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In my study of the pronunciation of English (RP), the sources that I happened to use, means of information of a moment and forgotten or permanent ones such as the Longman Pronunciation dictionary (JC Wells), showed no other concern for the concept of liaison than in the well delimited and straightforward problem of elimination of hiatuses in the particular case of r-ending words. The whole of what one will ever need, as far as I know, so as to manage the problem of liaisons in RP is found on the following extract from the dictionary mentioned above.

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However, what I took for granted for years has been recently challenged by someone who cannot believe that RP is an accent without liaisons, bar the very simple case of the R-liaison. As I was asked to provide a reference to the effect of confirming this fact I could find some new evidence but nothing substantial and even less a set of rules. For instance, this web page (A guide to learning English) has nothing more to offer than an indication of R-liaisons and one more possibility involving t.

more (r)and more / not (t)at all (liaison)

There is confirmation in this glossary (Paul Meier dialect Services) since "liaison" is defined as "the strategy of using the final sound of one word to initiate the following. A defining quality of French speech". It follows from this that the incidence of the concept of liaison on the English language should be negligeable.

It would be the case however that SSB (Standard Southern British) is a term that has replaced "RP". This can be read in the article "The Features of Singapore English Pronunciation: Implication for Teachers" (David Deterding and Robert Hvitfeldt).

Standard Southern British (SSB), roughly equivalent to the older term Received Pronunciation (RP), will be used as […]

It can be found further in this article that SSB is an accent where liaisons have some new importance, new at least from my point of view.

There are many factors that may contribute […]. One is that SSB has considerable liaison between words. For example, in SSB the words 'get up' would usually be said with no break between them.


Question:

Considering RP in its most traditional version and not as what it might have become, is the scheme of liaisons in RP comprising more features than R-liaison?

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    Well, first of all, there usually are no hiatuses between words in non-tonal languages, such as English. There simply are no pauses between the words in a single intonational phrase (musical stretch of syllables). "Liaison" is a mainly phonological concept (i.e. one that deals with underlying forms and rules, the maths of the language). It describes a system whereby the final consonant of a word becomes the onset (the first consonant) of a following syllable, when that syllable begins with a vowel. The phonetic data for English do not support the idea that this happens ... Commented Oct 13, 2020 at 22:25
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    (continued) ... between normal sequences of two words where the first finishes with a consonant and the second begins with a vowel. For example, the string salt everywhere doesn't seem to ave a /t/ at the beginning of everywhere. For example there is no strong aspiration of the [t] there, which is what we would expect if this liaison were happening. However, only in non-rhotic accents, there is a case for supposing that there is an unexpressed /r/ at the end of /some words, which becomes expressed in the phonetics when this /r/ is followed by a vowel. It's reasonable to suggest ... Commented Oct 13, 2020 at 22:29
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    (cont) ... that this /r/ surfaces to become the first consonant of the following syllable. This has nothing to do with hiatuses, but is arguably present because English does not like (or easily tolerate) two consecutive separate vowels. The term liaison is most well-known when used to describe an unexpressed (i.e. silent) word-final consonant, which becomes expressed when a following word begins with a vowel. French has several examples of this, maybe the best known of which is when a word in which an underlying but normally silent word-final /z/ ... Commented Oct 13, 2020 at 22:37
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    (cont) ... becomes audibly expressed when the next syllable begins with a vowel. So, for example, the word les in French, the equivalent of English the for plural nouns, is normally pronounced without any final consonant, /le/. But in les enfants (the children), there is a /z/ between the two words. In the theory of liaison, this would be the first consonant of the word enfants, /le zɑ̃fɑ̃/. Whereas French has many examples of this, this only happens in relation to R in English. And then only in non-rhotic varieties such as SSBE (RP). Commented Oct 13, 2020 at 22:42
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. Could I then elicit from your comments that in RP, according to your understanding of the phonotactics of RP the liaison indicated in my answer for "not at all" is not justified, is not made?
    – LPH
    Commented Oct 13, 2020 at 22:46

1 Answer 1

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I don't believe that not at all is an example of liaison. The British pronunciation of not at all sounds quite foreign to an American, and at all is the one example I know of in British English where a /t/ gets shunted to the next syllable in this way. There may be others, but I believe it only happens in a few isolated phrases, and not as a general rule, unlike the way an /r/ very often gets inserted between a word ending with /ɑː/, /ɔː/, /ə/ and a vowel beginning the following word.

I think an alternative analysis would be that the British have combined the two words at all into one, pronounced /ˌəˈtɔːl/ (and spelled at all).

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