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This question has been split from its original form into two questions. The other half of this question is now here.


In the following sentence:

Jack London and Charles Dickens were both great writers.

How do you pronounce the "w" in "writer" to distinguish it from "rider"?

Additionally, is there any difference between the British English versus American English pronunciation?

  • I'm closing this question in order to prevent further answers until it is split up into two questions. – Matt Aug 29 '13 at 23:37
  • I've reopened this question after splitting it into two. This question is now about pronunciation of writer/rider (because the highest voted answer on this question relates to that question), and the other question relating to author/writer word-choice is now here – Matt Aug 29 '13 at 23:47
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In AmE, writer and rider are generally not distinguished unless the dialect in question happens to exhibit Canadian raising. Note that despite the name, Canadian raising is not exclusively Canadian, and you can find speakers exhibiting it in the US as well. The difference isn't in the "w", though--it's in the first vowel. See the Wikipedia link for details.

In addition, there may be a small difference in the length of the first vowel in AmE. According to Peter Shor's comment, you can find this difference in most American dialects, but as I understand it there isn't generally a large enough difference to reliably distinguish the two.

In BrE, /t/ and /d/ sound different, so writer and rider sound different.

  • Thanks, so if they sound the same then it's more common to hear people in America say "Do you know any great author except you?" instead of "Do you know any great writer except you?" when driving a car? I know that the person in a car is called in a casual car a "driver" and a "rider" is actually in a racing car, but still. I would find it ambiguous what the person want to know. If I know Jack London or Michael Schumacher? ;D – Derfder Aug 29 '13 at 16:10
  • No, I don't think it's very likely that someone would say author instead of writer due to a perceived ambiguity caused by pronunciation. Most people who pronounce these words the same don't realize they do so, because the way they think about the words is influenced by how they're spelled. (Incidentally, if I were driving a car, I'd refer to the other people in the car as passengers.) – snailcar Aug 29 '13 at 16:22
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    @snailboat Hi, since Matt has taken care of splitting the question into two parts, I've unmarked your answer as CW because it's now a complete and appropriate answer to the question :) You're welcome to replace it if you like. Thanks! :) – WendiKidd Aug 29 '13 at 23:46
  • On your additional note: I think most (not just some) American dialects exhibit a length difference between writer and rider. However, if you're not used to listening to Americans, that won't help at all, and even if you are, there may not be enough difference in the pronunciation to reliably distinguish between writer and rider. – Peter Shor Aug 30 '13 at 12:43
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    @Em1 But both /t/ and /d/ are realized as [ɾ] in these words in AmE, so the distinction is not preserved. This is called flapping. – snailcar Aug 30 '13 at 14:16
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How do you pronounce the "w" in "writer" to distinguish it from "rider"?

It is a silent letter which means it is not used to distinguish.

Additionally, is there any difference between the British English versus American English pronunciation?

Yes, there is. English and other British pronunciation involves pronouncing the letter t as a t sound. American pronunciation also involves pronouncing the letter r very strongly.

It is worth remembering that pronouncing letter t like a quiet letter d when it is inside a word, is part of American and Canadian pronunciation. It is not part of English and other British pronunciation.

  • When American speakers pronounce /t/ and /d/ as [ɾ], it's called flapping. English dialects where /r/ sounds are mostly not pronounced are called non-rhotic. – snailcar Aug 30 '13 at 11:29
  • What you're describing as not pronounced, is in practice, simply subtle. If it was not pronounced, the letter would be silent, which is not reality. – Tristan Aug 30 '13 at 11:58
  • Granted, "where /r/ sounds are mostly not pronounced" isn't a great definition, but I'd rather not debate it here. My purpose was just to add the terms rhotic/non-rhotic and flapping to the discussion with Wikipedia links so that interested readers could look up more information for themselves. – snailcar Aug 30 '13 at 13:20
  • snail, I realise that. It's also important to realise that there is actually, a subtle difference. – Tristan Aug 30 '13 at 13:24

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