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Re: rhotic miscellany (was: Advanced English + Babel text)

From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Thursday, November 4, 2004, 14:49
Hi, Ray.  Long time.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ray Brown" <ray.brown@...>

> On Wednesday, November 3, 2004, at 05:11 , Sally Caves wrote: > > [snip] >> I've never heard a uvular trill [R\] among francophones; > > I have. The priest - he was a youngish man - who married my son & > daughter-in-law (she's French) almost a dozen years back had a most > vigorous uvular trill. It was, of course, used by Edith Piaff (je ne > regrette rien....) - but it is very rare now and usually considered the > mark of speakers even more antique than me :)
:) Antique is a state of mind that I don't think you succumb to. I've never heard it in France, but if it's true, it's quite wonderful.
> Actually my elder grandson (who is more or less bilingual) used to have a > delightful uvular trill, but his 'French R' has now become the familiar > uvular approximant (there's practically no friction with the modern urban > French R). I'm told - tho I don't know how true this is - that this is > typical of young children: to start with trilling the uvular but gradually > to lose the trill.
Interesting. And here I have to work hard to achieve it. I'm not happy with approximations; it has to sound like a little motor in the back of your throat. I find I can produce it best before back vowels, when the back of my tongue is relaxed and lowered to accommodate the tip of the uvula. It vanishes immediately if I raise my tongue to pronounce a front vowel. Then it becomes an approximate. I'm very interested in all of this, because I'm thinking of giving Menarilihs a uvular trill that is very pronounced.
>> rather, the >> fricative [R] or the unvoiced fricative /x/, especially after "t": >> "trois, >> " >> etc. The uvular trills I'm familiar with occur in Hebrew (in fact I was >> just practicing it with a group of Israelis the other night), and among >> certain German speakers. > > You also find it, as I expect you know, among certain north Walian > speakers.
Actually, I didn't know that. I stayed strictly in Swansea, with occasional forays into Aberystwyth. The only "gog" I knew was a tall chap who was so socially frightening that I didn't have many conversations with him. I knew about the peculiar pronunciation of "y" in the north in words like dydd, and some of the differences in vocabulary. I knew that there was some rivalry and sparring between North and Southwalian Welsh folk, and lots of jokes poked by one at the other, but I didn't know about the uvular trill in North Wales. How interesting! I've been to Caernarvon, Bangor, and Rhyl, but I must have been too dazed by the beauty of it all to note this particular feature. :) People in Wales would almost always start speaking to me in English when I started a conversation in Welsh, noting, I think, my limited vocabulary (as j.'mach' wust describes in his post!). I think bilingual people will slip into the language they know is most facile for both parties; they become self-conscious before a hesitant speaker.
>> Many Germans, I gather, don't trill, but merely >> fricatize the "r"; > > I gather this is so. At one time the trilled lingual r was also > widespread. > That was the /r/ used by Hitler, as you hear on ancient newsreels. It may > be - I don't know - that this accounts for its demise in the last half > century.
Ah, I suspected that. What a terrible shame!
>> but I have a teasing friend who tells me that I sound >> French when I pronounce German. That may well be; my training has been >> mostly in French and Spanish. >> >> The history of |r| and its developments in not only France but Germany >> and >> England is an interesting and I think quite complex one. Maybe somebody >> else, here, can unpack it. As I understand it, and I may be wrong, /R/ >> in >> French was a fairly recent development--seventeenth/eighteenth century-- > > This is true. There is no real doubt that the Vulgar Latin /r/ was the > lingual trill which is still retained in modern Italian. There is no > reason to suppose that it was any different in france. Certainly the > change of intervocalic and, sometimes, final /r/ to /z/ in the 16th & 17th > centuries (hence _chaire_ --> chaise, and the feminine of -eur being -euse > and the dropping of -r so often in words ending in -er) is clear testimony > of its linguo-dental nature.
That makes perfect sense. So the flap turned into an alveolar fricative.
> The uvular R could not have become general > till the 18th century and did not, apparently, become general in Parisian > speech till the beginning of the 19th century. Once it had become > fashionable in Parisian speech it spread not only to the rest of northern > France but also into the Netherlands and into Germany.
