I was listening to this episode of Radio Ambulante and was struck by the reporter's pronunciation of certain r sounds. They remind me of the American hard r sound rather than a--and I'm no linguist--flapped r sound.

Show audio: https://radioambulante.org/en/audio-en/the-magician

3:09 trabajo (softer or flapped r)


3:14 montar (hard r, honestly, almost like a pirate's "argghh!")

You can also hear this r in words like lugar, ver, hacer. So it's usually at the end of words, but I think I've heard it within words, too, like importante.

I thought it was cool and wondering if anyone had heard of this particular pronunciation.

  • 2
    You tried to edit your question using a different account than the one you used to post the question. You might try to log in from your previous account: that will let you post comments on your own question and on its answers. If you indeed created two accounts accidentally, you might want to request that they be merged.
    – wimi
    Jul 20 '20 at 14:54

Just to clarify, the rhotics in the major standard Spanish dialects are the voiced alveolar trill /r/ (the “hard” sound in perro, carro), and the voiced alveolar flap or tap /ɾ/ (the sound in pero, caro).

Syllable-final r is usually a flap but it can also be a trill; since the distinction is meaningless to Spanish speakers in this position (technically we say that the difference between the two phonemes is neutralized), the result is a sound that varies a lot (for example, Caribbean dialects often change it to /l/, while other dialects drop it). Let's call it /R/.

I just listened to the segment you noted, and then some. If you hadn't mentioned it I wouldn't have considered it out of the ordinary. This speaker appears sometimes to pronounce word- and syllable-final /R/ a bit as in Standard American English r: not a trill, not a flap, but possibly an apical alveolar approximant (the tip of the tongue points toward, but doesn't touch, the alveolar ridge behind the teeth) with slight retroflexion (the tongue actually curls back a bit). That's what I hear at least. It doesn't sound “hard” to me at all.

The pronunciation is inconsistent, too; sometimes the speaker does a standard flap. In the word verlo she actually doesn't pronounce /R/ but assimilates it to the following /l/, with some retroflexion (so she says [bel.lo] or [beɭ.lo]). This is also extremely common (I had a friend who was totally unable to pronounce /rl/ and did a double /l/ instead.)

  • I copy here a comment (seemingly) from the OP that they posted in the wrong place (a suggested edit on the question from another account): Thank you @pablodf76 for a very informative reply. Have you heard anything more about why some speakers might pronounce their syllable-final /R/ in this Standard American English way? You said it didn't stand out to you initially, or wouldn't have had I not mentioned it. Is it quite common? Just idiosyncratic to this speaker?
    – wimi
    Jul 20 '20 at 14:50
  • The alveolar approximant pronunciation is particularly jarring to me, but the assimilation is common. So common in fact in older Spanish it was a rule: verlo would be have been said and written as vello Jul 20 '20 at 15:18
  • @wimi I have no idea if this is idiosyncratic or not. The speaker is from Ecuador and lives in Quito (according to RA's website); in Andean Spanish /r/ is sometimes retroflexed, but its salient feature is that it's a sibilant (a fricative trill, actually), not an approximant, and not just at the end of syllables. This speaker appears to have rather free variation in her pronunciation of the rhotic and no assibilitation, so I don't think it's that.
    – pablodf76
    Jul 20 '20 at 15:27
  • @user0721090601 Indeed, in Golden Century Spanish verlo would have been vello, not with a double/long /l/, but with an actual palatal /ʎ/, just like the current word vello ("body hair") in the dialects without yeísmo.
    – pablodf76
    Jul 20 '20 at 15:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.