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/r/-deletion in the context of a sentence

If two words end up as adjacent in the context of a sentence and the left-hand one ends in /r/, the latter may be subject to deletion. This kind of /r/-deletion appears to constitute one pattern together with the one found with compounds. It is the subject of this topic.


Deletion of /r/ in the context of a sentence is a variable process. There are contexts in which it is quite common, or even obligatory, and others in which it is (very) rare, or absent. The conditioning factors are the following:

  • The right-hand member of the word pair must begin with a consonant (with the exception of /h/).
  • In case /r/ is preceded by a long vocalic sequence (a long vowel or a centring diphthong), its realization is optional.
  • In case /r/ is preceded by a short vowel or a rising diphthong, it is virtually always realized.
  • In case /r/ is preceded by schwa, it does not delete, whether or not it shows up as a syllabic consonant (which, for independent reasons, cannot delete).

It is clear then that /r/-deletion in compounds and in the context of a sentence constitutes one pattern.

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The final /r/ of monosyllabic particles generally deletes, which is in line with the behaviour of such particles in compounds (see the left-hand member of the compound is an /r/-final particle). The [r]-less particles may show up in contexts which do not trigger /r/-deletion, viz. preceding words beginning with a vowel or /h/, preceding a pause, and in sentence-final position. Besides, most particles have a short vowel, which does not favour the deletion of their final /r/ either. Finally, it is not only particles ending in /r/ which usually drop their final consonant. All in all, it seems reasonable to treat the side by side occurrence of particles with and without a final consonant as an instance of allomorphy (see Function words with and without final consonant).