‘rough’ sound.