I have a project that requires that I identify the region of France (south,east, west or north would be quite sufficient) that rejoices in a particularly guttural, rolled 'R'. Is there such a region? If so, where, plse.
Ha-ha, well since Georges Brassens, the great roller of Rs, was born in Sète, you might think that's the region. However I know Sète quite well and, although it's the equal of Marseilles in the deliciousness of its seafood, I don't notice anyone else speaking like Brassens.
Neil, running with Isabelle's suggestion, would Limousin or Auvergne be close what I am trying to evoke?
And Isabelle, reading my reply to Neil's answer, do you think Limousin or Auvergne would be where I could find my policeman's 'r'?
BTW: The policeman is not French. He is not speaking French either. English in fact. I need a larger audience who can identify his 'r'. If there is a geographical (French) district that I can credibly identify where the 'r' happily resides, so much the more credible will my character be.
I think it might be worth pinning down a bit more closely what you mean-- from a technical point of view, "particularly guttural" is phonetically meaningless.
So, starting at the beginning, there are essentially 3 types of 'r' sound that occur in French to some extent or other:
- a uvular fricative, which is by far the most widespread, standard pronunciation, and which is produced by bringing the tongue close enough to the uvula (the bit of flesh that "dangles down" at the back of the mouth-- see this diagram on the pronunciation of French 'r') to cause friction when the air passes between them; (in reality, there isn't always strictly very much friction in certain cases-- e.g. between two vowels in rapid speech-- but we can say that the "target" or "characteristic" of this sound is to produce friction)
- a uvular trill (or "rolled r"), a variant of the previous type of 'r' sound, but where a trill is produced between the back of the tongue and the uvula. This is used in three main cases:
(a) French speakers whose normal 'r' is the uvular fricative use a trill for emphasis
(b) in some traditional types of song/cabaret
(c) some speakers apparently have the trill as their "normal" r-- and what Isabelle says is probably true, that where it's used at all it tends to be by rural speakers; on the other hand, I'm not sure that its use is restricted to a particular geographic region
- an alveolar trill, produced with the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge (the protrusion behind the teeth), similar to the Spanish "double r"; again, this 'r' sound has been associated with rural speakers, and some commentators point to it being characteristic of the south, although not necessarily with the raw data to back this association up.
As for your description of "particularly guttural", essentially, either the 'r' is alveolar or uvular-- I'm not clear how your scale of "gutturality" would actually be defined. Both rolled varieties of 'r' are essentially non-standard and stigmatised, and I'm not sure of the idea of anyone "rejoicing" in either.
I'm honestly not sure that either is prevalent in a particular region. However, you might want to look for studies by André Martinet and Henriette Walter, who have conducted various studies investigating the regional distribution of phenomena of French pronunciation.
Superb reply! Much obliged Neil, as usual. The idea I want to convey in a novel I have written, which I am busy trying (is the operative word) to get to proof stage, is the evil secret policeman announcing to the hero just about in his ear that he is to go for 'a ride' down two flights of stairs while handcuffed behind his back. I want the 'r' in 'ride' to be extended over two beats, to indicate his delight at the imminent sadistic pleasure awaiting him (the policeman). In South Africa, in the Swartland rural area (Western Cape) the 'r' is 'breyed'. The sound made is 'grhgrhgrhgrhr', that sounds as if originating somwhere deep in the throat, with the tongue doing very little by way of a trill. I have heard Edith Piaf [re your reference to cabaret singers] come close to the 'r' I want to evoke, but she still trills the 'r' (I think). The policeman does not use the tongue all. Just a 'grhgrhrgrhgrhr'. So if I can describe it in a way that a European would understand, it would go a long way to evoke what I would like to achieve. Does what I describe fall within one of your three examples? Thnks!
OK, the type of 'r' used by Edith Piaf (and various other cabaret singers) is the uvular trill.
Note that Piaf and other cabaret singers used-- and continue to use to some limited extent-- this type of 'r' in singing, but it's extremely rare to use this type of 'r' in speech.
However, French speakers of all geographic regionswould use this type of 'r' when speaking very emphatically-- e.g. imagine a schoolteacher wanting to emphasise the 'r' of a word to help pupils spell it. It's essentially the eqiuvalent of when in English a teacher/speaker might roll their 'r' for emphasis, only when English speakers do it, they use the alveolar variety of 'r', not the uvular variety as in French.
Now... how do you describe this to an European layperson? Maybe you could talk about him "growling his 'r's like Edith Piaf"?
Not "restricted to a geographical region" - simply where it appears, and the more so the better. If some readers can identify a region where they have heard such an 'r', then I would like to use that region as identifiably descriptive, and thus get through to at least some readers what I am trying to say.
So what about 'central France'?
I am not trying to 'stigmatise' a region, I hope that is clear. Just use what (may be) is already there.