Labiodental /r/ has previously been considered a mark of infantile, defective or affected speech. However, recent literature has highlighted its increasing credibility as an accepted feature of regional dialects. This paper tracks the spread of the variant, investigating its use in the city of Leeds. Auditory analysis of apparent time data is employed to assess the frequency of labiodental /r/ articulations among Leeds speakers.
Since there is an absence in the literature of social identity perspectives on the diffusion of labiodental /r/, this paper also explores speakers’ social networks in relation to their use of the labiodental variant. The findings contribute to sociolinguistic theories of language variation and change, emphasising the link between the social dynamics of speakers and the spread of novel linguistic features.