lure, allure


Following on from my last post, with /jʊ/ words being fronted and confused with /ɪ/ words, I’m reminded that a few years ago, a TV programme included a demonstration of falconry, and the expert said she used a /lɜː/. The interviewer was clearly puzzled by this, and asked for an explanation. It turned out that the falconer was talking about a lure. Then last week, I heard the same pronunciation used in the word allure: /əˈlɜː/. John Wells’ Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, 3rd edition has lure /ljɜː/, commenting that 17% of John’s informants used this pronunciation, but neither /lɜː/ nor allure /əˈlɜː/. Presumably he still considers it non-standard, and judging by the reaction of the TV interviewer, it is sometimes difficult to understand even in context. /jʊə/ words have generally become /jɔː/, as /ʊə/ has increasingly become /ɔː/, but I have also heard /pjɜː/ and /kjɜː/for pure and cure (John has the first of these, but not the second), so it could be that lure and allure are developing in two ways simultaneously: losing /j/ to become /lɔː/ and /əˈlɔː/, and alternatively keeping the /j/, but centralising the whole vocalic complex, and then losing /j/, and becoming /lɜː/ and /əˈlɜː/.

As an afterthought, has anyone heard /ˈplɜːrəl/ for plural? And how many other /jʊə/ words are developing in these parallel ways?

Jack Windsor Lewis has pointed out that I was originally mis-reading the Longman Dictionary, and I have changed the wording accordingly. My thanks to Jack for his close attention to detail!


  1. I’m a rhotic AmE speaker and have a separate CURE vowel unmerged with anything else; nevertheless, I do use the NURSE vowel in plural. If I heard it (in an accent close to my own) with the CURE vowel, I’d interpret it as pleural.

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