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I'm a Hebrew speaker, and in Modern Hebrew, there is a distinction between /ʁ ~ ɣ/ and /x/. When I hear French, I recognize that 'r' isn't always pronounced as /ʁ/ but in many times, as /x/.

I tried to think of a mechanism to this and I noticed that in many times the 'r' is pronounced as /x/, it's after a consonant, while most of the times 'r' is pronounced as /ʁ/ it's after a vowel.

For example, I've always heard "tres" (very) as /txe/ and never as /tʁe/, while "amour" is always pronounced as /amuʁ/ and never as /amux/.

Quite strangely, French accent in Hebrew is usually identified immediately since French speakers tend to merge /ʁ/ to just /x/ (meaning that /xatsotsʁa/ - a trumpet, is pronounced by French speakers as /xatsotsxa/)

So, when is 'r' pronounced as /x/ and when is it pronounced /ʁ/?

  • The close vote doesn't make much sense to me - this isn't a language specific grammar or usage question; it's asking about the contextual realisation of different allophones of a phoneme in a specific language. – brazofuerte Jul 12 '18 at 14:28
  • @ukemi Yes, it could very well be on French Language Stack Exchange. We often deal with French linguistics there. – Luke Sawczak Jul 12 '18 at 14:53
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Today in northern France, /r/ is commonly pronounced as a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ], and voiceless [χ] after a voiceless consonant by assimilation.

[ʁ] is the standard consonant. Although the voiceless [χ] is pronounced before or after a voiceless obstruent or at the end of a sentence...

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    Wikipedia is such a mixed bag. The first quotation is correct. The second betrays ignorance of the difference between phonology and phonetics. – fdb Jul 12 '18 at 13:47
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    @fdb I think what you said necessarily goes for the comment above mine, too... – LjL Jul 12 '18 at 14:06
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    @DavidHaim Can't say I've ever heard anything like [x] in French, just [χ]. But this is a good reason to ask it on French SE instead -- the average linguistics user will know the canonical answer ([χ]) but perhaps a French speaker will know of a region where [x] can be heard. – Luke Sawczak Jul 12 '18 at 14:55
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    This is why I wrote my background. what you hear is often influenced by sounds you already know. For example, up until I studied English phonology, I didn't even hear the slightest difference between "eat" and "it". – David Haim Jul 12 '18 at 14:57
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    @DavidHaim: I think you might have reversed [χ] and [x]. The sound [x] is velar (like [k]), while [χ] is uvular (like [ʁ]). My understanding is that Greek and Russian are generally described as having a velar fricative [x]; Spanish, Hebrew and Dutch vary depending on the dialect, and maybe based on surrounding sounds. – brass tacks Jul 12 '18 at 17:13

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