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On Wednesday, February 4, 2004, at 05:36 AM, John Cowan wrote:

> Nik Taylor scripsit:
>
>> Chinese (Mandarin, at least, I believe other languages) have both.  The
>> inventor of Volapuk was simply mistaken on the "r" issue.
>
> Well, Mandarin does have /r/, but it is nothing like [r],

Indeed not.  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).
> which is
> probably what he was expecting.

I imagine so. The European /r/ is represented by /l/ in loanwords, in fact.

> And the other Sinitic languages
> don't have anything resembling /r/ at all.

Yep - but the lack of difference [l] and [r] is not a South-Asia thing -
it's found in many of the African languages, where the development of two
distinct phonemes /r/ and /l/ is fairly recent and due to borrowings from
Arabic and European languages, and is not observed by all speakers.

Ancient Egyptian did not distinguish the sounds and IIRC in late
inscriptions
where Greek names are written, the Greek /l/ is rendered |rw|.  Indeed, I
assume
its for this reason the ancient sound is transcribed |r| rather than |l|.

ObConlang. The sounds will not be distinguished in BrScB either - tho it
seems
unavoidable in BrScA.

Ray
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