Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Random Linguistic Thought

Is it just me, or is English one of the few European languages which does not roll its R's in some way? I wonder why that is.


Rick Lugari said...

I think in Europe it's primarily a Latin based thing. I don't think any of the Germanic based languages do it (of which English is). Though i always thought it funny that the Germans mispronounce the w as a v. You think they vould know better.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't roll an "r" to save my life.

DMinor said...

I think the Latin ones roll, and the Germanic ones (English, Dutch, German), not so much.

RRRuffles have RRridges notwithstanding.

CMinor said...

I can't roll 'em even speaking Spanish, and I was raised bilingual.

One of my great-aunts had her frenulum snipped as a child so that she might be able to speak Spanish properly.

christopher said...

I've always been fascinated with linguistics and though I'm rank amateur, I'll poke my head in anyway: I don't think that the Latin-based idea answers the question at all; the surrounding ethnicities such as welsh, Scottich, Gaelic, and others dialects of them all roll their R's. Why not England? Someone needs to ask Groundskeeper Willy.

TC said...

Not just rolling but half-swallowing so it sounds like "hr" or not being pronounce at all.
German "Raus!" - rolled
" "Freude" - half-swallowed
French "etre" - almost silent, basically a breath -- NOT et-ruh as American HS students tend to pronounce it.

Btw, when I took Spanish the teacher discovered that the boys could roll their Rs but none of the girls could

Darwin said...

Unless my memory of my brief foray into Old English is way off, I believe that the R in Old English is rolled, at least some of the time.

Enbrethiliel said...


When I try to roll my Rs, I sound like I have something caught in my throat.

A Russian friend I had used to lightly make fun of that by rolling all her Rs at me when we talked.

Rebekka said...

It's *never* rolled in Danish, they swallow R's more than Germans do, and I don't think it's rolled in Norwegian or Swedish either. Not sure about Faroese or Icelandic.

Unknown said...

R's are rolled in formal singing in English, and I do believe that English has a defunct history of rolling R's even in speech. It doesn't any more, and my guess is that it is a simplification similar to our reduction of unstressed dentals, like "bottle" into "boddle", though perhaps for different reasons. A lot of our sounds are no longer phonemic or fully so; a short "e" and a short "i" are getting to be interchangeable. In American English, unstressed vowels mostly get reduced toward schewa - that sound at the end of "the".

I'll bet the heavily varied influences on English are at first responsible, and increasingly over the last two or three centuries, its widespread international use.

Those rolled Rs are hard for folks to do. So we stop doing them. Those who could, but found it difficult now had an out. Lol. That's my guess, anyway.

In a way, you could say that we've been dumbing down our language for a least a millennium!