Is rhoticity on the tip of your tongue? Investigating tongue shapes for English /r/ in French learners with ultrasound.


English /r/ takes different tongue shapes from one speaker to another. It is well-established that tip-down and tip-up shapes produce perceptually similar outputs. However, it remains unclear why speakers intuitively acquire one type or another. The present study considers the hypothesis that rhotic and non-rhotic varieties of English may influence the acquisition of different tongue shapes. We provide articulatory data on the pronunciation of English /r/ by 19 French learners of English, 10 with rhotic and 9 with non-rhotic accents. Ultrasound tongue images were recorded for onset and coda /r/ in various vocalic contexts and were classified as either tip-up or tip-down. Although rhoticity as a predictor of tongue shape does not reach statistical significance, we found a tendency for rhotic speakers to use a higher proportion of tip- down shapes. We conclude that while rhoticity may partly influence tongue shape, other factors are alsoat play, including co-articulatory constraints

International Congress of Phonetic Sciences