Odp: [cybalist] Odp: Balto and Slavic Rs.

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 2021
Date: 2000-04-03

----- Original Message -----
From: Sergejus Tarasovas
To: cybalist@egroups.com
Sent: Monday, April 03, 2000 10:10 AM
Subject: RE: [cybalist] Odp: Balto and Slavic Rs.

Sergei writes (concerning the similarity between Polish and Russian allophones of R):
Similar in what sense? I've never heard of uvular allophones in Russian (except for the dialect of St. Petersburg's aristocracy in the early XX c. like that of Nabokov, Vertinsky etc); as for de-trilled r in some positions, I should consult a phonetical reference, but for my own speech I'm sure - it's always trilled.

I meant the typical Polish realisations, not my aberrant uvular trill. Do consult a phonetic reference book if you've got one within easy reach. My impression is that Russian /r/ may be occasionally "de-trilled" between vowels and after consonants (except, perhaps, when a stressed vowel follows), but I haven't carried out any systematic observations. It may be difficult even for a trained observer to distinguish some kinds of taps from brief trills involving 2-3 cycles, but spectrograms A voiceless trill is certainly used in Russian word-finally after consonants, as in Polish (try saying Piotr in Russian).
Some Polish aristocrats and snobs also had fancy ways of pronouncing /r/ -- most often imitating Parisian French R, which is a voiced velar continuant rather than a genuine uvular trill, such as mine. A uvular trill is acoustically quite similar to an apical trill, but may sound "sharper" because it's de-trilled much less readily. Some provincial accents of French employ this sound: Edith Piaf very often pronounced her R's that way.

By the way: is it easy for a native speaker of Polish to learn to pronounce Russian palatalized r?

Many Polish learners of Russian find it difficult to synchronise the palatal gesture with the trill and tend to produce [rj] (a sequence which occurs in Polish) rather than [r']. I have no problems with [r'], but then <tongue in cheek> they pay me for being able to pronounce anything </tongue in cheek>. (My English R is exactly what it should be, not a uvular trill.)
P.S. I attributed a tapped R in post-consonantal position to "some varieties of Irish English". It was one of those things one says in haste. On second thoughts, I'd only say that some speakers of Ulster English have a tap or a trill after /t/ and /d/ (pronounced as dentals), as in tree or drum, but generally Irish /r/ is a retroflex continuant, also in grow or bring. But some English accents, e.g. Scouse (Liverpool) do have a tap in such words, and a tap (not quite identical with US/Canadian tapped T/D) is also very common in RP after th, as in three, through. Maybe we should open a special list devoted to phonetic problems; on the other hand, such stuff has a bearing on some IE issues (rhotacism in NW Germanic and Latin, retroflexion and R/L confusion in Indo-Iranian, etc.).