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back to "rhotic miscellany" (was: Need some help with terms: was "rhotic miscellany")

From:Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Date:Sunday, November 7, 2004, 18:39
<mounts pulpit-- it's Sunday after all>

Charlie wrote:
> > --- In, John Cowan <jcowan@R...> wrote: > > > > >But others don't. I, for example, pronounce "r" with alveolopalatal > > >articulation: the tip of my tongue is behind but not touching my > > >lower teeth, while the blade of the tongue approximates my hard > > >palate. > > > > Finally! A description of my "r." I've been sitting here these past > > few days saying, "rrrrrrrrrr," & trying to figure out where my tongue > > is. This is the description that works, only to add that the sides > > of the blade are in contact with the inside of my upper teeth. I > > don't think I've every heard an American use a retroflex "r." > >
Well, close inspection and introspection are the only ways, sometimes, to figure out what's going on in our mouths :-)) My only revision to the above (pl.) would be to add: the tip of the tongue is in mid-air and is probably curled up/back _to some degree_. Is our /r/ retroflexed? Try these experiments (valid at least for Murkins): Say "cod" or "hod"-- notice where the tongue tip ends up. Now say "card" or "hard". Unless I miss my guess, you will see that the "d" is now articulated noticeably further back. You will also feel, I think, that the d of cod etc. involves more of the tongue blade, whereas the d of card is more apical Same with "lodge" vs. "large", no? (And needless to say, same with final -t and [-tS] words.) Or contrast "cotter" and "Carter" or "lodger/larger"-- 2-syl. words work better, since we tend to drawl monosyllables, leading to an intrusive [@^]. IMO the experiment should show that our /r/ is indeed retroflexed, in that it shifts the POA from alveolar to post-alveolar, even if not to the hard palate where true retroflexes are articulated. Just for fun, if you can isolate those apical post-alv. t's and d's, try using them in words where no r is involved. I guarawntee, it won't sound right-- almost Indian. (One of the characteristics of Indian Engl., as Prof. Catford liked to point out-- with a killer imitation(1)-- is their use of retroflexed t/d in place of our alveolar ones.) ------------------- [k&l`'k6t`6 'k4IkIt` kl6b] -------------------------------- Not to confuse the issue, but note that [r\] (IPA inverted r) is not precisely specified as to dental/alv/post-alv. in the chart at -- note too that it's the symbol used for "consonantal" (pre-vocalic) r, as in the ex. [r\i.&kt] "react" under "Suprasegmentals". No argument there, I think. It's post-vocalic, semi-vocalic r that's the problem. In close phonetic transcriptions, it is often indicated as a _modification_ of the vowel, esp. of [@]/[3] (stressed/unstr. resp.), so ['k_hIl@^], [b3^d] "killer, bird". Since [@^, 3^] are unitary vowel sounds (no transitional movement of the tongue as in "are, ear"), it suggests that in other post-voc. environments they're functioning as glides and producing a sort of diphthong-- just like superscript _U and _I in e.g. [a_U, a_I]. Thus in a close phonetic transcription of "card", perhaps we should write [k_ha_@^d]; if we drawl the word, we get almost 2-syl ['k_ha.@^d], just as drawled "cloud" will come out [kla.ud]. Obviously, to an audience of Engl. speakers it isn't necessary to be that precise-- consequently the various shorthand ("broad phonetic") variants [br\=d] (or even [br=d] though that's bad phonetics, OK as phonemic), [kIlr\=], [kar\d]. Note that in non-rhotic dialects, [@^] simply loses its retroflexion but survives as an [@] offglide, as in "beer" [bI_@], NYC-ese "sure, shore" [SU_@] (the vowel is actually somewhere between [U] and [o]) or compensatory length (Tristan's Australian [bI:], RP "court" [k_hO:t]-- quite on a par with the dropping of the glide-[j] is Southern US, "I" [A:], "fire" [fAr\]. ======================================= Sally Caves wrote:
> > I just can't duplicate what John is describing and still pronounce "car" > the > way I do it. So there's no curling up of your tongue tip towards the roof > of your mouth? It stays behind your lower teeth? Is there any curling at > all, John? When I try to duplicate that, without the curl, I get not only > a > sound that changes the quality of my "a," but an "r" that sounds like > "caw" > with "r-coloring," ...(snip) Maybe these distinctions are so subtle that > it's hard > for others to hear it when they aren't listening for it.
Your last sentence is the operative one :-))))
> > I'm saying "car" now and holding it. The back of my tongue drops down > (for > the back vowel). The sides of my tongue are half way between my upper and > lower back teeth, and the tip is turned up behind the alveolar ridge and > pointing towards the hard palate. Let's try it with a front vowel, "ear": > tongue rises in the mouth to accommodate the front vowel. Back and sides > of > the tongue are touching the back teeth. To get the "r" ("ear" is > definitely > a kind of diphthong for me), the whole tongue drops slightly, but not as > far > as in "car," and tip of tongue curls up behind the alveolarpalatal region > to > point at the palate. If I raise the tip of the tongue, it touches that > tickly part of my hard palate that arches up and away from the post > alveolar.
This IMO is an entirely accurate description, and matches my own.
> > But everybody's mouth is different. Mine is long and narrow (which is why > I > had to have such extensive orthodonture: lots of teeth yanked because of > over crowding)
Ho ho, you too, eh?
> Maybe that's the problem. We're assigning parts to the mouth, but every > mouth is different.....(snip) > I guess I'm frustrated that I don't > completely grasp where these areas in my > mouth are: "post alveolar, alveolar palatal, and retroflex region.
True; from teeth to velum is a continuum; and the tongue is infinitely mobile. Everyone's mileage differs.
>I have > been entrenched in thinking that retroflex means the curling of the tongue > UP.
True; but that entails some slight backing too. Cf. ____ vs. ____/
>Those Americans who bend it up and back, which is what I think some of > you are describing in using the term retroflex approximant, do exist, but > we > associate that "r" with certain parts of the south, or parts of the > midwest.
"Stage" or parodied Irish too, now that I think of it. Yes, some retroflex more than others..........
> > What we need in CXS is a better representation of the variations in the > American "r." Judging from what I've heard, these sounds have been > neglected. >
Sometimes I wonder if those 19th C. French/German/British phoneticians weren't just a bit flummoxed by Engl./Amer. "r" when it came to devising the IPA :-)))) <dismounts pulpit>