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Chinese confusing R and L sounds


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#1 DaMo

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 09:46 AM

I just saw it again on Alien Loves Predator. I think it was also in one of the Lethal Weapon movies, something about "fly lice" in a Chinese restaurant. Yet, as far as I know, only Japanese confuses R and L into one sound, whereas Chinese has distinct L and (apparently rolling) R sound. Is there some dialect of Chinese where the two are confused, or is it just foreigners lumping all Asians together with the most ridicule-prone traits?

On a side-note, Bulgarians confuse L and W (and I think R as well), but you don't see that parodied nearly as often. Unless Elmer Fudd is meant to be one of them.
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#2 qrasy

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 09:59 AM

Beijing Mandarin has the rolled, soft R like English but they exist just in final. {some of other Mandarin dialects might have this 'rolled soft R' as initial. Another sound represented by "R" in Beijing Mandarin is something like "rolled z", and in most cases would not be confused with "L".}

As for Japanese they pronounce L and R both as flapped R. Then the common mistake of Japanese is L->R.

If I recall corretly Jiangsu Mandarin South of the Long River confuse R and L (both as L). This is also typical in many other Chinese dialects, most of which do not have R as initial but do have L.
I would say... R->L is the common mistake in Chinese; whenever L->R change is spotted in Chinese, it's safe to assume that it's overcorrected.

Edited by qrasy, 23 March 2006 - 10:01 AM.

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#3 Howard Fu

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 11:28 AM

I just saw it again on Alien Loves Predator. I think it was also in one of the Lethal Weapon movies, something about "fly lice" in a Chinese restaurant. Yet, as far as I know, only Japanese confuses R and L into one sound, whereas Chinese has distinct L and (apparently rolling) R sound. Is there some dialect of Chinese where the two are confused, or is it just foreigners lumping all Asians together with the most ridicule-prone traits?

On a side-note, Bulgarians confuse L and W (and I think R as well), but you don't see that parodied nearly as often. Unless Elmer Fudd is meant to be one of them.

There are many dialects in China. Northern dialects usually don't mixed L and R, while southern dialects often did. And Japanese didn't seperate L and R too. That might strengthen the stereotype.
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#4 fcharton

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 12:48 PM

I just saw it again on Alien Loves Predator. I think it was also in one of the Lethal Weapon movies, something about "fly lice" in a Chinese restaurant. Yet, as far as I know, only Japanese confuses R and L into one sound, whereas Chinese has distinct L and (apparently rolling) R sound. Is there some dialect of Chinese where the two are confused, or is it just foreigners lumping all Asians together with the most ridicule-prone traits?


Even though there are Rs and Ls in chinese, Rs in foreign words are often transcribed by Ls, see for instance

Falanxi (France)
Luomaniya (Romania)
Bali (Paris)
Luoma (Rome)

I suppose this does influence the way chinese are taught english and pronounce it.

Francois

#5 DaMo

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 01:42 PM

I don't understand If that were the case, then words like lan2/ran2, li4/ri4 and long2/rong2 would sound the same, wouldn't they?
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#6 l0ckx

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 04:20 PM

i tutored a korean exchange student in pronounciation, and she had problems with R/L words as well. I made lists of words for her to practice. i was under the impression that ALL east asians had initial problems pronouncing R/L's. Just a bad stereotype, i guess??

#7 qrasy

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 10:43 PM

I don't understand If that were the case, then words like lan2/ran2, li4/ri4 and long2/rong2 would sound the same, wouldn't they?

The initial 'r' in Beijing Mandarin is actually a "misnomer", it's actually rolled z, similar to 'si' in 'vision' or Zh in Dr.Zhivago. All other plain Latin symbols I can think of have been used so we seem to have no choice.
The 'i' after 'zh' 'ch' 'sh' or 'r' is also not pronounced.
'R' is more similar to 'L' compared to 'Zh', don't you think so?

i tutored a korean exchange student in pronounciation, and she had problems with R/L words as well.

In Korean and Japanese, R/L is confused such that in initial it's R, and final R is not pronounced.
Well, but I'm not so sure about "Mongorians" :P

Edited by qrasy, 23 March 2006 - 10:45 PM.

