Vocalic R in French ([ɐ])?

cetait

Member
English
I haven't read about this, but just from my own personal observation, are R's at the ends of syllables, particularly when next to a vowel? I haven't seen any phonological research about this but then again I can say that for other French stuff too, plus I have also noticed that languages that used the uvular fricative like German and Luxembourgish also use a vocalic R in the same circumstance, though it seems unlike what it would be in French if true, it wouldn't be mandatory and just dialectal since I can still hear people who clearly make a fricative R but others who clearly do not. But in modern songs and speech from France I often times don't hear a uvular fricative or a consonant sound for that matter in such circumstance

So examples would be like with words such as venir, merci, cherche would be (or rather, could be) -> [və.niɐ] , [mɛɐ.si], [ʃɛɐ.ʃ]

Thoughts?
 
  • berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I know what you mean and I have asked myself the same thing. I have come to the conclusion that it is an artefact of singing. In spoken language it practically never occurs and as a German it sometimes happens to me that I vocalize my Rs in syllable coda. This has occasionally caused people not understanding the word. So, I don't think native speakers are prepared the encounter R-vocalization.

    This is of course a totally unscientific observation.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    No, I don't believe R is vocalized in France even in the east. When Luxembourgers do it occasionally, it gives the impression of a very thick accent and can be ridiculed.
    What does happen is the R can be weakened and devoiced by some speakers in final position. So you can hear pour /pux/ and par /pax/ with a faint sweet pronounciation. But that is not universal and can vary. It's not even regional. I heard one conversation where one woman said finir /finix/ and the other answered /finirr/. But /finiɐ/ would be foreign sounding.
     

    Swatters

    Member
    French - Belgium, some Wallo-Picard
    If anything, voiceless uvulars (fricative, but also trills and fricative-trills in Belgium) are an Eastern thing, while more lenited voiced approximants are common in central dialects. I suspect this [ʁ̞] is what the OP's interpreting as a vowel, but it's hard to tell without examples.

    I's noticed /r/ vocalisation in my own speech in a few contexts, but they're rather limited (unstressed /arC/ sequences which end up as [ɐ:C])
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I's noticed /r/ vocalisation in my own speech in a few contexts, but they're rather limited (unstressed /arC/ sequences which end up as [ɐ:C])
    But it would never go so far as to merge minimal pair like arme and âme, right? Because that's what's happening in German.
    I suspect this [ʁ̞] is what the OP's interpreting as a vowel, but it's hard to tell without examples.
    Quite possible. I have had debates with English speakers here in WRF about [ʁ̞] vs. [ɐ] (in German, not in French, though). They often don't hear a difference where I do. These sounds are indeed difficult to distinguish.
    If anything, voiceless uvulars (fricative, but also trills and fricative-trills in Belgium) are an Eastern thing, while more lenited voiced approximants are common in central dialects.
    In certain positions, like in front of a voiceless consonant as in porte, I would say r-devoicing is quite a widespread phenomenon in all French speaking countries (at least those in Europe). Wouldn't you agree?
     

    Swatters

    Member
    French - Belgium, some Wallo-Picard
    But it would never go so far as to merge minimal pair like arme and âme, right? Because that's what's happening in German.
    It wouldn't you're right, there's a clear prosidic and quantitative distinction between, say, armature and âme mature (with the /ar/ of armature being shorter than the /a:/ of âme, to be clear, but longer than the /a/ of amateur).

    In certain positions, like in front of a voiceless consonant as in porte, I would say r-devoicing is quite a widespread phenomenon in all French speaking countries (at least those in Europe). Wouldn't you agree?
    Right, I mostly meant that Eastern European dialects extend this devoicing to more contexts, most commonly word-finally, but also to some where there's no phonological motivation for devoicing to occur, like intervocally or before voiced obstruents.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Right, I mostly meant that Eastern European dialects extend this devoicing to more contexts, most commonly word-finally, but also to some where there's no phonological motivation for devoicing to occur, like intervocally or before voiced obstruents.
    In pausa (at the end of an utterance), final r-devoicing exists in France too, though not as regularly as in front of voiceless consonants. E.g. here you hear it quite clearly with three (gwen_bzh, Clador06 and Domigloup) of the six speaker pronouncing the word noir in isolation.
     

    cetait

    Member
    English
    But it would never go so far as to merge minimal pair like arme and âme, right? Because that's what's happening in German.
    I actually wondered this myself, and personally what I assumed was that it would be distinguished by vowel length maybe

    If anything, voiceless uvulars (fricative, but also trills and fricative-trills in Belgium) are an Eastern thing, while more lenited voiced approximants are common in central dialects. I suspect this [ʁ̞] is what the OP's interpreting as a vowel, but it's hard to tell without examples.

