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I noticed a few days ago that a CNN International anchorwoman (don't know her name) is pronouncing president Obama's name as "Obamar", with an "R" sound at the end. This is similar to certain people pronouncing the word "idea" as "idear". Is there a name for this pronunciation idiosyncracy? Is such pronunciation acceptable from an anchor at an international news organization?

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    Many different kinds of pronunciation are available for post-vocalic /r/ in different lects of English. There is, for instance, a rule in non-rhotic Boston English lects that adds an /r/ after final unstressed vowels before initial vowels, even when there's no /r/ in the word, like idea or Obama; but only before initial vowels. They wouldn't normally be pronounced with a final [ɹ]. Nov 21, 2014 at 17:49
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    Of course, some folks may intentionally mispronounce "Obama", but there are folks who (to my Midwest US ear) tend to add an "R" sound to many words ending in the "ah" sound. In particular, some BBC announcers seem to do this, so I assume it's a British trait.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 21, 2014 at 17:51
  • @HotLicks YES, good call! The anchorwoman in question is either British or Australian.
    – user40248
    Nov 21, 2014 at 18:44
  • It's an Irish trait that Irish Americans inherit and other Americans may imitate, and non-native English speakers from other parts of the world simulate. For example, "Your reyes are blue, and my reyes are green." That is no qualification for idiosyncrasy, otherwise you would be racist as you would have to call most of people in China, India, France, Germany, Japan or the rest of the world idiosyncratic for the ways they speak English. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiosyncrasy Nov 21, 2014 at 18:47
  • @BlessedGeek > "That is no qualification for idiosyncrasy..." - the qualification I was thinking of concerns a standard for anchors, rather than laypeople. Also, I don't understand how your example ("your reyes are blue...") applies to this case. Thanks.
    – user40248
    Nov 21, 2014 at 18:51

1 Answer 1

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This is an example of an intrusive R, which people who speak non-rhotic dialects (i.e., they tend to drop the r sounds at the ends of words) often insert between a word that ends with a vowel and another word that begins with a vowel. This avoids the need for a glottal stop, which can be a bit awkward to pronounce. Interestingly, the intrusive R happens even when the first word doesn't end in the letter R, as is the case here.

People who don't use the intrusive R typically insert a glottal stop ("Obamaʔis") or simply elide the first word straight into the second ("Obamaaais").

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  • +1 Thank you for a complete and very informative answer. By the way, I wish this site would come up w/ some sort of mechanism to insert sound clips into the answers to allow users to better demonstrate such concepts as glottal stops.
    – user40248
    Nov 21, 2014 at 21:30
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    By the way, I was hesitant about asking my question, but I am glad I did, because now I know this is a feature called the Intrusive R, something I did not know 3 hours ago! Thanks again.
    – user40248
    Nov 21, 2014 at 21:36
  • This is the right answer. I've heard the intrusive R, more than once, in "Australia(R)and New Zealand.
    – Centaurus
    Nov 21, 2014 at 22:55

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