Unless I'm mistaken, it is the same sound as the R in German, Yiddish, Danish,and Swedish.

  • 4
    Actually, the direction of influence is thought to be the other way around, see this French SE post: D'où vient le R uvulaire du français ? Feb 11, 2017 at 19:12
  • It is not the sound used in Swedish except for its southern regions, which got it from further south. It is also not used in most Norwegian dialects, nor in Icelandic, so I'm quite positive it is not the original Norse rhotic.
    – LjL
    Feb 11, 2017 at 20:41
  • In Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language the author suggests that the southern German r pronunciation (uvular) could well be an influence from French. He used this example to illustrate the idea of Sprachbund. And if you listen to German in some other places such as Austria, their Rs are very different from the French one.
    – xji
    Feb 17, 2017 at 8:44

1 Answer 1


There is not a single R-sound in French. There are at least two rhotic sounds considered "standard": [ʁ] and [χ] (voiced and voiceless uvular fricatives respectively), and not long ago the Paris dialect had a uvular trill [ʀ] instead (listen to Edith Piaf). But French is not only the educated standard or the Paris dialect; in Southern France older speakers still use an alveolar trill, as in Quebec.

It seems that uvular R is not originally Germanic, and there is no evidence that Germanic languages influenced French in this sense. Some believe that the reverse may have happened (that uvular R in German was borrowed from French) but this has also been contested.

The guttural pronunciations in French are attested only since the end of the 17th century, and only becomes common in the 18th. It's clearly possible that both French and the Germanic languages (as well as many others) evolved their uvular sounds independently.

In the French SE post the question starts by saying that "in every romance language, except French, the phoneme /R/ is an alveolar trill [r]", which is wrong, since Portuguese also has a variety of guttural (uvular and velar) realizations of R.

  • 6
    Likewise there is not a single R-sound in Swedish, German and Danish (nor Norwegian).
    – user6726
    Feb 12, 2017 at 2:42
  • 3
    There are at least four realizations in Yiddish.
    – alephreish
    Aug 23, 2017 at 16:21

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