    I's noticed /r/ vocalisation in my own speech in a few contexts, but they're rather limited (unstressed /arC/ sequences which end up as [ɐ:C])
    I say three words here, with and then without the [ɐ] to try to showcase the differences. It's at least what I assume to be [ɐ] when pronouncing.
    https://www.speakpipe.com/voice-recorder/msg/l35yf5zuh6a634au

    As has already been noted, it doesn't seem widespread/mandatory like in Luxembourgish or German, but dialectal and can vary wildly in French, but I often times don't even hear a voiceless consonant either.
     

    cetait

    Member
    English
    But it would never go so far as to merge minimal pair like arme and âme, right? Because that's what's happening in German.

    Quite possible. I have had debates with English speakers here in WRF about [ʁ̞] vs. [ɐ] (in German, not in French, though). They often don't hear a difference where I do. These sounds are indeed difficult to distinguish.
    I have a question to you about this. Would the difference between [ʁ̞] vs. [ɐ] be analogous to [j] and , or basically about how vocalic they are? Because from what I'm aware of, if you lower a fricative it essentially becomes a vowel, but I did just think it may just become semi-vocalic rather than completely vocalic and thus [ɐ].
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    cherche = ʃɛʁʃ

    noir = nwaʁ

    merci = mɛʁsi
    venir = vəniʁ
    fermer = fɛʁme (here the final r is devoiced)
    For me the /ʁ/ is very French. Perhaps I am missing your point.

    From my experience of teaching English to French people, my advice is Native speakers can be pardoned for mispronunciations, as a second language speaker you are unlikely to be. Folks will simply think you are mispronouncing, rather than assume some high level of authenticity on your part.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I have a question to you about this. Would the difference between [ʁ̞] vs. [ɐ] be analogous to [j] and , or basically about how vocalic they are? Because from what I'm aware of, if you lower a fricative it essentially becomes a vowel, but I did just think it may just become semi-vocalic rather than completely vocalic and thus [ɐ].
    You mean if day would be [deɪ] or [dej]. Yes, I would say that is similar. There is a continuous transition from one to the other.
     

    clamor

    Senior Member
    French - France
    I have a question to you about this. Would the difference between [ʁ̞] vs. [ɐ] be analogous to [j] and , or basically about how vocalic they are? Because from what I'm aware of, if you lower a fricative it essentially becomes a vowel, but I did just think it may just become semi-vocalic
    I think I don't get it. I'd say that since [ʁ̞] is uvular, it would be more likely to correspond to [ɑ̯]. It is an approximant. It means the tongue is closer to the other articulator than in vowels (furthermore there is no vowel so back in the mouth), but further than in fricatives.
     

    cetait

    Member
    English
    I think I don't get it. I'd say that since [ʁ̞] is uvular, it would be more likely to correspond to [ɑ̯]. It is an approximant. It means the tongue is closer to the other articulator than in vowels (furthermore there is no vowel so back in the mouth), but further than in fricatives.
    Am I missing something here? I thought that diatric meant lowered rather than non-syllabic. At least according to guides online I see, ◌̝ is raised, and ◌̯ is non-syllabic.
     

    cetait

    Member
    English
    Yes, that is the sign @clamor used.

    Edit: Cross-posted.
    oh I was looking at the wrong letter. I thought he was talking about [ʁ̞] and not [ɑ̯]; didn't pay attention to that diatric in his post.

    So it does seem that it's agreed that [ʁ̞] becomes a vowel but maybe that it's not fully voiced and is actually a semi-vowel? Or am I missing the plot here?
     

    clamor

    Senior Member
    French - France
    As an approximant^^
    It is to say, something between a fricative and a vowel (in terms of ''narrowing'' between the articulators).
    Maybe someone else could explain it better.
     
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