Monday, March 14, 2005

I knew I wasn't dreaming it...

Today I got into a long discussion about, amongst other things, the English tendency to pronounce an "r" to the end of words that dont' have them -- "ideaR", "AmericaR", and the tendency to not pronounce r's at the end of words - ladder = ladduh, mother = mothah, etc. Because, I know at least one of my English friends will be reading this, I'll take it easy on him!!

But the best thing about it all was the fact that neither of my buddies acknowledged this (as I deemed it) obvious trait of the English. They granted that the "r" at the the end of words was supposed to be soft or silent, but said that they'd never noticed the addition of an "r" at the end of a word. I must have heard the football team "Aston Villa" pronounced "Aston Villar" at least 100 times since being here, but they claimed to never have heard it!! Well, thank God for google. After a little searching, I came across what is termed the "intrusive 'r'". The description is:
This phenomenon is known as intrusive r, and because there is no "r" in the spelling of these words. It is often frowned on by school teachers and others as being "incorrect". The use of intrusive r is so automatic that speakers are usually unaware of it. Generally, if a speaker with a south-eastern accent fails to use the intrusive [r], especially after words like idea or Canberra then it is likely that he/she learnt English as a second language.

And there is also a technical term for the silent or soft "r" - nonrhotic:

A rhotic speaker is one who pronounces as a consonant postvocalic
"r", i.e. the "r" after a vowel in words like "world" /wV"rld/. A
nonrhotic speaker either does not pronounce the "r" at all /wV"ld/
or pronounces it as a schwa /wV"@ld/. British Received
Pronunciation (RP) and many other dialects of English are nonrhotic.

Many nonrhotic speakers (including RP speakers, but excluding
most nonrhotic speakers in the southern U.S.) use a "linking r":
they don't pronounce "r" in "for" by itself /fO:/, but they do
pronounce the first "r" in "for ever" /fO: 'rEv@/. Linking "r"
differs from French liaison in that the former happens in any
phonetically appropriate context, whereas the latter also needs
the right syntactic context.
There are 2 interesting things to note here:
1. The intrusive "r" is usually seen as a sign of a Southern redneck in the U.S. - "I'm going WaRshington D.C. next week." "My mom is from ChicaRgo". Reminds me of home. That's why I was surprised to find it so prevalent here. Note: the intrusive "r" also creeps in around non-Southern areas, too.

2. About the nonrhotic speakers in the southern U.S. - Many people wrongly assume that the Southern accent is non-rhotic... "Miss Scahlett". This accent tends to pervade coastal Virginia, South Carolina, much of Georgia, most of South Alabama, and is present in (wannabe?) aristocratic North Alabamians. It's what I call the "Old South" accent. The one exception I can think of is the word "cuss", a nonrhotic form of "curse". However, we have an old recording of Mary's Middle Tennessee native maternal grandfather preaching (he died before she was born) and on the tape he pronounces the name "Cornelius" (Acts 10) as a charming "Coh-nelius".

One more thing: "Mind the gap" means be careful around the space between the platform and the train. "Pop a cap" means...


At 1:21 PM, Blogger Barclay said...

...shoot someone. syn. bust a cap.

And ss a fellow American with an advisor from the UK, I can confirm your observation and remarks. Sonya and I have discussed how Dr. Ward always says, "ideaR," reminiscent of a form of English that I call "Killenese" around Sonya.

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have a comment in particular about today's note, but just wanted to say that I surely do enjoy reading them. Christie Wells and I discussed this last night at church and said that it was almost like seeing you everyday!! Can't wait for you and Mary and Helen to be in Murfreesboro!! Know Amy will love spoiling Helen. Know you all will enjoy Mary's parents being there. Glad they are where they can come over and visit. Amy leaves Friday for her mission trip to the South Bronx in New York. Please pray for her safety and for her safe return. Love, Rita Wilkerson

At 9:35 PM, Anonymous josh said...

...cella phone. What my uncle calls his mobile phone.

I wish I knew someone from the UK so I could join in the fun.

At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got a blog.


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