[Tibeto-burman-linguistics] palatalized R or fricativized R?

Elissa Ikeda elissa.ikeda at gmail.com
Fri Feb 13 02:15:19 UTC 2015


I've observed two interesting types of r-sound in the languages I've been
working with.  I believe they may be more widespread in the linguistic area
and I'm wondering if others can add to the list of languages where these
may appear.

1)  Palatalized r-sound.  This sounds a bit like an /r/ and /j/ mixed
together.  I have acoustic evidence from Nusu that shows cross-dialect
difference between your typical approximant r and a palatalized variant.
Acoustic comparison across words shows that there is a difference between
the palatalized r and the palatal approximant /j/.   Diachronic and
synchronic variation in other TB languages show relationship between /r/
and /j/ and I wonder if this sort of palatalized r may sometimes facilitate
that transition.

2)  Fricativized r-sound.  This sounds similar to hooked z [ʐ], and I've
seen it transcribed that way, but I believe that it is not always a true
sibilant. A fricativized r can be produced by bringing the tongue closer to
the palate and creating turbulence, but a sibilant goes a bit farther when
the teeth are brought together to create a secondary obstruction.
Acoustically, the fricativized r shows the greatest energy in the middle
frequencies (around 1500-2000 HZ), while sibilants typically have the
greatest energy in the higher frequencies (above 3000 HZ)  Acoustic data
from Nusu shows the fricativized r occuring before high vowels /i/ and /u/,
which is the same environment where we see fricativization of other glides
/j/ and /w/ in languages in this area.  Coupe describes the voiced and
voiceless r in Mongsen Ao as having fricative qualities.  Matisoff
mentioned it in connection with Dayang Pumi clusters.  I've also observed
it in Laemae (Bijiang Bai) and the Nujiang variety of Trung (Dulong).
Diachronic and synchronic data from TB languages show a relationship
between /r/ and sibilant fricatives (dentalveolar, retroflex, and palatal),
and indeed, I have seen speaker and dialect variation on the word for
'stomach, belly' in Laemae (Bijiang Bai) that shows all of the following
variants: palatalized-r, fricativized-r, retroflex fricative sibilant /ʐ/,
and voiced dental sibilant /z/.

If you have heard either of these sounds in a language you are working on,
I'd appreciate hearing about it.  I'm trying to add Tibeto-Burman evidence
to the argument for more comprehensive transcription conventions for


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