French R

Bob   Sat Aug 04, 2007 9:47 pm GMT
I can roll my R, I can do the English R, but I'm having trouble doing the French R. when I try to do it, it sounds like "ghgh" with a gargling sound. I can't pronounce "rire" at all. :(
How can I overcome this difficulty?
furrykef   Sun Aug 05, 2007 2:30 am GMT
I can't really do it either. Even though I'm not studying a language that uses this sound, it kind of bugs me, because I like to make weird noises with my mouth, so I find the notion that there's a sound that I "can't" make a bit unsettling.

- Kef
greg   Sun Aug 05, 2007 8:31 am GMT
Bob : « (...) I'm having trouble doing the French R. »

Ça n'a aucune importance : tout le monde te comprendra → la qualité intrinsèque du phonème /R/ = /ʁ/ n'est pas un trait distinctif phonologique.

Autrement dit, ton /R/ = /ʁ/ peut être réalisé comme suit :
[R] = [ʁ] → à la "française" (prononciation dominante)
[r] → roulé (les vieux à la campagne)
[x] → à la "germanique" (caricature de la pseudo-prononciation "allemande")
[r\] = [ɻ] → à "l'anglaise"
[w] → à "l'antillaise"

L'essentiel c'est que ton /R/ = /ʁ/ ne fasse pas penser à un /b/ ou un /t/, par exemple.

<railler> {verhöhnen ; escarnecer} # <bailler> {gähnen ; bostezar} # <tailler> {schneiden ; tallar}.
OïL   Sun Aug 05, 2007 9:49 am GMT

if your native language is Spanish I suggest you repeat <Guadalajara> trying to bring the 'j' and 'r' sounds increasingly closer to each other. And that's it.

Otherwise Greg is right, any available rhotacism will do. Using an English approximant or an Italo-Hispano-Slavic trill will not impair intelligibility in any way.

Flemish people in Belgium often use their Dutch guttural [x] sound and/or a trilled [r] when speaking French, even switching between both within a single sentence, and nobody minds.

It seems that in ancient times everybody —at least in Europe— was only using rolled 'r'. Modern English and French 'r' didn't appear prior to early 18th century.
Now the throaty uvular sound, the so-called French 'r', is dominant in France, Germany and Denmark and seems to be expanding in Sweden and Holland.
It has a great future!
Furrykef, you have to know it before it's too late.
Jérémy   Sun Aug 05, 2007 9:54 am GMT
You say you can't pronounce "rire". That's funny because the reverse is true for me in English with one particular word: I can't pronounce "rural" without sounding like I'm eating and speaking at the same time ...

What I'm going to say is probably not very appetizing. But in order to pronounce the French R, try to do the same thing as if you're going to spit: before you spit, you catch your mucus at the at the back of your throat. It's pretty much the same sound. If you can do that, then you should be able to pronounce the French R, except it's less harsh that when spitting lol.
Jérémy   Mon Aug 06, 2007 11:11 am GMT
Where can I find the phonetic alphabet that is used on this board ? I'm not familiar with it so I can't figure out what you're talking about actually lol. Can you tell me ?
Jérémy   Mon Aug 06, 2007 11:30 am GMT
Found it. It's X-SAMPA . In fact I didn't even know it was a real phonetic alphabet lol I thought it was just symbols used on this board for convenience. I'm only familiar with IPA.

The thing is it is not easy to "imagine" what it sounds like just by reading the description of this or that symbol. I can't tell you if it's right or not that some Southern French varieties use the uvular trill cuz I'm not sure what it sounds like lol. Is it like the German word "ach" (exclamation), with a harsh guttural "r" sound ?

By the way there is no schwa (or any similar sound) at the end of "cercle". At least not as long as the word is pronounced in isolation or without any linking phenomenon with the following word. It is [sERkl]. You do pronounce the "e" only in "Le cercle que j'ai dessiné", for example. But final "E"s are often deleted in coloquial speech anyway.
OïL   Mon Aug 06, 2007 3:02 pm GMT
"I can't tell you if it's right or not that some Southern French varieties use the uvular trill cuz I'm not sure what it sounds like lol. Is it like the German word "ach" (exclamation), with a harsh guttural "r" sound ? "

No. The uvular trill is the French (+ German + Danish) 'r'.

I think Josh meant 'alveolar trill', i.e. the "rrrrrolled 'r'", which is slowly disappearing in France. It is still heard in the extreme South, especially in the Narbonne-Carcassone-Toulouse area, but no longer in the urban centers. Some old farmers in the West and in Bourgogne still use it but all in all it has become a rural rarity :-)

Same phenomenon in Quebec BTW.
And, quite strangely, in Corsica too. Italian visitors are shocked to hear the locals speaking their Italian dialect with a French 'r', something just unthinkable in Italy.
Guest   Mon Aug 06, 2007 5:54 pm GMT
There is no problem to not use the so-called "uvular" 'r', since all other kinds of 'r' are understood. the rolled 'r' used to be native way of speaking not so long time ago and still in some places by some ederly people. anyway is understood 100% by everyone and is as much correct than the other.

"It is still heard in the extreme South, especially in the Narbonne-Carcassone-Toulouse area, but no longer in the urban centers"

not only- I even tend to think that it was more spread in northern regions . A lot of old peoples in northern regions used to roll their 'r'. but not most of them are very old.
OïL   Mon Aug 06, 2007 7:36 pm GMT
BTW there's a beautiful Italian word to exemplify the difference between a double alveolar trill and a (±) single flap (like Sp. <perro> ? <pero>):
furrykef   Wed Aug 08, 2007 1:45 am GMT
I think I figured out how to pronounce the uvular "R"... I have no idea what a native speaker would think of it, but I'm pretty sure I have the basic idea now. I just needed to find a good sound clip of it.

This page and the sound clip (in the box at the right) are what I used:

- Kef
Guest   Wed Aug 08, 2007 1:48 am GMT
you can record yours and post it here
Jérémy   Wed Aug 08, 2007 9:24 am GMT

This is the right place of articulation. Good starting point in order to pronounce it properly. I just think that the R sound in the sound clip on Wikipedia is too harsh for French. In the sound clip it sounds like this R is kind of "scraping" his throat.


the problem with your sound clip is that your R is pronounced all alone, which makes it difficult to "understand" it properly. I think I need it in a word, for example.
Jérémy   Wed Aug 08, 2007 9:31 am GMT
Here are recordings of mine:

- I am first imitating what the man says in the sound clip on Wikipedia, then I pronounce the same thing with what is a "normal" French R for me. So that you can see the difference between the two "R"s.

- Then I am uttering the verb "parler". Here again, I first pronounce it using the "R" of the man on Wikipedia, then I pronounce it normally. Big difference. I really don't like the R on Wikipedia, it is much overpronounced. Must harm your throat too lol.

- Finally, a series of "rural" for those who would like to try to pronounce it properly ;)

The three MP3s are in a zip file:
furrykef   Wed Aug 08, 2007 1:02 pm GMT
No, that's not quite the same sound that was used on Wikipedia... that's considerably harsher, especially in the "parler" example. I don't hear any voicing in the "parler" example, either.

The "real" French R's don't sound voiced to me either, not that I doubt you're pronouncing it correctly. When you say "ara" with the softer R, it actually sounds like English "aha" to me, only very subtly different...

BTW, my understanding was that it's the English word "rural" that was presenting difficulty, not the French word.

- Kef