I suspected so. It's one of those changes, like the Great Vowel Shift, that will always be slightly mysterious. Usually, it seems, the ruling class in a large city will determine pronunciation (London dialect, for instance, becoming the Received Standard English), but sometimes rural changes will catch on. I think the GVS was not elite--there is evidence that it was resisted mightily in the sixteenth-century (I have read some pamphlets that inveighed against it), but it was just so overwhelmingly used. Like our "lie/lay" confusion that is fast becoming standard, alas, in the US. I hope "nucular" doesn't catch on and become dominant.
>> and >> until then the common way to pronounce it was as a flap, as in Spanish, >> or a >> front trill. I know from studying Old French that it was presumed to be >> flapped or trilled. > > More likely trilled - tho we can't rule out the flap occurring also. That' > s one of those things that we'd probably need time-travel to resolve :)
If only. I assume it must have been flapped since, as you say, it was a dialect that emerged from Latin.
> Certainly the lingually trilled /r/ is still alive in the south of France, > especially in rural areas.
Yes, that I knew. What would be really interesting is to know when the French ceased to pronounce some of its endings and why, and in what order. You mention the dropping of the "r" in -er and -ier below, but what about the disappearance of final "t" and "s"? The spelling, I've read, is fourteenth century. What started to drop out, and why did the spelling conventions persist? I would imagine this took place over a long time, hence the fierce clinging to the older spellings. But of course, we English speakers still insist on our precious "bought," hundreds of years after the "gh" was no longer heard in this word.
>> But the change, I have read, came about with changes in >> England and Germany, especially the dropping of final /r/ in England. Is >> this true? > > I doubt very much that the dropping of final -r in English has anything to > do with French. The dropping of final -r in the -er infinitives and words > ending in -ier is comparatively recent in French and results from the > sound having first become [z] as explained above. In the case of English > it is almost certainly the "de-retroflexion" of "de-rhotacization" of > rhotacized (or reflexive) vowels, the r-colored vowels typical of American > English and still common in rural dialects of southern England & the > English Midlands as well as urban dialects of south west England.
I agree. I find it interesting, though, that "r" was changing rapidly in several countries during approximately the same time: eighteenth-nineteenth century.
> Whether something similar happened in German, I do not know. I am not > aware of rhotacized vowels in any German dialects, but they may occur. > Certainly I know from personal experience that southern Germans don't > pronounce syllable final /r/ as a consonant but tend to produce either > long low vowels or centering diphthongs similar to those found in the RP > of south-east England. I've always assumed these were more recent > developments and resulted from the weakening of the already weak uvular > approximant. But I may well be wrong. Can any of German conlangers tell > us whether German once had rhotacized vowels as in American English and > the English of rural southern England?
Not me.
>> BTW, how do you express in Sampa IPA all these different pronunciations >> of >> |r|? > > We use a modified form of X-SAMPA known as CXS (Conlang X-SAMPA :) > > [r] = apical lingual trill
"Apical" meaning "tip of the tongue"?
> [4] = linguo-dental tap or flap (Spanish single /r/) > [r`] = retroflex tap > [r\] = the dental/alveolar approximant ("English /r/")
meaning American retroflex r?
> [R\] = uvular trill > [R] = uvular approximant and/or voiced uvular fricative > [X[ = voiceless uvular fricative
What does [x] mean, then?
> The symbol ` is used to show rhotacized or r-colored vowels: [a`], [@`], > [i`] etc.
As in "idear"? "He had an idear I liked, and that was to go to Africar in the winter." My Swansea barrister friend would say this, and my Bostonian friend says it as well.
>> In Teonaht, |r| is a retroflex tap. You curl the tongue back in the >> mouth and bring it forward across the back part of the alveolar ridge. > [r`] :) > >> Does >> anybody know of a natural language that does this? > > Hindi/Urdu has both the retroflex flap [r`] as well as the dental flap [4] > . I believe it is quite common in the languages of the Indian > subcontinent.
Aw shucks! :) Thanks... Sally I'm glad to see your website, Ray. Is this relatively new? Of course I've been off Conlang for over a year.
> Ray > =============================================== > > > =============================================== > Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight, > which is not so much a twilight of the gods > as of the reason." [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]


Chris Bates <chris.maths_student@...>
Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>