What is happening when a sound in RP English usage is non-strident [ð] is replaced by a strident sound [v]? For instance, the word 'Father'.

  • But [v] is not sibilant in English.
    – Yellow Sky
    Dec 27 '13 at 13:09
  • Sorry - have corrected terminology.
    – USLin
    Dec 27 '13 at 13:11
  • 3
    I doubt that stridency is involved. The change is from a voiced apico-dental fricative to a voiced labio-dental fricative. Only the bottom articulator changes; interdental fricatives require the participation of the tongue, with independent innervation, muscle control, and timing. A labiodental fricative does not involve the tongue at all (just the lower lip and upper incisors), leaving the tongue free to move towards the position of the next phoneme, which is likely to be a vowel.
    – jlawler
    Dec 27 '13 at 20:19

[v] and [ð] are acoustically very close together. Jongman et al. 1998 note that the frequency of the spectral peak for labiodental and interdental fricatives is not distinct (but at other fricative places, for z and ʒ, spectral peak frequency is different). They are also the same in terms of duration (they are shorter than the sibilants). Noise amplitude is what makes [v] and [ð] distinguishable -- [v] is louder. A frequent form of sound change is where two sounds are acoustically very similar, meaning that they can be hard to tell apart in sub-optimal conditions (i.e. normal life). Once these changes start, they can spread like wildfire.

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