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.
    – iacobo
    Jul 12, 2018 at 14:28
  • @ukemi Yes, it could very well be on French Language Stack Exchange. We often deal with French linguistics there. Jul 12, 2018 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


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...

  • 1
    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, 2018 at 13:47
  • 1
    @fdb I think what you said necessarily goes for the comment above mine, too...
    – LjL
    Jul 12, 2018 at 14:06
  • 1
    @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. Jul 12, 2018 at 14:55
  • 2
    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, 2018 at 14:57
  • 2
    @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. Jul 12, 2018 at 17:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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