A Dollhouse Linguistic Moment

As any regular reader may know, my television viewing habits have led to more than a few linguistic observations. One of the dippiest may be from the sci-fi drama Dollhouse. Yes this is the one where you can order people to be preprogramed personalities to fit the assignment (which do vary in range). The head of the Los Angeles operation is Adele DeWitt played by the deliciously arch Olivia Williams, complete with a perfectly precise Received Pronunciation British accent.

In one episode, the House (and Adele) become infected with a mind-altering substance which removes inhibitions. We aren’t sure if Adele is infected until she begins asking her in-house geek Topher how people view her persona. Her linguistic observation

Still, you have to admit, I am very…British. I don’t say….[intense concentration here] hard…R’s

Or as we would transcribe in IPA “I don’t say….[intense concentration here] hard…R’s [ha:d a:z]”. On the second viewing, I realized that Adele wasn’t merely informing us of the non-rhotic characer of her dialect, but seriously making an experimental attempt to produce an American style final /r/. Alas, the result was as British as ever.

Fortunately for Adele, her attention quickly turned to crisps, at which point her employee revealed his drawer of inappropriate starches. But I love Adele for wondering, for a brief moment, what it would be like to produce a coda-final /r/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *