An unusual ‘intrusive’ r


We’re all used to the so-called intrusive r in English – the ‘r’ pronounced after a word ending in /ɑː, ɔː, ɜː, ə/ when the following word also begins with a vowel. A few days ago, I heard one which was new to me, although perhaps it has just passed me by until now. Mark Easton, the BBC’s Home Editor, was talking about the possible eviction of travellers from Dale Farm in Essex, and he used the phrase ‘dénouement of …’

The intrusive r between these two words was unusual for me, as he clearly used a French-type nasalized vowel at the end of the first word: /deˈnuːmãrəv/. (Apologies for using /ã/ – I’m not sure how to add an accent immediately above a vowel.) I’m not aware that I’ve ever heard a nasalized vowel followed by an intrusive r before. If he had used a final /ŋ/, which the EPD allows as a possible English pronunciation – although neither ODP nor LPD gives this option – then an intrusive r would have been impossible.

I haven’t examined any of the literature on English pronunciation, but I don’t recall this possibility being mentioned. No doubt someone reading this will be able to point me to a reference.


  1. Our younger grand-daughter – living near Florence and effectively bilingual at an early stage (she’s 3 in November) – produced some unexpected linking ‘r’ phrases when we were there last month, including ‘I’m on my [r]own’, no doubt from hearing her mother say ‘Do it on you [r]own’.

  2. I have come across a small number of speakers in NZ who quite regularly use intrusive /r/ after /aʊ/. So, for example, “now and then” gets pronounced as /naʊr ən ðen/, but it’s not just in “set phrases”. One acquaintance produced “Oberammergau in….” with an intrusive /r/.

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