Pronunciation of the French "r"

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by katerpudy, Jul 1, 2012.

  1. katerpudy Member

    United States of America
    German - Germany
    I have always been interested to know why French seems to be the only language within the Romance language family that (in its standard form) does not trill its "r's", but uses a uvular pronunciation similar to that in standard German.
    Can anybody give me an explanation for this phenomenon?
    Thanks i n advance!
  2. janpol

    janpol Senior Member

    France - français
    dans bien des régions (SW, Sarthe, Mayenne, Bourgogne...) le "R" est roulé
  3. Uncle Bob Senior Member

    British English
    Perhaps the answer lies in how linguistically influential the Franks, who didn't rule over Spain and Italy, were.
  4. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    Doesn't Portuguese also have that sound?
  5. All in One Senior Member

    The French R [ʁ] used to trilled [r] as in the other Romance languages and Latin. The issue on when exactly it ceased being trilled and began to be uvularized is very much disputed but miscellaneous sources seem to concur that the change commenced in the 17th century.

    This R grasseyé was initially regarded as a mispronunciation.

    before becoming popular in the nobility until it gradually spread throughout the nation. In the 19th century, the aristocracy in Saint Petersburg spoke French and I heard some locals still pronounce the R sound as it was back then. It's maybe why R isn't trilled in Germany any more either.
    Until the late 1950's, I think, it was a uvular trill [ʀ], the sound you can hear in Edith Piaf or Jacques Brel's songs. The trilled R [r] is still common in some rural areas and considered as typical of them.

    Wiki has a map showing where guttural R's are common in Europe.

    @Rallino Yes it does but I couldn't for the life of me tell why...
  6. katerpudy Member

    United States of America
    German - Germany
    In Portugal, I think, they also pronounce a uvular type of "r" if it is at the beginning of a word or within a word while written with two "r's", for example: rua, guerra, terra.
  7. katerpudy Member

    United States of America
    German - Germany
    I know that, but I was referring to the standard French pronunciation.
  8. katerpudy Member

    United States of America
    German - Germany
    Thank you very much for your help!
  9. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    See also this related thread.

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