When a word with a vowel in word-final position is followed immediately across a word boundary by another word that has a vowel in word-initial position, the two words may be linked by the insertion of an /r/ sound. Consider the following phrase.
|more over||/mɔ əʊvə/|
The first word more has the vowel /ɔ/ in word-final position. This is immediately followed by another word over that has a vowel in word-initial position, i.e. the vowel /əʊ/. Under these circumstances, with one vowel following another, across a word boundary, the two words may be linked by the insertion of an /r/ sound, i.e.
|more over||/mɔ əʊvə/||→||[mɔ̃ːɹ əʊːvə↓]|
Of course, this particular liaison is only apparent in varieties of English, such as standard British English, that do not allow /r/ in syllable-final position. In varieties of English that do allow syllable-final /r/ the above liaison would not necessarily be noticeable, as the word more may already be pronounced with a syllable-final /r/, i.e. /mɔr/. However, another example drawn from standard British English should make the principle of liaison clear:
|father of the bride||/fɑðə ɒv ðə braɪd/|
Consider just the first two words of this phrase, father and of. The first word father has the schwa vowel /ə/ in word-final position. After the word boundary, the immediately following word of also has a vowel in word-initial position. In this environment, with one vowel immediately following another across a word boundary, the two words may be coupled by the insertion of the sound /r/, i.e.
|father of the bride||/fɑðə ɒv ðə braɪd/||→||[fɑːðəɹ əv ðə bɹaɪːd̥]|
Here are some more examples.
|lend me your ears||/lɛnd mi jɔ ɪəz/||→||[lɛ̃mb̚ mɪ jɔːɹ ɪəːz̥]|
|law and order||/lɔ ænd ɔdə/||→||[lɔːɹ ə̃n ɔːdə↓]|
|here and now||/hɪə ænd naʊ/||→||[hɪəːɹ ə̃n nãʊː]|
We can summarize this process with the following statement.
Word-final vowels followed by word-initial vowels may be linked with /r/.
Liaison is a feature of the speech of most speakers of standard British English. The insertion of /r/, as exemplified, is sometimes referred to by those who adhere to a prescriptive grammar, and hence a prescriptive phonology, as intrusive-r. This value-laden label again reflects an artificial notion of what constitutes so-called ‘good’ speech and what constitutes so-called ‘bad’ speech. For descriptive phonologists, it is sufficient to merely describe the processes that are commonly used by native speakers of a particular language without making judgments about notions of correctness.
In the spirit of this non-judgmental approach, we will now consider another process that operates at word boundaries – elision.