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   Phonetics 1 - Assignment 2

The following are descriptions of RP vowels.
    Give the symbol for each vowel and a word containing that vowel (not the keyword!)

1    lax front mid (between high-mid and low-mid)    

2    tense back low    (or better,  tense back open

3    lax back fairly high (= fairly close)

4    diphthong rising from low front to high front (i.e. from open front to close front)

5    diphthong rising from centre mid to fairly high back

Mark in the positions of these vowels on the vowel chart. Use one chart for the vowels in 1-3, and the other for the diphthongs.

(a) Explain the difference betwen rhotic and non-rhotic accents. You should try to answer this question without refering to the spelling of the words (since spelling comes after the fact!).  Assume you are talking about the speech of children or illiterate people.Your answer should include the following:

  • Under what conditions does /r/ appear in non-rhotic accents?
  • How does this differ in rhotic accents?
  • In what areas of the world are rhotic and non-rhotic varieties of English spoken?

(b) In non-rhotic accents, the sound /r/ can appear and disappear again in a word (so-called "linking R"). Describe exactly under what conditions (in what phonetic environments) this happens.

(c) Explain "intrusive R". This time, you may refer to the spelling!
Is intrusive R wrong in any way? Why is it said to be wrong?


First, some common mostakes:

"r reappears if the next word begins with a vowel."  How can r reappear if it wasn't there to begin with? You are referring to spelling!

"In non-rhotic accents the r is not pronounced unless it is followed by a vowel." If you are talking about r in a word where r is not pronounced, you must be talking about the written form. You  are referring to spelling!

Here is an aswer that would receive full marks:

In non-rhotic accents /r/ does not occur unless the next segment (phoneme) is a vowel (in the same word or after a word boundary). In rhotic accents /r/ can occur without a vowel following it.
If a word or morpheme ends with a non-high vowel (PALM, NURSE, THOUGHT, schwa, or any of the centring diphthongs which end in schwas, NEAR, SQUARE or CURE), and the next segment is a vowel, /r/ may be inserted after the vowel. Usually, this r is already present in the spelling, in which case it is called Linking r. If the r  does not appear in the spelling, it is called Intrusive r and is prescriptively assumed to be wrong.

The question also asked: "Is intrusive R wrong in any way? Why is it said to be wrong?" I give full marks however you answered this question, because I suppose you are entitled to your opinion. Some students insisted that spelling should decide the way we speak, in spite of what I said in class. All I can say is that if millions of people speak in a certain way, and you call it "wrong", then you're not using the word as I use it.

Transcribe into RP OR GA (say which), using the symbols we have learnt so far:

Anger wells in Gordon's parched throat.

(I didn't ask you to include sentences stresses, but I've added them here: