On Thursday, February 5, 2004, at 04:18 PM, Javier BF wrote:

> [Ray Brown]
>> The |r| of Pinyin is actually a voiced alveopalatal fricative.
>> To some it sounds more like French 'j' than any rhotic, hence in the
>> Wade-Giles
>> system of Romanization (common in anglophone countries before Pinyin was
>> adopted),
>> the sound was spelled |j|, e.g. Pinyin _rén_ = Wade-Giles _jen2_ (man,
>> person, people).
> Well, I don't know about other Sinitic languages, but
> Mandarin initial |r| _is_ actually a rhotic sound.

I did say "to some"; ans surely the long used Wade-Giles system is fairly
obvious testimomy to that.

For my part, I have no problem with the Pinyin representation of |r|.
But 'rhotic' I find is itself a pretty vague term and people seem to use it
fairly subjectively.

> As you can hear, it isn't just a retroflex [z`], but has
> also a perceptible vibratory component (-> rhoticity).
> That is, the sound is not simply a "voiced retroflex
> fricative", but a "voiced retroflex _rhotic_ fricative".

Whatever that means. If 'rhotic' can cover the American and
southern British /r/ as well as the apically trilled /r/ of the Welsh,
Scots and Italians, the uvular trilled /r/ once heard in France and the
French uvular approximant, it conveys a pretty wide meaning; in any case
retroflexion itself is surely an example of so-called 'rhoticity'.  The
vowels of standard American, rural dialects of southern England and both
rural &
urban dialects of south west England are called rhotic often enough in
YAEDTs on this

> This aspect is one of the many flaws of the IPA chart,
> which doesn't clearly show that rhoticity and laterality
> are _not_ in opposition to degree of closure (plosive/
> fricative/approximant/degrees of vocalic openness), but
> are separate articulatory parameters, and thus we have
> "normal" laterals (i.e. lateral plosives), lateral
> fricatives, lateral flaps, "normal" rhotics (i.e. rhotic
> plosives), rhotic approximants, rhotic vowels, etc.

Some languages, e,g, the Dravidian languages have a 'retroflex lateral',
which, I guess, is a 'rhotic lateral'.

To me the "normal" lateral is the lateral approximant of the initial sound
English _lay_ and French _lait_; and the "normal" rhotic consonant is the
trill of the Italians, Welsh & Scots Highlanders inter plurimos alios.
(Tho my
own "normal" /r/ is the southern English alveolar approximant)

I'm puzzled by lateral plosives and rhotic plosives.  Lateral fricatives &
affricates I both understand and can pronounce easily enough. But lateral
puzzles me? What exactly is blocking the pulmonic airstream to cause the

And I completely perplexed by rhotic plosive unless by that term you mean
what I
call retroflex plosive (and half a century ago were often quaintly called
stop' in texts books).

> fricative). Also Czech |r^| is a rhotic fricative, a
> voiced alveolopalatal rhotic fricative.

I'm very well aware of the Czech sound, as well as the Polish |rz| and of
similar sounds
in some Gaelic dialects. That's precisely why I didn't include myself when
I said "To
_some_ it sounds.......".

But the whole argument really boils down to what is and is not meant by
'rhoticity' and
IME the term does seem to have vague & subjectively set parameters.

Both Javier and I can agree we hear r-coloring in the Pinyin |r|, whose
voiceless partner is
written |sh| (I think |sr| would have been better  :)  But the fact is
that the Chinese
have clearly found the /r/ in borrowings from European languages closer to
their /l/.

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