For example, the r in "better" is not pronounced in British English. How about the "r" in "a better idea"?

  • You mean in Southern English, or RP, or something. Northern English, Scottish, and the English of Northern Ireland don't do what you're talking about because they're all rhotic. Please do not use British to mean RP. – tchrist Feb 6 '15 at 3:49
  • Let's say, RP. What is "all rhotic", any example? – George Feb 6 '15 at 3:51
  • Rhotic speakers say the r of better no matter what comes after it. Non-rhotic speakers only say it in liaison as you might put it. – tchrist Feb 6 '15 at 4:06
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Good of you to mention that some rhotic speakers have intrusive-r as well. I don’t rightly understand it, but it really does happen. Examples I know of are from speakers raised in rhotic areas that border non-rhotic areas in North America, but I don’t know that that’s why. Something that I think different from this is how certain idiolects feature an intrusive-r only in specific words and derived terms: the well-known but perhaps not well-explained example of wash, washed, washing, Washington comes to mind, perhaps especially in older (but still educated) speakers. – tchrist Feb 6 '15 at 13:33
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    Isn't a simpler definition [covering internal and final r's] that non-rhotic speakers only pronounce 'r' immediately before a vowel? So a rhotic speaker sounds all the r's in 'turn', 'pepper and salt' and 'salt and pepper', while a non-rhotic speaker only sounds the 'r' in 'pepper and salt'. – David Garner Feb 6 '15 at 14:20

Rhotic English is a term to describes varieties of English in which orthographic 'r' is usually pronounced, even at the end of a syllable. In non-rhotic varieties of English - such as Southern Standard British English - orthographic 'r' is only pronounced if followed by a vowel. It doesn't matter if there is a double /r/ or not in the orthography:

  • car / ka:

  • car park / ka: pa:k

  • car alarm /ka:r əla:m

  • carrot / kærət

Of course, whether this is actually a form of liaison or not depends on your theoretical phonological background. In order to be liaison, one would have to believe that there is some kind of underlying /r/ in the words where we don't pronounce it. This may or may not be true.

Hope this helps!

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    Presumably, it must be true that there is an underlying /r/ to those who do not have intrusive r’s in their speech. Otherwise, I can see no way of explaining minimal pairs like whoring vs. (humming and) hawing, etc. Claiming that there is no underlying /r/ only really works, as far as I can work out, with speakers who do have intrusive r’s. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 6 '15 at 15:13

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