Rhotics (was: Pharingials, /l/ vs. /r/ in Southeast Asia)
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, February 7, 2004, 18:05|
On Friday, February 6, 2004, at 10:21 AM, Andreas Johansson wrote:
> Quoting Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>:[snip]
>> And I completely perplexed by rhotic plosive unless by that term you mean
>> what I
>> call retroflex plosive (and half a century ago were often quaintly called
>> stop' in texts books).
> Some books seem to use the terms "rhotic" and "retroflex" interchangeably
> I've seen Swedish /r/+dental series described as "rhotic", and Am Eng's V+
> sequences as "retroflex vowels".
Exactly! However, retroflex is a more well defined term IME. For example,
I've never come across the French uvular trill, uvular voiced fricative &
uvular approximant pronunciations of /r/ described as 'retroflex', tho
they have been (and are) called 'rhotics'. Indeed, I'm finding it
difficult to see (or hear) what the trilled [r] of Italian & Welsh has in
common with the uvular approximant common in modern northern French, other
than that both are voiceless.
> 'Cerebral stop'? Explanation of origin of that term?
'stop' of course was the old 19th century term for what we now commonly
call in te anglophone world a 'plosive' and the French call an 'occlusive'
(the term is also occasionally found in English). As for 'cerebral'......
On Friday, February 6, 2004, at 05:47 PM, Benct Philip Jonsson wrote:
> At 17:57 6.2.2004, Andreas Johansson wrote:
> Quoting Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>:[snip]
>>> Sloppy translation of the Sanskrit term for 'retroflex'.
>> Ah ...
>> A better translation would be?
Yep - the term was coined by 19th cent. linguists who had discovered the
retroflex plosives of Sanskrit. Books explained the term (if they bothered
with an explanation) as meaning the tip of the tongue was curled up and
back, pointing towards the brain :)
On Friday, February 6, 2004, at 04:43 PM, Mark J. Reed wrote:
> On Fri, Feb 06, 2004 at 06:14:43AM +0000, Ray Brown wrote:
>> But 'rhotic' I find is itself a pretty vague term and people seem to use
>> fairly subjectively.
> The category of sounds we call "rhotic" is a family-resemblance category.
> That is to say, all rhotics have something in common with other rhotics,
> it's not always the same "something". Nevertheless, such seemingly
> sounds have been represented by the same letter of the Latin alphabet
> they are perceived in some sense as "the same sound".
But that is surely a historical accident. They are written |r| because
that's the way the Romans wrote a certain sound (probably [r]) and as the
sound changed different people simply continued to use the same letter.
From that point of view, yes, literate people of various different
countries think that these are all variants of the "same sound".
But would an pre-literate group who had a apically trilled [r] among its
inventory of sounds perceive a uvular approximant in a neighboring group,
speaking an unrelated language, as 'the same sound' if that neighboring
language lacked [r]?
When my elder grandson, who has always been the more fluently bilingual of
the two, was much younger he pronounced French with a uvular trill (it's
become more of voiced uvular fricative now as it makes its way, I guess,
towards a uvular approximant) but spoke English with the normal alveolar
approximant of Southern British urban English. To him they were two
different sounds. It's only since he's learned to read that he has made
the connexion 'French R' ~ 'English R'.
As far as I can see (and here) the only thing that connects this group of
different sounds together is that fact that these sounds are all
diachronical developments of PIE /r/.
On Friday, February 6, 2004, at 08:51 PM, Dirk Elzinga wrote:
> On Friday, February 6, 2004, at 01:16 PM, Christophe Grandsire wrote:[snip]
>> Indeed. IIRC (someone better versed in acoustics can correct me if I'm
>> wrong), all sounds called "rhotic" have something in common (I have in
>> my head the phrase "low second formant", but it's probably wrong :)) > )
> It is wrong, but you're close; a lowered third formant is the cue for
> rhotacization. A lowered second formant is the cue for backness (more
> precisely, it's the difference between the second and first formant).
I'm sure I'm not the only one on this list who is not au_fait with these
terms 'lowered second formant' and 'lowered third format'. Could you
And does 'lowered third formant' mark out rhoticity specifically or are
their other characteristics that actually do set parameters to this term
which still seems vaguely defined to me despite one or two protestations
that it is not vague. If it's not vague, then by definition it can be
I await enlightenment :)
"A mind which thinks at its own expense will always
interfere with language." J.G. Hamann, 1760