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I am back with another question about pronunciation. I noticed that I pronounce the "r" sound inconsistently when it follows a vowel. For example, in some words I do not sound it, but in others I do. There is no pattern in this, it is solely based on how often I have heard that word pronounced in either of the ways. What I am basically doing is mixing rhotic and non-rhotic pronunciations. I am wondering whether this is common for a non-native speaker and if it would be considered strange by a native.

  • Based purely on personal experience, I think it is natural; some words' pronunciation elides the 'r', while others' do not. I think it also depends heavily on the region and accent. Bostonians famously drop their r's: "Hahvahd," etc. – N. Post Jun 22 '18 at 18:49
  • The 'r' sound varies internationally. The Spanish roll their 'r's and even more for a double 'rr' as in perro. That is with the tip of the tongue against the front teeth. The French pronunciation of 'r' is quite different, it is made with the back of the tongue against the palate. And in some languages they don't use an 'r' so is very difficult for their native speakers to pronounce. – Weather Vane Jun 22 '18 at 19:52
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    Many English dialects don't pronounce a consonantal /r/ after a vowel, but simply lengthen the vowel or add a central vowel offglide. These include RP and many American dialects as well as the majority of Asian Englishes. These are called "non-rhotic" dialects. – John Lawler Jun 22 '18 at 19:53
  • In my country (UK) the lazy 'r' is often used, with the tip of the tongue against the front of the palate, not against the teeth. My family name begins with 'R' so I have to exaggerate the 'R' by rolling my tongue against the teeth to get it across. Either that or the phonetic "Romeo . . ." etc. – Weather Vane Jun 22 '18 at 20:11
  • @WeatherVane: the question was specifically "when it follows a vowel". This is about rhoticity, not about kinds of /r/. – Colin Fine Jun 22 '18 at 21:37
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The Original Poster says that they produce /r/ inconsistently after a vowel. Let's look at two words where there is an orthographic R (a written R) after a vowel:

  • car - /kɑ:/ in non-rhotic English
  • carrot - /kærət/ in non-rhotic English

Notice that in non-rhotic Englishes, there is no /r/ in the first example but there is in the second. This is because in non-rotic English it makes no difference what precedes the R. It could be silence, or a consonant, or a vowel. It doesn't matter. What is important is what comes after the R. If there is a vowel after the R, then it will be pronounced. If there isn't then it won't. Consider the R in car in the following examples:

  • car park - /kɑ: pɑ:k/
  • car alarm /kɑ:r əlɑ:m/

In the first example, the sound after the R in car is not a vowel, but the consonant /p/. It is therefore not present in the pronunciation.

In contrast, the sound after car in the second example is the vowel at the beginning of the word alarm. Therefore, this R is pronounced.

In conclusion, it is not possible to tell from the Original Poster's observations whether they really are mixing rhotic and non-rhotic pronunciations - we would need more data. However, it is entirely possible that they have learned, or picked up, a non-rhotic variety of English.

It is the sound that follows R that is important in non-rhotic English, not the sound that R follows!

  • Thank you for your amazing reply! I think I am mixing them because, for instance, I always pronounce "are", "there" and any other word ending in "re" with a rhotic "r" not with a schwa, whereas in the rest of the words I mostly use a non-rhotic pronunciation. Is this feature encountered in any accent, or is it simply a mix? – user69503 Jun 23 '18 at 8:43
  • @user69503 Do you pronounce are the same in The people are mad and The people are angry ? – Araucaria Jun 23 '18 at 8:48
  • Yes, exactly the same. – user69503 Jun 23 '18 at 9:01
  • Ah, so then you are mixing your accents (which is fine!) – Araucaria Jun 23 '18 at 9:28
  • Would this be considered strange by a native speaker? Are there any accents which have this feature? – user69503 Jun 23 '18 at 9:50

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