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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/407

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393
ENGLISH PHONOLOGY.

English. The lingual or trilled r is properly used when this letter begins a word, e. g., round, rattle—when it is one of two initial consonants, e. g., proud, stream, and when it is between two vowels, as in spirit, orange, etc. In general this rough r is more distinctly trilled by Englishmen than by Americans, and their vibration is formed more anteriorly with a touch of the tip of the tongue against the hard palate. This vibration is very brief except in the most formal oratorical efforts, and it should be simply a double contact and never a distinct roll as given by the Scotch and Irish. R final or before a consonant, as in bar, born, has a guttural vibration in American utterance, but it is so smooth in English usage that the question has been raised by some orthoëpists whether it has any real value in these words or after a long vowel in the same syllable as in here, fire, our, and in many similar words. Whatever sound the obscure r may have in these instances is by Englishmen joined immediately to the preceding vowel or diphthong, but most Americans interpose between the previous vowel and the r a species of neutral vowel like u in urge, and slightly stiffening the tongue and raising the tip a little toward the dental arch they produce not a true dental r but a peculiar guttural r, which is in general use in the United States, except among some New Englanders and Southerners whose usage accords more exactly with the native English sound.

The writer's views of the English varieties of the letter r were published some years ago in England,[1] and a satisfactory physiological explanation of the soft r was then offered. In certain positions r has such slight value that some orthoëpists have regarded ah and are, for example, as identical in sound, while others, not admitting this view, have given no anatomical distinctions or rational theory as to this r. The original view advanced and still held by the writer is that the essential organic formation of this soft r is laryngeal, and consists in the tension and approximation of the true vocal ligaments so as to produce a friction-sound of the escaping breath. The breath thus roughened in its passage through the rima glottidis is the true basis of this r, which in some speakers receives a little additional value from slight pharyngeal constriction. Various analogies support this view of the organic nature of soft r, for several rough sounds are produced by the contraction of the "cordæ vocales" to a degree not productive of vocalization. The "spiritus asper" of the Greeks was thus produced. The fricative quality of our own h has a similar origin, and there is an obscure Teutonic r best heard among the Saxons having a like organic formation.

In July, 1878, the writer gave a written description of the English uvular and labial r's. The former is the basis of what is popularly known in England as the Northumberland burr, and it corresponds to the uvular r of the Germans, and to the r "grasseyé" of the French.

  1. Professor Plumptre's, "King's College Lectures on Elocution," London, 1881.