Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Dangerous Liaisons at Downton Abbey

 –This text was first published in French on 21 February 2014 –

In one episode of season 4 of Downton Abbey, Lady Mary is heard to say: “papa r’and mama”.

This kind of linking phenomenon is called “intrusive R”. It appears after the vowels /ɑ:/, /ə/ or /ɔ:/ when followed by a word beginning with a vowel sound:
China rand India
law rand order
pasta rand sauce

This linking R can even be heard within a word between a root morpheme and a suffix as in drawring room.

This kind of sandhi is a characteristic of Estuary English, the variety of English spoken along the Thames river and estuary though it reaches beyond.

It seems that intrusive R comes from the popular speech of London. Here is Márton Sóskuthy’s conclusion of his synthesis on the emergence of intrusive R:

All sources from before 1870 describe the phenomenon as a vulgar feature of Cockney pronunciation that should be avoided, as opposed to sources from around the turn of the 20th century, which all admit that it is present even in the pronunciation of educated speakers, and take a much less negative attitude towards it.

According to sociolinguist Peter Trudgill, intrusive R is now part of standard English pronunciation.

A similar phenomenon exists in Quebec French, especially as spoken in Montreal: it is intrusive L, as in ça l’arrive souvent. According to linguist Yves-Charles Morin who published a study on linking L the frequency of non etymological L’s might depend on social class (this pronunciation might be heard more frequently in impoverished neighbourhoods) and perhaps also on age and geographical origin (this pronunciation seems to be peculiar to Montreal French, at least it seems to have started there).

In Quebec French intrusive L is stigmatised whereas in British English intrusive R is now considered standard.

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