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#8 tongyan

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 04:22 AM

The initial 'r' in Beijing Mandarin is actually a "misnomer", it's actually rolled z, similar to 'si' in 'vision' or Zh in Dr.Zhivago. All other plain Latin symbols I can think of have been used so we seem to have no choice.
The 'i' after 'zh' 'ch' 'sh' or 'r' is also not pronounced.
'R' is more similar to 'L' compared to 'Zh', don't you think so?
In Korean and Japanese, R/L is confused such that in initial it's R, and final R is not pronounced.
Well, but I'm not so sure about "Mongorians" :P


i'm no linguist, but that's news to me. although i concede the initial r is not an english-type r, it definitely is not similar to 'si' in 'vision'

#9 tongyan

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 04:28 AM

the r / l conflation comes from cantonese speakers and other asian groups that were historically predominant in Western countries. (filipinos, vietnamese, koreans, japanese, etc) since all these groups do not have a 'r' sound.

Northern Chinese, with their R, can easily distinguish R and L sounds in English. All they do is use the Mandarin R to replace the English R. Try asking a Northerner to say 'row' and invariably, you will hear 肉
as him/her to pronounce 'rue' and again, invariably, you will hear 入

#10 qrasy

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 09:46 AM

i'm no linguist, but that's news to me. although i concede the initial r is not an english-type r, it definitely is not similar to 'si' in 'vision'

Try to hear this sound represented by z with tail or [ʐ]: Posted Image on http://web.uvic.ca/l...Alab/IPAlab.htm

(filipinos, vietnamese, koreans, japanese, etc) since all these groups do not have a 'r' sound.

Korean and Japanese have 'r' (but different from English one) but not 'l'. (the reverse condition of Cantonese!)
Vietnamese have both r and l, except *some* dialects where you hear that it's more like 'z' or 'si' in 'vision' (surprisingly similar to Beijing Mandarin!).
Indonesian have both r and l, and presumably Filipinos also have them.

Northern Chinese, with their R, can easily distinguish R and L sounds in English. All they do is use the Mandarin R to replace the English R. Try asking a Northerner to say 'row' and invariably, you will hear 肉
as him/her to pronounce 'rue' and again, invariably, you will hear 入

Not many people do that... But I know one person doing that (yes! the 'rolled z' reading!!).
Some people do the "lazy" version of Beijingese R- which is more similar to English one...

Edited by qrasy, 25 March 2006 - 09:59 AM.

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#11 MC420

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 10:25 AM

Hi Folks:

The reversal or mixing of pronounciation of the sound r/l and even l/n appears to be quite prevalent among Asean people (from the Altaic group of Japanese/Korean to Sinoasiatic). It would be difficult for any linguistic to pinpoint the cause; however, with my observations it tends to occur more often in certain rural areas (especially the isolated coastal or highland inhabitants).

I believe we could speak with the sound that we could hear, any distortion or deviation from that perhaps we could attribute to external factors & personal habits. With no biological deficit from our hearing, we could reproduce most sounds therefore "practice makes perfect" like most music teachers would preach eh! B)


Qrasy:

Do you know speak Vietnamese? If so, what degree of your fluency? :)

Edited by MC420, 25 March 2006 - 10:27 AM.


#12 qrasy

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 10:52 AM

The reversal or mixing of pronounciation of the sound r/l and even l/n appears to be quite prevalent among Asean people (from the Altaic group of Japanese/Korean to Sinoasiatic).

Yeah, n-l confusion is rather serious here (Hong Kong), at least 80% of people regularly speak n as l and vice versa.
Usually the younger generation got the English r right... But some older people say 'r' as 'a-low'. :P
(BTW: what is "Sinoasiatic", I've never heard this kind of classification)

It would be difficult for any linguistic to pinpoint the cause; however, with my observations it tends to occur more often in certain rural areas (especially the isolated coastal or highland inhabitants).

