Trebor wrote:
>What are pharingial vowels or consonants?
>Does Chinese have /l/ or /r/, or both? It's claimed that Old Volapük has no /r/ because it's hard for Chinese people to pronounce, but I've seen <rén> given as a Chinese word.
Others will no doubt answer these.  But AFAIK, the r in romanized Chinese represents a retroflexed z or Z-like sound, and isn't considered a rhotic.  <ren> used to be written <jen> in an older system, and shows up in Japanese as <jin> as in gaijin 'foreigner'.
>Is there a 'liquid trend' in southeast Asia, leaning towards one or the other?
Perhaps only the languages of the Sino-Tibetan family? Otherwise I don't see any trend.  Vietnamese has both.  Not sure, but I think Thai and Khmer do.  Of the Malayo-Polynesian langs. in the area, some in the Philippines merged r and l > l, but had [r] as an allophone of /d/, then acquired phonemic /r/ from Spanish and English loans. To my knowledge, all the major languages of Indonesia have both; but some minor langs. of the Moluccan area have undergone very complicated partial mergers of the two sounds.  My favorite language out there has r,l,d,n,N all merged > n