R and ..r

Jemi   Thursday, September 30, 2004, 00:08 GMT
I've learnt to pronounce almost all the sounds of the american english,
but i have a problem pronouncing the r and the ..r.

First of all, when i pronounce words like free sometimes it sounds like fee because i make the r too light,


the other rpoblem i have is that is with words like quarter, meter and sailor.
if i pronounce them with a NY accent, (dropping the final r ) i have no problem, but i can pronounce the schwa followed by an r, can somebody give me any advice?

I have heard that american pronounce words like never as nevr ?
Mxsmanic   Thursday, September 30, 2004, 04:57 GMT
The English 'r' is a postalveolar approximant. You pronounce it by placing the tip of your tongue slightly upwards and behind the alveolar ridge (the ridge just behind your upper front teeth). Raise the sides of your tongue so that air and sound can pass only over the top of the tongue. Hold the tip of the tongue upwards and near the top of the mouth behind the alveolar ridge, but not so close that it produces an audible hissing sound when air passes (that would be a fricative, like 's', and you don't want that). That's an English 'r'.

Many rhotic English speakers (those who pronounce final 'r', such as Americans) pronounce a "syllabic 'r'" at the end of words. This is nothing more than a schwa sound combined with an 'r'. You just pronounce the 'r' normally while making the neutral "uh" sound of a schwa (there are only a few vowels that can be pronounced simultaneously with 'r', and schwa is one of them).

The IPA symbol for the postalveolar approximant 'r' of English is an upside-down, lowercase 'r'. The IPA symbol for the syllabic 'r' is an upside-down lowercase 'e' with a hook on the right side (a schwa with a hook, in other words). If the syllable is stressed (as in word, work, etc.), the symbol may be a reverse epsilon (looks like the digit 3) with a hook; this corresponds to the vowel heard in "bird" when pronounced with a non-rhotic British accent, except that it is combined with the postalveolar 'r'.

Americans routinely pronounce syllabic 'r' in words like better, never, word, etc.

If your 'r' is too light, make sure you're turning the tip of the tongue upward and holding it close to the back of the alveolar ridge (not close enough to hiss, but fairly close). You should have a narrow but not slit-like opening over the top of your tongue if you do it right--you can see this in a mirror if you look closely.
Mi5 Mick   Thursday, September 30, 2004, 05:41 GMT
When Americans write "uh", is this like the vowel in "hurt" (like French "heurte), as opposed to "ah"? Because in my accent "uh" is the same as "ah", as in "part".
Mi5 Mick   Thursday, September 30, 2004, 07:50 GMT
The "flap t" sounds much closer to a 'd' than to the true quality of a 't'. Is the difference just a matter of rhythm?

"Bedder" and "better" (with a "flap t") sound identical, to me at least. Maybe for Americans, the 'e' before "tt" is shorter than that before "dd", and that's about it?
Mxsmanic   Thursday, September 30, 2004, 19:19 GMT
The unstressed central vowel in American English can vary quite a bit in its exact position. "Uh" is usually pronounced [@], but there are many variations; it's not really a word so it need not conform to any special pronunciation.
Interested   Saturday, October 02, 2004, 23:14 GMT
After following some discussion topics I've seen the term "schwa".
Actually I have no clue on what it means. Can anyone help me?
Mxsmanic   Sunday, October 03, 2004, 00:38 GMT
Schwa is a central unstressed vowel, the kind of vowel you hear in English when someone hesitates and says "uh." It is represented in the IPA by an upside-down 'e'.
Jim   Monday, October 04, 2004, 00:55 GMT
Surely the schwa is the upside-down "e" which represents this vowel.