Articulation of English /r/
The link below provides what it supposed to be a definitive answer to the question of how the English /r/ is articulated. It claims that for the American /r/ there is little to no raising of the front of the tongue towards the postalveolar region. I find this type of articulation quite challenging. Of course, I'm not a native speaker, but I would like the opinion of those who are, in particular with respect to the American /r/.
The American /r/ is different to the British /r/? That's news to me. Does that mean an Irish /r/ is unique too?
Soon someone will claim that other consonants vary as well.
Uh, yeah ... the R's are the main thing that separate American and British speakers!
I doubt the miniscule difference in realisation of /r/ between American an British dialects would matter. It's transcribed as [r\] across the board. Choosing a rhotic or nonrhotic model is more important.
Uriel and Brennus:
The point in the essay is not that there is a difference between the rhotic American and non-rhotic British pronunciations in words such as "bird" and "letter", a difference that we all know about. The point is that the articulation of the "r" in words such as "red" "wrong" "arrive" (i.e. words in which both accents produce an 'r') is still different.
In your own production of /r/, do you raise the tip of the tongue towards the postalveolar region? That is what I do, but apparently not what Americans do.
>>I think you're right. Australians notice it too and I heard an Australian rock singer being interviewed on the radio recently who said "In Australia, we call American English the -er language." <<
The same could be said for Irish but that's a matter of rhotic vs nonrhotic, where in American the R consonant is pronounced on the end of -er words, whereas in Australian it's omitted or "dropped". But the consonant itself exists in both dialects.
From the outset, Gabriel was questioning only the quality of the consonant. It would be like comparing the production of L or M consonants, so a "phono-linguist" would be better at dissecting such to observe any trivial differences.
Thanks for the link, Gabriel. On that article I'd say my 'r' is best represented by the first and second drawings of figure 26.1 most of the time.
If anyone's interested I recorded myself saying the examples from the article. As far as I'm aware my 'r' is a pretty typical way of articulating American 'r' in its various positions:
Oh, by the way, here's the list of the words/phrases I pronounced. As I said before I got those examples from the article Gabriel linked.
tower of london
powers of darkness
the car arrived
take care of yourself
the idea of it
No, there's no curl of the tongue in an American R.
After listening to Kirk's recording, I'm baffled that people would find a significant difference in the pronunciation of R. As an Australian, the only differences I note in his recording are due to its rhotic nature and the quality of the vowels, not the consonants. So I can't imagine hearing the average Londoner saying "veddy" for the word very, that someone mentioned above, which implies that I should say "veddy" — bizarre stuff.
The article Gabriel linked to states "American and British English have two quite different articulations" concerning the pronunciation of R, but the only British dialect I can think of for such is Scottish. How different is quite different, then?
Somehow this R business has been gravely exaggerated.
All of the above is ignoring a type of realization of /r/ present in some North American English dialects known as the "bunched 'r'", where there is no real coronal articulation present (or if there is some, it is inconsequential) and all significant articulation is dorsal. Such includes realizations such as [M] or the [R] here. Note that such may very well coexist with an alveolar or postalveolar realization of /r/; for example, in the dialect here, [r\`] (which is postalveolar aka "retroflex") is found after labials and coronals and is in free variation with [R] utterance-initially.
Note that I meant [M\] by [M] above.
<<After listening to Kirk's recording, I'm baffled that people would find a significant difference in the pronunciation of R.>>
Well it's generally agreed that while there are various ways of articulating English 'r' they usually sound pretty similar. I remember learning in my phonetics class a few years ago that both the retroflex and nonretroflex versions of English 'r' still tended to sound nearly exactly the same despite the differences in articulation.
<<As an Australian, the only differences I note in his recording are due to its rhotic nature and the quality of the vowels, not the consonants.>>
Similarly, I notice few to no differences in 'r' articulation when I hear other English accents. What I notice is where 'r' doesn't show up in nonrhotic accents, not how it's produced when it does show up.
<<So I can't imagine hearing the average Londoner saying "veddy" for the word very, that someone mentioned above, which implies that I should say "veddy" — bizarre stuff.>>
Yeah that'd be very old fashioned RP. Even the Queen doesn't really do that anymore (but she used to, if you listen to old recordings where she has a 'tap r' in words like 'ceremony').
<<The article Gabriel linked to states "American and British English have two quite different articulations" concerning the pronunciation of R, but the only British dialect I can think of for such is Scottish. How different is quite different, then?>>
Well it is true the articulations are noticeably different but this is an interesting example where two different articulations still produce nearly the same sound. It's kind of counterintuitive because different articulation usually means a different sound but this is one interesting example where that's not really the case.
Thanks Kirk, I always appreciate recordings that clarify theoretical discussions. I'll post my own delivery of those words soon to see if they differ noticeably from yours.
As for the 'tap r', I heard it some years ago from an English University Professor. I remember him talking about how the salary of a scientist in Uruguay compared to that of a scientist in Britain. I had to hear the word salary twice to realize what he was talking about, because, to my ears, it sounded like 'saladdy'.