The sound of 'r' at the end of a word

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Ionatan

The sound of 'r' at the end of a word

Unread post by Ionatan » Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:16 pm

When I listen to different speakers, I hear three variations of the sound of 'r' at the end of a word. I believe this is just a dialect/accent thing but just in case I am missing something I thought I'd pose the question here. The three sounds I hear are 'r' (as you might expect), 'rsht' and 'th'.

To give an example, in Speaking My Language there is a scene where the family cat escapes and the husband and wife are on the doorstep calling for the cat to come back. The cat's name is Tigger. The man shouts 'Tigger' and sounds exactly like you would expect (ie a hard 'r'). The woman however shouts "Tiggersht".

Another example is in the Learn Gaelic pronunciation videos. A young lassie is explaining the sound each letter makes. In the video for the letter 'i' she uses the word 'cìr' (a comb) as an example and pronounces it with a soft and rather faint 'th' at the end. I have also heard this 'th' sound but more pronounced in the Can Seo series where a barmaid is speaking to a character called Alistair, which she pronounces 'Alistairth'. Again, I hear it when some people in various videos say 'ceithir', making it sound like kay-herth ( phonetic this time to avoid confusion with the 'th' in the middle). Interestingly, despite doing the 'rth' thing, the presenter in the video does not suggest that an 'r' should sound like 'rsht' or 'rth' at the end of a word when you view the video on pronouncing the letter 'r'.

None of these people appear to have a speech impediment or lisp and were presumably chosen in each case of being representative of Gaelic pronunciation. So, should I be emulating this or sticking to a plain 'r' (my gut feeling is 'no - unless you are learning to speak that particular dialect'). If it should be emulated then should it be 'rsht' or 'rth'? If is is a dialect, out of curiosity, in which dialect(s) do you find it?



faoileag
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Re: The sound of 'r' at the end of a word

Unread post by faoileag » Wed Nov 27, 2019 1:51 am

Regional variations aside, the pronunciation of R generally depends on what comes before it (and after it, if not final) - whether it begins the word, broad or slender vowels, combinations with other consonants etc.

See Akerbeltz's pages on L, N, R.

http://www.akerbeltz.org/index.php?titl ... _in_Gaelic

and

http://www.akerbeltz.org/index.php?title=l_n_r

and

http://www.akerbeltz.org/index.php?titl ... comes_from

and

http://www.akerbeltz.org/index.php?title=rt_%26_rd

and even

http://www.akerbeltz.org/index.php?title=Ri

Ionatan

Re: The sound of 'r' at the end of a word

Unread post by Ionatan » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:55 am

faoileag wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 1:51 am
Regional variations aside, the pronunciation of R generally depends on what comes before it (and after it, if not final) - whether it begins the word, broad or slender vowels, combinations with other consonants etc.
Thatnks for those links - very useful. The ones with audio were the most useful because I don't understand the phonetic symbols at all - that's a language in itself! Picking on one quote though for which there are some audio examples:
For learners, it seems to be a good guideline to insert [ʃ] both in rt and rd groups in stressed syllables, that's to say first syllables. That won't sound wrong to a Gael's ears even if he does not pronounce the intrusive [ʃ]. Unless you're desperate to learn a particular dialect, which we don't recommend, you'll have to memorise your chosen dialect's rt and rd words. As far as we can see, the option to use [ʃ], or not, does not appear to be rule based
I am doing this already mostly because, without a tutor or nearby native speaker (as I live in the somewhat anti-Gaelic Aberdeenshire), I must copy what I hear on the training materials available as closely as possible, but the above is very reassuring/encouraging. Similarly, I try to emulate an 'r' in the middle of the word as close to what I hear as well. Because I play music, I think it helps me hear some of the subtle differences and I can nearly always tell when what I say is not the same as the example I'm listening to even if I struggle to make the sound myself.

However, the situations I'm referring to here are ones where it is a plain r not followed by any other letter (especially in the first example I gave where one speaker says 'Tigger' and the other says 'Tiggersht'; or the different sounding 'rth' by other speakers in other situations e.g. a speaker from Lewis (I think) saying 'ceithith' for 'ceithir' (sorry, I can't do the correct phonetic symbols) compared to the recording in the LearnGaelic dictionary (on 'th' sound at the end). There is no letter following the 'r' in either case and we have two Gaelic speakers (presumably native, though I don't know) pronouncing it completely differently.

