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September 07, 2010


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/w/ was geneally dropped before back vowels: compare "who", " whom" etc.

The daughter

In the second half of the 18th century, the British are reported to have pronounced the w in 'sword' but not to have pronounced the w in 'backward', 'Edward' or 'somewhat'! How do you explain that?


@The daughter: do you have a reference for that claim? I'd be interested to look at it.

The daughter

In one of life's little coincidences, dw, just yesterday I read about the pronounciation of w in Bill Bryson's book 'Made in America' (Chapter 3, I). His sources - I think, as there is not a direct footnote after the w words - are Mencken, 'The American Language' (4th ed, p. 539) and Krapp, 'The English Language In America' (vol 1, p. 44). In any event, I recommend the whole book!

Virtual Linguist

Thank you both for your comments. I'm afraid I can't explain why the w wasn't pronounced in those words - I'll leave that to Bill Bryson.

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