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This may sound absolutely crazy but I really need an answer to that.

How do natives pronounce "idea of"

I am not sure if I hear it correctly, but to me, it seems like when natives pronounce 'idea of' they add an extra 'r' to the pronunciation. So I hear something like 'idear of'. If that is true, why do they do that?

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  • I would say (off the record) that most of us Americans would consider the r-sound at the end of "idea" as a regional accent and not as the correct pronunciation. I imagine that most people who pronounce "idear" would agree, as would most people who do not. I don't know what rule explains the fact that some people attach the r-sound to this word but not to other, apparently similar words. But you may have no reason to try to imitate this habit by including r's wherever this accent would. – Chaim Dec 11 '19 at 19:14
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Preliminaries

  • Rhotic & non-rhotic accents: A rhotic accent is one in which the R is pronounced in all contexts (i.e. beginning, middle and end of a word). General American English is rhotic. Non-rhotic accent, by contrast, is one in which the R is only pronounced when it precedes a vowel. Standard Southern British English is non-rhotic.
  • Hiatus: It's the separation of the sounds of two consecutive vowels that occur in adjacent syllables. For example, pronounce idea of as [aɪdɪə_əv] without an intrusive consonant.
  • Connected speech: Connected speech is spoken language in a continuous sequence i.e. a continuous stream of sounds without clear-cut borderlines between words.

Intrusive consonants

In connected speech, we try to link the vowels and consonants in order to provide a hiatus. When a word ends with one vowel and the next word starts with another vowel, it can result in a hiatus, so we put an epenthetic consonants in order to join those words. There are three main types of linking consonants:

1. Intrusive /j/: When one words ends in /i/, /aɪ/, /ɔɪ/, /eɪ/, and the next word begins with a vowel, there's often a glide /j/ between them. For instance, he is is pronounced [hiːjɪz] rather than [hiː ɪz] in connected speech.

2. Intrusive /w/: When one word ends in /u/, /aʊ/, /əʊ/ etc., and the next word begins with a vowel, English speakers are likely to insert an intensive /w/, as in go away, pronounced [ɡəʊwəweɪ].

3. Intrusive /r/: When one word ends in /ə/, /ɔː/, /ɑː/, /ɪə/ etc., and the next word begins with a vowel, most non-rhotic speakers will insert an epenthetic /r/ as in:

  • idea of → [aɪˈdɪəɹəv] (idea/r/of)
  • idea about → [aɪˈdɪəɹəbaʊt] (idea/r/about)
  • saw a film → [sɔːɹəfɪɫm] (saw/r/a film)
  • law and order → [lɔːɹənɔːdə] (law/r/and order)

'Intrusive /r/' is increasingly common in British English. You'll also hear it after proper nouns, for instance, Obama/r/administration, Stella/r/and stellar etc.

Note, however, that when there's an R in the spelling as in far away, the /r/ is called 'linking /r/', when there isn't, it's called 'intrusive /r/'.


/j/ is the 'y' in you, /w/ is the 'w' in wine, [ɹ] is the English R sound as in ring

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This is called an intrusive R, and occurs in some non-rhotic accents of English, such as standard British English. It would not occur in rhotic accents such as a general American accent.

Basically, the final vowel of "idea" (the schwa) is pronounced the same as many words that end with an "R" in English in non-rhotic accents. Thus, when the a vowel follows the word "idea", or any word that ends with a schwa, the "R" is added back in. With many speakers of non-rhotic accents, this occurs with words that never historically had an "R" sound, such as "idea".

There is a Wikipedia article about this phenomenon.

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Eye-dear ov.

Now you have to find out how I pronounce "eye", "dear" and "ov" ...

OK, seriously, idea and idea aren't far off, although I know my pronunciation has a hint of a 'y' between the ɪ and the ə.

Similarly of and of are close enough IMO.

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  • haha, I know about those. but why 'dear' and not 'dea'? Is there a rule? – Maryam Jan 9 '18 at 2:41
  • Also, I have noticed the same thing for "the idea is". I hear them say it as if it is "the idear is" ... – Maryam Jan 9 '18 at 2:44
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    The "r" isn't really there, it's kind of a ... linking sound between the end of the "-ea" of "idea" and the "o-" of "of". Much like the French slip a -t- between some words, or a passing note in music, I guess. Cannot remember the technical term, don't think it particularly matters for this question ... – Will Crawford Jan 9 '18 at 2:47

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