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Thread: English "r". Questions to native speakers.

  1. #1
    vy
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    English "r". Questions to native speakers.

    I had always taught and thought and heard that english R must sound as if one try to say russian R while having a porridge in his mouth.
    Though recently I've got an audiobook "The Lord od the Rings" where the true british actor read the text and often says R almost in the same way as we do it in Russia. Not only in the words of elvish tongue or one of Mordor but also in some english words.
    The same matter I heard on TV in some british performance fragments by Shakespeare.

    Besides I've heard in some songs of Pink Floyd they speak having R's rolling as if they take off someone.

    So my questions are:
    How english R may sound in all the possible cases?
    How may it's pronounciation depend of local dialects?
    Should I persist in R prononciation or maybe it's not very important?
    Does it look too queer to speak english using russian pronounciation of R?
    Did I wrote properly all above? You are wellcome to point me my mistakes.
    The brutes could eat hay for ought I care.

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    Re: English "r". Questions to native speakers.

    What you heard, an apical (post-)alveolar tap, is a "stage pronunciation." However, it is also heard in the ordinary English speech of Scotland and some other parts of the UK, and is familiar to English speakers in other countries as well. It is essentially the same sound as Russian р and it is acceptable to use if you cannot master the pronunciation of r in standard English, a (post-)alveolar approximant (which, to my knowledge, is not heard in other European languages).

    In other words, the Russian р sound is acceptable to use where r is a full consonant: at the beginning of words, after another consonant, and between vowels, e.g.:

    Red [rɛd] (at the beginning of the word)
    Tread [trɛd] (after a consonant)
    Terrible [tɛr ɪb l] (between vowel sounds)

    A more troublesome distinction appears where r is not truly a consonant but a component of a diphthong, that is, between a vowel and a consonant, or after a vowel at the end of a word. In some dialects, this r is pronounced as an approximant and in other dialects, it is pronounced as a neutral sound called schwa [ə] or the preceding vowel is simply lengthened. E.g.:

    Bar [bɑr] or [bɑ:] (r is prounced as r or a is lengthened).
    Bear [bɛr] or [bɛə] (r is pronounced as r or as schwa).
    Beer [bɪr] or [bɪə]
    Bore [bɔr] or [bɔə] or [bɔ:]
    Boor [bʊr] or [bʊə]
    Bird [bʌrd] or [bʌ:d]
    Fire [faɪr] or [faɪ ə]
    Sour [saʊr] or [saʊ ə]
    Better [bɛt ər] or [bɛt ə] (schwa cannot be lengthened nor pronounced twice, so in this case, r is pronounced as r or it is omitted.)

    As a Russian speaker, the second set of pronunciations may be easier for you, but even here, the "Russian" pronunciation is used in Scotland and elsewhere, and will be recognized by English speakers everywhere else.

    In summary, it's not very important which sound or set of sounds you use.

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    Re: English "r". Questions to native speakers.

    My corrections:

    Quote Originally Posted by vy
    I have always been taught and thought and heard that english R must sound as though one is trying to say russian R while having ('a' omitted) porridge in his mouth.
    Recently, though, I've gotten an audiobook The Lord of the Rings for which a true British actor read the text, often saying R in almost the same way as we do ('it' omitted) in Russia, not only in the words of the Elvish tongue or that of Mordor but also in some English words.
    The same (pronunciation ?) I heard on TV in some specimens of Shakespeare performed by British.

    Besides those, I've heard in some Pink Floyd songs that they sing using rolled Rs.

    So my questions are:
    How can English R sound in all ('the' omitted) possible cases?
    How can its pronunciation depend on local dialects?
    Should I persist at the pronunciation of R (this is still slightly awkward) or maybe it's not very important?
    Does it seem too foreign to speak English using the Russian pronunciation of R?
    Did I write all of the above properly? You are welcome to point out my mistakes.

  4. #4
    vy
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    The pronunciation of standard English r seems to be not so difficult to me.
    Though i was surprized to notice that 'Scottish R' is heard only in British speech. Americans are disposed to say standard r everywhere as i know. Even in the word 'harbour'.
    These niceties are very interesting to me. So, thank you, Jeff for this exhaustive explanation.
    May I ask you to tell a little more of this neutral 'schwa' sound? Is that r-like consonant or not?
    I can't hear any consonant at the end if the word 'Bear '. Just a vowel what sounds like a cross between russian А and Э.
    Беа или Беэ
    Is that schwa?
    The brutes could eat hay for ought I care.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vy
    The pronunciation of standard English r seems to be not so difficult to me.
    Though i was surprized to notice that 'Scottish R' is heard only in British speech. Americans are disposed to say standard r everywhere as i know. Even in the word 'harbour'.
    These niceties are very interesting to me. So, thank you, Jeff for this exhaustive explanation.
    May I ask you to tell a little more of this neutral 'schwa' sound? Is that r-like consonant or not?
    I can't hear any consonant at the end if the word 'Bear '. Just a vowel what sounds like a cross between russian А and Э.
    Беа или Беэ
    Is that schwa?
    The pronunciation you have heard is, indeed, [bɛə] not [bɛr]. If you had heard [bɛr], it would probably have sounded something like бэр or even бэрь to you.

    To my ears, schwa [ə] sounds like something between Russian а and ы, but closer to а. A good approximation is the second а in рада or even the э of эскиз. [ʌ] as in 'up' is almost the same sound but [ʌ] is pronounced with the mouth slightly more open than for [ə]. (In reality the distinction is almost meaningless and you can pronounce both of these sounds alike.)

    The Russian language has no equivalent of the non-syllabic schwa which joins with other vowels to form diphthongs. So, the word 'bear' is pronounced as you mentioned but, of course, with only one syllable, which the Russian alphabet cannot show.

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    vy
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    Thank you, Jeff. Now those things are clear to me. As well as i have things to work on.
    The brutes could eat hay for ought I care.

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    You're welcome. Post more questions if you have them. Good luck !

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