rl in other languages

Carl Mills Carl.Mills at UC.EDU
Thu Dec 7 14:29:34 UTC 1995

McConvell's description of r/l alternation in Pama-Nyungan languages,
particularly the retroflex lateral that they designate rl, has an
interesting parallel in some dialects of Norwegian.  According to Ernst
Haakon Jahr (personal communication), some dialects of Norwegian,
especially some working class Oslo dialects have a sound very similar to
the retroflex lateral that McConvell describes.  Jahr describes the
Norwegian version of rl as a "voiced lateral flap."  To me, a speaker of
Norwegian as a second language, the examples that I have heard sound
like the sound Jahr describes.

Obviously, I would like to know more about the articulation of rl in
Pama-Nyungan languages.  McConvell's posting contrasts "r [which] is a
retroflex glide . . . [with] rr an alveolar tap also found in most
Australian languages.  McConvell implies that rl is not a tap or flap,
which would make it different from the Norwegian retroflex lateral flap,
but the description is not clear at that point in the Funknet posting.
More articulatory information on rl would help.

All the examples of Norwegian rl that I have come across indicate that
it results from l--->rl:  rl appears where other Norwegian dialects have
/l/.  I am aware of no r--->rl or rl--->r changes in Norwegian.  But
then again, I am not a native speaker.

Interestingly, the Norwegian retroflex lateral flap is heavily
stigmatized, yet it seems to have persisted for quite some time.

Carl Mills

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