In the mean time, I thought you might enjoy my retelling of a conversation I had with a friend about intrusive and linking /r/. She was complaining that someone on the television had pronounced the word "drawing" as /ˈdrɔːrɪŋ/. This is in fact the way I pronounce it (which doesn't mean it's necessarily right, I should hasten to add!). The Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary gives /ˈdrɔː.ɪŋ/ as the "-ing" form of "draw" but notes in a box below that an intrusive /r/ is sometimes inserted.
My friend was horrified by this. "It sounds terrible!" she wailed. We then had a discussion about value judgments and language but she wasn't convinced.
In fact, intrusive /r/ is an interesting one. If you are a speaker of a rhotic accent - i.e., one in which you always pronounce "r" everywhere it appears in the spelling (e.g., General American; Irish; Scots) - then intrusive /r/ is just not something you do. It's not there so you don't say it (although I note the box about "drawing" seemed to suggest that it even occurs in American English accents - would anyone like to comment?).
Intrusive /r/ comes about in non-rhotic accents by analogy with linking /r/. Non-rhotic accents are those in which the speaker only pronounces /r/ if it is followed by a vowel (e.g., RP; Australian). Linking /r/ is an optional connected speech process which happens in non-rhotic accents, such as RP, in rapid speech where there is an "r" in the spelling and the following word begins with a vowel.
- In "My car burns too much fuel these days", we do not pronounce the /r/ at the end of "car" in non-rhotic accents as the next word begins with a consonant - /maɪ ˈkɑː bɜːnz ˈtuː mʌtʃ ˈfjʊəl ðiːz deɪz/;
- In "My car always starts on cold mornings", we may very well pronounce the /r/ at the end of "car" as the following word begins with a vowel - /maɪ ˈkɑːr ɔːlweɪz ˈstɑːts ɒn kəʊld ˈmɔːnɪŋz/ (I've not added in any assimilation here but you might get them at the end of "on" and "cold") - but we wouldn't pronounce the "r" in "start" as it is followed by a consonant.
It is not necessary to perform linking /r/ in 2., but most speakers of e.g. RP will do it.
So, why does intrusive /r/ happen - i.e., why would a speaker pronounce "drawing" as /ˈdrɔːrɪŋ/ when there is evidently no /r/ at the end of "draw"?
If you consider the words which can contain a linking /r/, these all have vowels in the non-high area of the vowel chart, all of which are spelled with "r" at the end of them. See HERE for the IPA vowel chart and compare the position of the vowels (note these are English phonemes listed below and not Cardinal Vowels). The vowels are as follows:
- /ɑː/ - e.g., "car"
- /ɜː/ - e.g., "cur"
- /ɔː/ - e.g., "core"
- /ɪə/ - e.g., "pier"
- /eə/ - e.g., "pear"
- /ʊə/ - e.g., "pure"
- /ə/ - e.g., "mother" /ˈmʌðə/
In the case of /ɪə/, /eə/ and /ʊə/, these vowels are referred to as "centring" diphthongs as the tongue moves from the first vowel towards the second vowel which is a central one, /ə/. NB. /ʊə/ is becoming rather low-frequency in modern RP and is often replaced with /ɔː/.
This doesn't mean you have to have an "r" in the spelling to have these vowels in a word, however, and this is where intrusive /r/ comes in. For example:
- In "I can see the pier over there", an RP speaker will most likely have a linking /r/ at the end of "pier" because the next word begins with a vowel - /ˈaɪ kən siː ðə ˈpɪər əʊvə ˈðeə/ (Quiz: There is no /r/ at the end of "over" and "there" - why not?)
- In "The mere idea of it!", there is likely to be a linking /r/ at the end of "mere" but ALSO an intrusive /r/ at the end of "idea" - /ðə ˈmɪər aɪˈdɪər əv ɪt/ - because it contains one of the set of vowels in the list above. This will sound very odd indeed to a speaker of a rhotic variety.
One must note, however, that linking and intrusive /r/ are both optional connected speech processes; they do not HAVE to happen. For reasons of fluency, they often do. My friend was saying that she would always put a glottal stop between "idea" and "of" in that last example; if I could hide behind her with a recording device to find out whether this is true in such instances, I would ... but of course this would be unethical.
In the Lingua Franca Core, Jenny Jenkins recommends always pronouncing "r" where it is found in the spelling, i.e., adopting a rhotic accent. Personally, I can't think of many occasions in which my r-lessness or insertion of linking or intrusive /r/ has been a problem. However, it's quite possible that I wouldn't have as, often being considered a role model for my particular accent, it is unlikely that I would ever have been challenged.