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Andreas writes:

>Quoting John Cowan <[log in to unmask]>:
>
>>  Retroflexion is basically a Beijing regional feature that drops off
>>  as one moves away from the capital, and basically doesn't exist in
>>  most of the Mandarin-speaking area except as an artificially learned
>>  feature.  People who don't have it pronounce sh, zh, ch as s, z, c
>>  respectively, don't pronounce -r at all, and I'm not sure what they
>>  do with r-.  Using -h- as a sort of retroflexion diacritic makes
>>  sense in this context, whereas there is little connection between sh and r.
>
>To continue my wild speculation in this thread ...
>
>Wade-Giles, which is IIRC based on southernly variants of Mandarin, uses 'j',
>and I've seen books transcribing /r/ as [Z]. I'll therefore hazard
>they use [Z]
>for r- in non-retroflex areas.

I was under the impression that WG adopted "j", thanks to French.
Here again, the range is quite broad. /Z/ is acceptable; an
American-English "r" doesn't send the proletariat shrieking across
the horizon; one native-speaker friend even came close to /l/ ("Lao2
le wo3 ba!" = "Rao2 le wo3 ba!" = "Épargne-moi!"). Mine is an
American "r", with the tongue in the retroflex position, with a
little "l" thrown in. I rarely get the fricativeness of a /Z/ in
there, unless I'm reciting the "bo po mo fo."

Kou