I'm completely on board with trying to
shed the Blas na Beurla air [mo] chuid Ghàidhlig
- better still - to try not to get into the bad habbit to start with... hence the question. I'll certainly pay more attention to Akerbeltz's site and I am working through the LearnGaelic pronouciation videos (which is partly what kicked this question off in the first place!).

faoileag
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Re: The sound of 'r' at the end of a word

Unread post by faoileag » Wed Nov 27, 2019 4:43 pm

Pronouncing a slender R, especially at the end of a word, as something akin to a soft English TH (a sort of light lisping effect) is very common, so you will often come across it.
If you look at the IPA given for air, you see that the final r is given as r and a tiny j. J in IPA is a y sound (as in yes). If you try to say a slender r with a hint of y after it, it does sound as if it's heading towards a th.

Gun Chleoc and Akerbeltz will no doubt give us a more technical explanation. ;-)


TIgger is not a Gaelic word, so does not have to obey the rules. Without actually listening to SYL, I imagine that one speaker just Gaelicises it in her own way, perhaps instinctively inventing a slenderised end for a vocative.

Ionatan

Re: The sound of 'r' at the end of a word

Unread post by Ionatan » Wed Nov 27, 2019 5:02 pm

faoileag wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 4:43 pm
If you look at the IPA given for air, you see that the final r is given as r and a tiny j. J in IPA is a y sound (as in yes). If you try to say a slender r with a hint of y after it, it does sound as if it's heading towards a th.
Aha! That is exactly what the lady in the LearnGaelic videos sounds like - almost a 'th' but sort of not there at the same time. I tried doing it myself just now and found you can get it by starting to form a 'y' in your mouth but not making any noise (the last of the breath of the 'r' seems to transmutate infintesimally). The other people I have heard are much more extreme, making me think it was something different (unless it was emphasised deliberately to help a new learner hear it, of course).

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Re: The sound of 'r' at the end of a word

Unread post by Níall Beag » Thu Nov 28, 2019 1:09 pm

Ionatan wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 5:02 pm
Aha! That is exactly what the lady in the LearnGaelic videos sounds like - almost a 'th' but sort of not there at the same time. I tried doing it myself just now and found you can get it by starting to form a 'y' in your mouth but not making any noise (the last of the breath of the 'r' seems to transmutate infintesimally). The other people I have heard are much more extreme, making me think it was something different (unless it was emphasised deliberately to help a new learner hear it, of course).
If you think of "TH" as being a sort of leak where air "escapes" around the tongue, then a Gaelic R is just a "leaky R". Your tongue ends up in more or less an R position, but instead of getting rrr, the air escapes and you get (in your own words) "almost a 'th' sound but sort of not".

If you've ever tried learning Spanish, you might have made this sound yourself. A lot of people I know struggled to trill their Rs in early Spanish lessons, and they got that leaky hissing sound too.

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Re: The sound of 'r' at the end of a word

Unread post by GunChleoc » Thu Nov 28, 2019 6:24 pm

The pronunciation of slender r depends a bit on the dialect too - some people just use a soft th, which you can do as a learner too to get you started. Other people pronounce it with the tip of the tongue to the back of the teeth.

If you can afford it, I recommend getting Akerbeltz' book, which is a lot more detailed than the website and has exercises in it http://akerbeltz.eu/booksg.html
Oileanach chànan chuthachail
Na dealbhan agam

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Re: The sound of 'r' at the end of a word

Unread post by akerbeltz » Sat Dec 07, 2019 11:31 am

I don't understand the phonetic symbols at all - that's a language in itself!
You know, I always find that a weird one. Not the fact that one might not know the IPA, but the fact that people put up such a fight over learning 40 odd symbols and the way to say them which would help them produce high quality Gaelic but instead sign up for decades of pronunciation confusion. :priob:

As the others have pointed out, for starters, you're likely to be hearing two different sounds depending on where the speaker is from. On Lewis and Harris (and a few other places) slender single r is often /ð/ which is the same sound as in English the. The other one I call "lisped r", instead of where Scottish English makes its r sound, your tongue touches your palate further forward in the mouth, just behind the teeth. It is NOT two sounds i.e. it's not an r followed by a y sound, whatever your ears may tell you (they're lying to you :priob: ), it's a single sound but made in a different position in your mouth.

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