Language is weird and people can speak the same language and even the same words in different ways. If you really listen to people when they’re speaking English, you will hear one sound that really changes between many speakers. That sound is the r sound. There are two major ways that the r sound can change between speakers: the linking r and the intrusive r. Well, what are linking r and intrusive r? I hope to help you with that question in this article.
What is linking r?
Linking r is when there is an r in a word that is usually dropped, but instead it is re-added.
That sounds pretty complicated, but it makes much more sense if you see an example.
In some varieties of English, such as standard British English, the word far would be produced as [fɑː]. American speakers will always make sure to produce the r [ɹ] sound, but many British speakers will not produce this sound. If the word far is spoken in isolation or if it is at the end of a sentence or phrase, British speakers will drop the r.
However, sometimes if there is a syllable right after the word where the r was dropped, then the [ɹ] sound may be added back in.
For example, while the word far would be pronounced [fɑː] in isolation, in the phrase far away the word far would be pronounced as [fɑːɹ]. Doing so would make the phrase flow better as [fɑːr əˈweɪ] would usually sound clearer than [fɑː əˈweɪ].
What is intrusive r?
Intrusive r is a bit easier to understand. Intrusive r is just the edition of an r sound where there usually isn’t one. For example, most English speakers will pronounce the word wash as [wɑʃ]; however, in some dialects, such as dialects in the American south, the word would be pronounced as [wɑɹʃ].
This does not only occur by native speakers of English, but it also happens with English learners. Chinese speakers, for example, like to add [ɹ] sounds where there are none.
I hope this article helped you understand the difference between linking r and intrusive r. I think intrusive r is easier to understand at first, but after listening for examples of linking r, you should be able to understand them better.
What to read next:
If you think this article was interesting and want to learn more about phonetics, you should start with my article explaining the different types of phonetics.