Re: [cybalist] Linking and intrusive R

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 2064
Date: 2000-04-08

----- Original Message -----
From: Glen Gordon <glengordon01@...>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, April 08, 2000 10:05 AM
Subject: [cybalist] Elaison, r-insertion and the athematic...

Glen explains it almost correctly (he's only wrong about ALL vowels being treated in the same way, see below), but maybe more detail would help Mark to understand the motivation for R insertion and the mechanism of its generalisation. It's quite an instructive story.
In non-rhotic accents of English (those in which R drops word-finally and before consonants) a word-final R was usually retained as a hiatus filer (a so-called LINKING R) when the next word began with a vowel (my car is [ka:r Iz] red, but my car's [ka:z] red and this is my car [ka:]). Because the isolation, preconsonantal and sentence-final forms of "car" were all R-less, and since only prevocalic R could be pronounced in non-final positions, the natural interpretation of the [ka:]~[ka:r] variation was as follows:
[ka:] is the underlying form, and [ka:r] results from consonant insertion in a special (prevocalic) environment. Note that this is the reversal of the historical process: the historically older form comes to be interpreted as derived by segment INSERTION.
A linking R could be pronounced in words which ended in [a:], [3:] (the central vowel of err, purr, fur in RP, Bostonian English, etc.), [O:] (as in more, door, for), [@] (father, actor), and "centring" diphthongs:
[I@] (near, peer), [U@] (poor, cure) and [E@] (chair, bear). The R was also pronounced before any vowel-initial suffix, as in starry [sta:rI], chairing [tSE:@rIN], pouring [pO:rIN], dearest [dI@...].
Since phonological processes are normally conditioned by phonological factors, and not by the (historically based) spelling of the words affected, the R-insertion rule as stored in the speakers' brains did not take the form "Pronounce all orthographic Rs if a vowel follows", but rather:
"Insert an [r] after any stem-final non-high long vowel ([a:], [O:], [3:]), schwa ([@]) or a diphthong ending in a schwa ([I@], [U@], [E@]) IFF the word or suffix that follows begins in a vowel."
(Note: After the high vowels [I], [i:] and [u:] and all upgliding diphthongs the glides [j] and [w] are used as natural hiatus fillers, and R is never inserted.)
The problem with that rule is that it overgeneralises somewhat when compared with its orthographically conditioned version: there are English words which end in one of the vowels mentioned above, but have no etymological or orthographic R at the end: pa [pa:], draw [drO:], sofa [s3Uf@], idea [aI'dI@], Anna [An@] etc. However, an automatic phonological process is likely to be more successful in the long run than a rule which requires the speaker to recall the orthographic form of the word to decide how it should be pronounced in a given context. So despite the angry protests of linguistic pedants in "Letters to the Editor", the rule came to be applied wherever its condition was satisfied, even if a word had no final R in its spelling:
Joanna-r-is a nice girl.
I had no idea-r-of that.
The Shah-r-of Persia.
I [sO:r Im] at the p[a:]ty.
Asia-r-Australia-r-and Africa.
Law-r-and order.
I saw-r-a few nice draw-r-ings there.
The best-known city in Nevada-r-is Las Vegas
A sofa-r-and a table.
Of course you should not imagine that speakers who use this INTRUSIVE (non-historical) R always say idea[r] for idea and law[r] for law The [r] is inserted ONLY before a vowel, NOT, e.g., in "my idea was different", "it was my idea!", or "it's against the law").
Hope this helps,
PS. I've decided to start a separate phonetic/phonological e-group called phoNet. I'll post more details later. -- P.
> Mark:
> I've never quite assimilated
the lectures as to why this happens.

> Glen:
> Elaison plus
generalisation, I'd imagine. The final phoneme drops out of use
> except
to break up two side-by-side vowels (just as in French). Then,
generalisation sets in and all side-by-side vowels are seperated with this
> phoneme rather than the usual glottal stops or semivowels.