Because? They hear quite similar. (at least for some people; same in the sense that they're both alveolar, sonorant)
And Hong Kong is definitely not rural area...
Also many Chinese dialects also do this: Chongqing (l->n) and Nanjing (n->l) Mandarin, also Xiang(no l) and Gan (no n) Chinese do confuse n/l.
------------------------------------
An interesting comparison:
Viet       Mand/Cant         Hanzi
Rồng    Long2/Lung4      龍/龙
Rèm     Lian2/Lim4          簾/帘
Rường   Liang2/Leung4    樑
(notice: many of the Old Chinese reconstructions of 'L' in Chinese are 'R')
--------------------------
Another phenomenon is about the 'L' sound in Sino-Korean, it used to be represented by the ᄅ sound, whose modern pronunciation is 'R'. Now in the Sino-Korean loanword, most of the old 'L' become something else rather than 'R': 'N' if there's no -y- after and eliminated if there is a 'y'!! B)
Hanja: 龍 (has 3 readings, ryong, rong and pang)
Hangul: 룡>용, 롱>농, 방
Yale: lyong>yong, long>nong, pang
The 2000 South Korean Revised: ryong>yong, rong>nong, bang

I believe we could speak with the sound that we could hear, any distortion or deviation from that perhaps we could attribute to external factors & personal habits.

Phonemes like trills needs practise. B)
You can go to the site above and hear the trill sounds, I suppose that many Vietnamese also can't do that.
(though one of them, the alveolar trill, should be the standard pronounciation of the r!)

Do you know speak Vietnamese? If so, what degree of your fluency? :)

My Vietnamese is roughly as bad as my Japanese :P

Edited by qrasy, 25 March 2006 - 10:59 AM.

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#13 MC420

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 11:30 AM

(BTW: what is "Sinoasiatic", I've never heard this kind of classification)


Oh, Sino-Asiatic <-- a grouping of Chinese base (sino) and Korean/Japanese group by few American linguistics.

Hong Kong <-- even though it's a highly developed metropolitan city but it's merely sleepy coastal village prior the arrival of the white devils though! ;) Cantonese language and the mix up of pronounciation of the n/l of course has been existed long before that ....! Bad habits die hard ... what can we say? :P

Most Vietnamese inheritely speak terrible English but usually not as bad as the Altaic folks (Korean & Japanese).

I believe the Malaya folks are doing better in learning English among all of the Asians. B)

#14 qrasy

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 12:09 PM

Oh, Sino-Asiatic <-- a grouping of Chinese base (sino) and Korean/Japanese group by few American linguistics.

:g: how can it be well-defined?
[edit: BTW do you know what I thought? :haha: Sino-Tibetan; Austroasiatic.]

Hong Kong <-- even though it's a highly developed metropolitan city but it's merely sleepy coastal village prior the arrival of the white devils though! ;) Cantonese language and the mix up of pronounciation of the n/l of course has been existed long before that ....! Bad habits die hard ... what can we say? :P

IMO the L and N has not been mixed up long ago. There are old documents about the Cantonese language, and N and L are distinguished, e.g. 藍 vs 男.
I can't really be sure, but this (recent change) is the case for the dropping of NG to a "zero consonant", which still exist in old Generation. {A newer thing is the omission of 'w' in 'kw' before an 'o' sound, which is still not very common.}
We can say that the N-L confusion may also just happened recently.
And actually I don't see any N/L confusion in the (Standard Cantonese) dictionaries. B)

I believe the Malaya folks are doing better in learning English among all of the Asians. B)

Well, how can I say? For Indonesian it's because the more flexible structure of a syllable and the consistency with Latin pronunciation (*but do not fit too well with English phoneme: the vowel system of English, postalveolar consonants, etc.). But grammar-wise, many Malaya folks are also doing not very good.

Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese can't have -s in ending, and among them only Korean have the -l ending. No consonant clusters (double/triple consonants) are allowed. This is not the case for Indonesian.

What I think: average Indian will do much better than Indonesians/Malays because of the complex grammar understanding.

Edited by qrasy, 25 March 2006 - 12:10 PM.

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#15 MC420

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 12:12 PM

[quote name='qrasy' date='Mar 25 2006, 11:09 AM' post='4798507']
What I think: average Indian will do much better than Indonesians/Malays because of the complex grammar understanding./quote]

That's the main reason many of the US companies have outsourced their teleservice center to Bangalore intead of the Philippines!




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