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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Intrusive /r/

As you are probably aware, the Third year of my studies is upon me, and I am taking it very serioulsy. So seriously, in fact, that in addition to the usual academic research tools - Wikipedia, Twitter and what some guy down the pub thinks, I have started to use books. And not Len Clancy, or that guy who writes about the SAS either - good as that literature is. No some of the books I am using are to be found in the library.

I had thought that the library at University was like the library anywhere else - mostly fiction. As we buy most of our (fiction)books from Amazon I have not previousy bothered with any of the other floors of the library other than the anthropology section on the seventh floor, which I assumed (ie the seventh floor) was the non-fiction section of the library.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that ALL the other floors of the library were also non-fiction. There is almost a whole floor devoted to languages, for example. This was a huge surprise. I imagined that most languages were taught by the dictaphone technique and didnt think that anyone would bother writing any books about them because until you've actually learned the language, a book is pretty pointless. Once you have learned the language, the next obvious step is that you would start to read fiction and Amazon is perfectly good for this, so the need for loads of book titles that no-one understands is beyond me.

Nevertheless, I decided to roam this section of the library to see if there was anything worth reading, and discovered a book on linguistics which features an article on dialect acquisition. That article features these very words:

"A well-known categorical rule of SEE is R-lessness, the elimination of non-prevocalic /r/ in words like summer, water, north..........blah, blah .....shows that the Canadian youngsters.... have made [my italics] very little progress in acquiring R-lessness."

Literally stunning. Incontrovertible Proof, at last, that the brilliant anthropological/sociolinguistic observation I used to make is fact! Canadians DO add "r' to every single word they speak. And if a word already has one 'r' they add few more just to make sure no-one forrrrgets. Of course the brilliant theory this is all contained in doesnt end there. It goes on to explain that the reason Canadians do this is guilt and shame at leaving out other perfectly acceptable letters from words - like the 'i' in aluminium, for example, or most of the correct letters from 'donut'. . Linguistically speaking, who'd 'a thunk it?

1 comment:

Grasshopper said...

Errrrrrrrrr....I'm not surrrrrre how to rrrrrrespond to this post.