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'r-atics. Sociolinguistic, phonetic and phonological characteristics of /r

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... Rhotic sounds are known for showing high degrees of both syntagmatic and paradigmatic variation both cross-subject within a speech community and in the speech of individual subjects (e.g. Van de Velde & van Hout, 2001). Moreover, /r/ is a sociophonological variable in many speech communities since much of its variation is used by the speakers to index sociological differences and communicative functions (see Scobbie, 2006, for a review). ...
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This study is about the production of singleton and geminate rhotics by young adult Sicilian speakers, whose native languages are Italian and a Sicilian dialect, during speech interactions with different interlocutors. As in many other languages, /r/ works as a sociolinguistic variable in the Sicilian area, conveying social and geographical information about the speaker. We will show that it also conveys information about the communicative and interactional dynamics with peers speaking either Italian or Sicilian dialects. We propose that in the process of selecting the relevant variants of the /r/ variable, the speakers are guided by the socio-communicative context and the phenomena of mutual convergence between interlocutors.
... Across (at least) Germanic European languages seems to be a general tendencies to feature both, rhotic and non-rhotic accents (see e.g. [24,25,28] for German; [12,27], for English; and [21,22,26] for Dutch). ...
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The paper reports findings of a production experiment investigating the realisation of post-vocalic /r/ produced by native (L1) speakers of English and German and late second language (L2) learners of two varieties of English; one rhotic variety spoken in Belfast and one non-rhotic variety spoken in Oxford. The study aims to explore whether there is a difference in the realisation of post-vocalic /r/ produced by native speakers of a German non-rhotic variety spoken in Berlin as a result of exposure to a rhotic or non-rhotic variety of English. Results of an auditory and acoustic analysis of post-vocalic /r/ in the speakers' L1 German and L2 English suggest that exposure to a rhotic L2 variety of English revitalises the post-vocalic /r/ realisation in L1 German whereas exposure to non-rhotic L2-English does not interfere with non-rhotic L1 German. However, this effect cannot be generalised since the phonetic context seem to affect the interference phenomenon.
... Across (at least) Germanic European languages there seems to be a general tendency to feature both rhotic and non-rhotic varieties 3 (see e.g. Ulbrich & Ulbrich, 2007;Ulbrich, 1972Ulbrich, , 2002Wiese, 2001 for German;Heselwood, Plug & Tickle, 2010;Wells, 1982 for English;Scobbie, & Sebregts, 2011;Sebregts et al., 2003;Van de Velde & van Hout, 2001 for Dutch). Although a number of possible articulations has been described for the pronunciation of the approximant /r/, acoustic characteristics appear to be relatively consistent and are identified as a reduction of the spectral space between the second and the third formants (F2 and F3) resulting from a simultaneous rise of F2 and lowering of F3 ( Knight, Villafana Dalcher, & Jones, 2007). ...
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This paper reports findings of an experiment investigating the vocalisation and the realisation of post-vocalic /r/ in varieties of English and German. The study aims to explore whether there are differences in the realisation of post-vocalic /r/ produced by native speakers of a German non-rhotic variety spoken in Berlin as a result of long-term exposure to a rhotic and a non-rhotic variety of English spoken in Belfast and Oxford. Rhotic and non-rhotic varieties of English and German differ in the realisation of constrictive and non-constrictive post-vocalic /r/. The results of an auditory and acoustic analysis of post-vocalic /r/ in the speakers' first language (L1) German and second language (L2) English suggest that exposure to a rhotic variety of English results in the realisation of a constrictive post-vocalic /r/ in their non-rhotic native language, German. However, this effect cannot be generalised since it varies according to the phonetic contexts of post-vocalic /r/. A usage-based approach can explain this variation by taking into account actual creative language use and communicative events, as well as cognitive aspects of language development.
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Whereas sociophonetic of production has received great attention, less is known on how variation in speech is processed and, if and how, this variation brings social meaning. For example, it is not obvious that variation, that we observe in production, is significant to the hearers, and, moreover, little is known on the quantity of variation that we need to construct a social image of the speaker. In this paper we investigate social salience of rhotic degemination in Rome Italian. In particular, the aim is to verify which phonetic cues convey the perception of degemination, and whether this variable is associated with prototypical RI speakers. A perceptive test was spread online, in order to verify if tokens perceived with the singleton rhotic are commonly associated with a particular geographic background. The perceptive test shows that rhotic type plays a major role in conveying the perception of degemination, whereas quantitative phonetic cues are not sufficient per se. Moreover, tokens clearly perceived as degeminated are significantly associated with Rome Italian.
Chapter
All sounds are variable, but some are more variable than others. Does hyper-variation mean a greater disposition for sociolinguistically relevant conditioning, or, alternatively, a tendency for relatively greater noisiness in the distribution of unconditioned variants? Whatever the case, there should clearly be a special interest in the sociolinguistic systemization of those sounds that are so unusually prone to variation that it is difficult to capture them within a simple articulatory and acoustic definition. Such is the case with the sociolinguistic variable (R). About three-quarters of languages have at least one /r/ phoneme (Maddieson, 1984), but since the class of rhotic sounds is widely acknowledged to be very varied, the definition of /r/ must be flexible, and the definition of ‘rhoticity’ is rather heterogeneous and perhaps even somewhat arbitrary (Ladefoged and Maddieson, 1995). ... Sections: Introduction - What Can Be an /r/? - Sample Studies of (R) - See also - Biblography
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The aim of this study is to understand how /r/ emerged and developed in Proto-Japanese and how the conditions of its emergence shed light on its present phonological behavior. The paper first offers a review of the phonetic, phonological, and morpho-phonological characteristics of /r/ in Japanese through examination of a large array of empirical evidence. The picture that emerges is that of an unmarked, phonologically empty segment, confirming a number of previous studies, in particular that by Mester and Itô (Language 65:258–293, 1989). I argue that /r/ primarily developed in Japanese as a default epenthetic consonant in the intervocalic position within the morphological domain of a stem and its affixes, through an ‘emergence of the unmarked’ mechanism before becoming a fully contrastive phoneme later on by virtue of a phonologization process. A formal account of this proposal within the framework of Optimality Theory is offered. It is shown that the phonological content of /r/ is acquired due to the application of well-formedness constraints (Onset, Align, MaxIO, DepIO) as well as that of two sets of markedness constraints (Featural Agreement and Harmony Scale), which ensure that the null input is mapped to the least marked output in terms of phonological features.
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The current emphasis in second language teaching lies in the achievement of communicative effectiveness. In line with this approach, pronunciation train- ing is nowadays geared towards helping learners avoid serious pronunciation errors, rather than eradicating the finest traces of foreign accent. However, to devise optimal pronunciation training programmes, systematic information on these pronunciation problems is needed, especially in the case of the develop- ment of Computer Assisted Pronunciation Training systems. The research reported on in this paper is aimed at obtaining systematic in- formation on segmental pronunciation errors made by learners of Dutch with different mother tongues. In particular, we aimed at identifying errors that are frequent, perceptually salient, persistent, and potentially hampering to commu- nication. To achieve this goal we conducted analyses on different corpora of speech produced by L2 learners under different conditions. This resulted in a robust inventory of pronunciation errors that can be used for designing efficient pronunciation training programs.
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