Non-rhotic Margaret

sceplog_margaretDay 5 of the UCL Summer Course in English Phonetics brings an afternoon lecture by Margaret Miller comparing the sound systems of English and Spanish. I encourage all SCEP participants to attend, because we learn so much about pronunciation by comparing languages. (Next week we have a lecture from Toyomi Takahashi comparing English and Japanese; SCEP is certainly not about studying English Phonetics in isolation.)

Yesterday’s Quiz Question was: In the name Margaret Miller, the letter r occurs three times, but only one of the three r‘s must be pronounced – which one, and why?

The answer is: the second letter r must be pronounced, because it’s immediately followed by a vowel. SSB is a non-rhotic variety of English in which the sound /r/ is pronounced only before a vowel. So we can transcribe Margaret’s name as /ˈmɑːgrət ˈmɪlə/, with only one /r/ pronounced:

If Miller is followed directly by a vowel, as in Margaret Miller appeared, then r-liaison may occur, with the pronunciation of a linking r:

(I wrote a substantial blog post about linking r, here. It includes lots of audio illustrations of linking r occurring when there is no r in the spelling.)

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