Is the letter r in Esperanto pronounced like غ in Arabic? Or like r in French?

  • 1
    Zamenhof was no linguist, and one may only assume a well pronounced r. Hence more like in slavic languages. Slightly more trilled than the almost soundless r in English.AFAIK there is no written norm in E-o. English is by far not the only language with a weak r pronunciation. – Joop Eggen Apr 1 '19 at 11:55

The most common pronunciation that most people strive for is like the rr in Spanish (ie, it is trilled).

However in practice many people have difficulty with this and it’s not uncommon to hear the French or English r. It doesn’t really pose any problems to understanding. In the official source of Esperanto, The Fundamento, it’s not really clear which pronunciation is actually official, if any, because each translation of it tends to say the r is pronounced the same as in the target language. In general as long as the sound is consistent and cleary distinguishable it doesn’t really matter too much how it’s pronounced.

PMEG has a more complete description of the pronunciation.

  • Hi Neil. Actually, it's more like the single "r" in Spanish, not the double "r" ("rr"). The double "r" is a longer trill than the single "r". – Karlomanio Mar 29 '19 at 22:16
  • 4
    @Karlomanio Are you sure? As far as I understand the single r is just a single tap when it’s between vowels in Spanish, whereas the Esperanto r is supposed to be trilled. The IPA letter used in Wikipedia to describe the Spanish pronunciation of rr matches the one used in PMEG. – Neil Roberts Mar 29 '19 at 22:25
  • 1
    I think the Arabic غ is the same as the French r, right? The Esperanto r should be like ر – Neil Roberts Mar 29 '19 at 22:27
  • 4
    @DominikCornice Ekzistas neniu bona kialo por malpermesi diversajn formojn de "r" se ili estas uzataj kaj komprenataj. Prononca elitismo nur igas la lingvon pli malfacila kaj maltaŭga por esti lernata de homoj de malsamaj mondopartoj. Eĉ se oni zorgas pri normo, la Fudamento klare permesas malsamajn formojn. – Vanege Mar 30 '19 at 11:22
  • 1
    @NeilRoberts Mi pensas, ke vi miksas /r/ kaj [r]. En Esperanto ni havas nur unu r-sonon, indikatan per /r/. La vera realigo de tiu sono multe varias: /r/ povas esti [r], [ɾ], [ʀ], [ʁ], ktp. En la hispana oni distingas du r-sonojn, /r/ kaj /ɾ/. En Vikivortaro oni ĉiam skribas la fonemojn, t.e. la sonojn, kiujn la lingvo distingas, ne la sonojn, kiujn la parolanto de la lingvo precize faras. Vidu ekzemple ĉe la nederlanda vorto ‘raar’, kie oni indikas /ˈraːr/ dum multaj diras [ˈʀ̆aɹ] aŭ [ˈɾaːɾ] aŭ ion alian kaj efektive neniu vere diras [ˈraːr] per du plenaj triloj. – Joffysloffy Apr 2 '19 at 8:46

A few years ago a student asked Bertilo Wennergren whether it is correct to say vi ĉiam duobla-ro-igas ĉion to a person who usually says veterro (alveolar trill) instead of vetero (alveolar tap). Although the question was about the use of ig, Bertilo thought the student was asking him whether it is correct to say veterro instead of vetero, and he answered that it is not too important whether you use a long or a short r sound. You can watch it here.

Watching that video, it's pretty obvious to me that Bertilo tends to pronounce the r like in vetero, not veterro. For instance, he says koloro, not kolorro; Esperanto, not Esperranto, and so forth. On the other hand, if the word starts with an r he tends to pronounce it like in veterro; for example he says rruĝa, not ruĝa. It seems to me that this is a general tendency among many Esperanto speakers, i.e., long r if the word starts with it, short r otherwise. Just to clarify, by long r I mean an alveolar trill and by short r I mean an alveolar tap. Those are, by the way, the two r sounds used in modern Spanish.

In my opinion the multiple ways Esperanto speakers pronounce the r challenges the idea of one letter, one sound, and I don't mean this is something bad or good, I'm just saying that theory does not always match reality. Listen carefully to how Juliette Ternant pronounces the r in this interview. She pronounces the words Esperanto kaj mirigita like vetero (i.e. like a Spanish single r, which is an alveolar tap), but in the words gramatikaj and problemoj she pronounces it like a French r. Nevertheless, her Esperanto sounds to me very good and it flows in a natural and understandable way.

Anyway, if you're interested in learning how to trill/roll the r in Esperanto like they do in Spanish, there are lots of tips on YouTube. Don't forget to have fun and remember that in Esperanto there are no rules about this, only tendencies and recommendations (en la praktiko ĉiu litero varias en sia elparolo).

  • 1
    I interpret the ‘one letter, one sound’-thing as ‘one letter, one phoneme’. So multiple allophones of the same phoneme should be fine. – Joffysloffy Apr 18 '19 at 13:23

I was always annoyed that the Assimil Esperanto (and Latin) courses employed an obvious French 'r'. A lot of Germans and Polish Esperantists also tend to use a guttural 'r'. Personally I don't think it sounds very clear and to some ears a word like e.g. 'ruĝa' might sound like 'luĝa'. In any case the Fundamento doesn't list 'r' in the alphabet for French/English, though does so for German/Russian which are two different sounds. However to my ear a lot of people who use a guttural 'r', particularly in Dutch/French, make a rasping sound too close to 'ĥ' with no uvular roll in the throat.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy