3

I'm American so I've seen this in so many movies and just wondering, what's up with that? Example: We will not need those blankets in Russia-r.

6
  • 5
    This is called intrusive R.
    – Draconis
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 5:59
  • 7
    @Draconis Is it? There's no vowel following (and the example of intrusive R with no vowel following in that Wikipedia article is poorly sourced and Bush is not only American but AFAIK (mostly) rhotic). If it was about non-rhotic speakers doing an American accent then it could be explained as hypercorrection, but I've never heard of anything like the OP's example from "people with a British accent".
    – Nardog
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 6:55
  • 3
    Yeah, this isn’t something I’ve heard either. For rhotic Brits, it may occur as a hypercorrection, just like it may for Americans, but when you say “people with a British accent”, it’s the non-rhotic variants that come to mind, and it’s definitely not a thing there. Can you find and link to an example in a video somewhere? Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 9:28
  • 2
    I don't believe an r is normally pronounced in this example. Intrusive r occurs when words ending in non-high vowels are followed by a word beginning with a vowel (my personal interpretation is that these non-high vowels are actually followed by an underlying r that is not pronounced in pausa or before a consonant)
    – Tristan
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 9:49
  • 1
    I have heard this in some words where non-rhotic speakers try to speak in a rhotic accent. For example, I was in a play set in the West Country, where the stereotypical accent is rhotic, and I heard some speakers pronounce "Ma" with an /r/, I believe because it is an anomalous word with /a:/ but no "r" in the spelling (in fact it is homophonous with "mar" in our dialect). But I've not heard it in normal speech except in the case of "intrusive R".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 14:15

4 Answers 4

6

Further to IMSoP’s answer:

I live in a non-rhotic part of the UK. Non-rhotic means we don’t sound Rs unless they’re followed by a vowel. So we drop the R at the end of ‘rotor’ but sound it in ‘rotor and wing’.

This has an odd result with all these words ending in A: because ‘rotor’ and ‘rota’ sound the same to us, so do ‘China’ and ‘*chiner’. Therefore, we say ‘China’ just as you’d expect, but ‘China and India’ come out as ‘Chiner and India’.

3
  • The OP specifically gave an example with /r/ at the end of a sentence.
    – Nardog
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 11:00
  • 5
    @Nardog David Garner is right. The OP's example is wrong. Many British speakers do indeed use intrusive /r/ as David describes -- a funny way to allude to it is "Laura Norder" -- but it is only with two vowel sounds in hiatus, not at the end of an utterance.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 18:32
  • If the OP was wrong then this answer couldn't possibly be right. What it says is true of course, but it doesn't actually answer the question as asked.
    – Nardog
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 5:01
4

I think there's a possibility here that you're listening with a rhotic ear to someone speaking with a non-rhotic variety.

Rhoticity doesn't just present as a different pronunciation, but also as a different perception: certain word pairs are homophones to a non-rhotic speaker, even when pronounced by a rhotic speaker.

As a non-rhotic speaker, I cannot distinguish between "rota" and "rotor", even if the person speaking has a rhotic accent and distinguishes them. So for all I know, when I say "rota", you would hear it as "rotor".

This is similar to the frequently parodied inability to distinguish "l" from "r" in speakers of many Asian languages. Often, they will appear to use the "wrong" consonant, since to them, the two consonants are indistinguishable.

5
  • 2
    I don't think this adds up. If you're a rhotic speaker, shouldn't you be able to tell the difference between rota and rotor?
    – Nardog
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 5:43
  • @Nardog I'm saying that a rhotic speaker listening to a non-rhotic speaker will hear differences that aren't there, in the sense that the speaker is completely unaware of them.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 11:52
  • And I'm saying that doesn't make sense. Being a rhotic speaker means you produce contrasts non-rhotic speakers do not. So non-rhotic speakers are, as you say, often inept at perceiving the differences rhotic speakers produce, but the reverse is not true, as the very definition of being rhotic is that you produce and perceive those differences.
    – Nardog
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 13:36
  • 1
    @Nardog If an English speaker hears a Japanese speaker, they will perceive them using "l" and "r" in the wrong places; but the speaker themselves is not distinguishing between them. Similarly, when I say "rota" or "rotor", I have no idea whether a rhotic speaker will hear me using the wrong one, because I can't tell the difference. My suggestion is that sometimes I will pronounce the trailing vowel in a way that a rhotic speaker mistakes for "er".
    – IMSoP
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 15:42
  • And what way is that? If they hear it, then that's not a difference that "isn't there"—it may not quite be a typical realization of /r/, but there is some kind of acoustic cue—again, if they hear it. And if there is a difference, you haven't identified what that difference is, and if there isn't, your answer doesn't adequately explain why the difference, which doesn't exist from an objective perspective, is still perceived.
    – Nardog
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 16:18
0

I also hear exactly what the OP describes and don’t think it’s a wrong example. It is not accurate to compare this question to the Japanese english speakers using /r/ vs /l/ because the Japanese speaker comes from a completely different alphabet. Here we are talking about 2 English speaking countries with the exact same alphabet and different kinds of accents.

In reading the other answers and comments I am beginning to wonder if this might be a slight change in the culture of colloquial patterns / accents as everything does, these patterns inevitably change over time.

I learned English in the US and hadn’t noticed this at all, but I also hadn’t been in contact with many British folks or consumed much British media. However, recently in 2023, I started working with a British team in my line of work and listening to British speakers in online workshops as well as podcasts. And I can definitely hear multiple folks adding an R even when it is the very last word in a sentence. Also, even in just one word utterances like 1 word answers : “idea” , “law”, , etc. That’s when it is most noticeable. That’s why I became so curious and found this question.

Thank you for posting it, OP 🙌🏽!!

2
  • 2
    What you're describing is nothing new unless you're saying that /r/ is heard even when those words are not followed by a vowel.
    – Nardog
    Commented Jan 13 at 1:12
  • Nardog, yes, that is exactly what I am saying . /r/ sounds even when there is no next word at all , so not followed by a vowel
    – fv_dev
    Commented Jan 16 at 17:16
-2

I hear it all the time consistently, not just Brit’s but Australians too. I hear them pronounce their country as Austrailia(r) …. Listen to Shirley Bassey sing ‘the lady is a tramp’ …hates California(r), it’s cold and it’s damp. Any word that end in “a” …Ababama(r) Obama(r) Cuba(r). And words ending in r have it dropped…such that, a Brit viewing the iconic Madagascar primate in a zoo in the capital of Peru is “a Limuh in Limar. I don’t get it.

1
  • 8
    If you hear it all the time, consistently, then please try to find some examples, because I for one have never heard it. A Madagascan primate in a zoo in the capital of Peru is a /ˈliːmər ɪn ˈliːmə ˈzuː/ to any non-rhotic Brit or Australian I’ve ever been exposed to – a /ˈliːmə ɪn ˈliːmər ˈzuː/ sounds completely bizarre. The Shirley Bassey example you give is a fully expected case of intrusive r because California is immediately followed by a vowel – and also, her singing is rhotic (note that she hates /kælɪˈfornjə/, with a clearly sounded r before the n). Commented May 16 at 8:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.