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What _is_ rhoticity? (wa laterals (was: Pharingials etc))

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Thursday, February 12, 2004, 6:16
On Wednesday, February 11, 2004, at 02:33 PM, Javier BF wrote in reply to

>> A tap would >> make sense to call a very brief stop, altho given that many languages do >> distinguish between taps and stops, it seems logical to distinguish >> them. > > But we're mixing two different paramenters here: > Degree of closure (plosive/fricative/approximant) > is _not_ opposed to rhoticity (non-rhotic, tap, > trill) - those are two different articulatory > dimensions. Rhoticity is about "pulseness".
What? So American & southern (urban) British /r/ and the northern French /r/ are not rhotics! A few emails back I asked what was the common factor for all the sounds commonly called 'rhotic'; I said it seemed a vague term and seemed to me to be determined diachronically rather than by any synchronic measure. Then Dirk explained: "Rhoticity is defined as a lowering of the frequency of the third formant band" [9th Feb.] When I queried whether Dirk was referring only to rhotic vowels, he replied: "Consonants will have an effect on adjacent vowels; if that effect is to lower the third formant, then the consonant itself can be taken to be rhotic as well (or to have rhotic properties)." {also Feb. 9th] So what is rhoticity? Are you saying only pulseness lowers the frequency of the third formant band? That neither the Anglo-American (post-)alveolar approximant nor the French uvular approximant lower the frequency of the third formant band? Or are you dismissing Dirk's definition and stating that only pulseness is the characteristic of rhoticity? And where is the pulseness of rhotic vowels? Or was I right when I wrote on the 6th Feb.:"But 'rhotic' I find is itself a pretty vague term and people seem to use it fairly subjectively."? [snip]
> (*) I'm deliberately avoiding the symbol [r\] since > it is unclear whether it is supposed to have inherent > rhoticity
Oh yes, it's supposed to.
> or not (it's r-like shape seems to suggest > an inherently rhotic, but in the IPA chart it is > placed within a row where all the other members are > not taken to have inherent rhoticity and no explicit > mention as for its rhotic status is made)
On my copy of the IPA chart _no_ row has the property 'rhotic' explicitly mentioned.
> and because > the symbol for rhoticity doesn't distinguish between > the single-pulse and multiple-pulse kinds,
I suppose by single-pulse you mean flap & multiple-pulse you mean trill. What makes me think your being a wee bit Hispanocentric here :)
> so even > if I used [r\] for the non-rhotic approximant and > [r\`] for the rhotic approximant, I would still > need a way to represent the approximant tap
How on earth can a tap or flap (yes, I do know some phoneticians distinguishes these two) be an approximant. The former sounds involve a rapid _contact_ between two organs of articulation. An approximant means there must be _no_ such contact since an approximant is produced when one articulator _approaches_ [hence the name 'approximant']another but the narrowing is not sufficient to cause friction (for then the sound is a fricative), still less, of course, to produce closure and plosion/implosion. To my simple mind, either there is contact or their isn't. If there's contact, it ain't an approximant. If there's not contact, how can the sound be either a flap or a tap?
> Hunh? Approximant and fricative taps are not rare > in Spanish at all, they are perfectly valid and not > uncommon allophones of /4/.
Approximant and fricativepronunciations may well be common allophones of [4] in Spanish, but that doesn't per_se make them flaps (or taps). Good grief! Here in Britain we have both the apical trill and voiced uvular fricative (inter alia) as regional variants (allophones) of /r\/ - does that, then, make these sounds variants of the alveolar approximant? Of course not!
> Just don't touch the > alveolar ridge with the tip of your tongue when > pronouncing the tap and you get an apico-alveolar > fricative/approximant tap
Sorry, if you don't touch the alveolar ridge, you don't make a tap any more than if your drumstick doesn't touch the the drumstick you don't tap it. "Tap" does actually a meaning; if one is going to play Humpty-Dumpty with phonetic & phonological terminology, then rational discussion becomes virtually impossible. [snip]
> instead of towards the alveolar ridge. You do that > all the time when you pronounce English initial r's. > If you don't pronounce them like a flap, that is, > quickly enough to make them look like a pulse, the > sound does no longer feel rhotic
"no longer feels like" is a _subjective_ judgment. In other words, you're just confirming what I wrote on the 6th Feb.:"But 'rhotic' I find is itself a pretty vague term and people seem to use it fairly subjectively." ?
> I can record a sample of all the sounds I've just > described, if you need to hear them with you own > ears to be convinced.
I know what they sound like, which is why I found it difficult to define 'rhoticity', till Dirk gave a definition. But you seem to say nothing about that. As far as I can see, basically what you are arguing is that if it occurs in Spanish as a variant of |r| and |rr| the sound is a rhotic, otherwise it isn't. Ray =============================================== (home) (work) =============================================== "A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language." J.G. Hamann, 1760


Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...>