md0 wrote:Is there a simple answer about how to pronounce the <r> in words like gerne, durch, Stern? Are [ʁ] and [ɐ] in free variation there?
Yes, I would say they are in free variation, depending on the region. In addition to the link Car added, this might be helpful as well:
Where final -r- is vocalized, the 'degree of vocalization' and the quality of the resulting vowel differs from region to region. I'm obviously not an expert, so these are just some of my impressions:
In the northern half of Germany (including the few places where initial r- is still pronounced as a trill), syllable-final -r is usually vocalized, sometimes merging with the preceding vowel, often lengthening an originally short vowel, e.g. 'hart' [ha:t] or [hɑːt]; 'Stern' [ʃtɛɐn] or [ʃtɛːn].
The pronunciation of the suffix -er varies between something like [ʌ] in parts of Westfalia (the Ruhrgebiet) and in the North-West (Bremen), [ɐ] further eastwards (Hannover, Hamburg, Berlin), and a 'brighter' pronunciation, perhaps [ɛ] or even [æ], along the Baltic Sea coastline (anywhere between Flensburg on the Danish border and the island of Rügen).
In the Rhineland, final -r is usually vocalized as well: 'Stern' [ʃteɐn](?), but whenever it's followed by -t, it is pronounced as [x]: 'hart' [haxt]. This means that 'Art' and 'acht' sound very similar in the Rhineland. Maybe they can even be regarded as homophones.
Both in the South-West (Saarland, Rheinland-Pfalz, Baden-Württemberg) and in Saxony, the letter -r- sounds like a uvular fricative in any position; perhaps just slightly vocalized in final position but always distinguishable from 'proper' vowels. People who are more familiar with these varieties would perhaps disagree, though.
In the southern parts of Bavaria and in the east of Austria (Niederösterreich, Vienna, …), final -r is usually vocalized. In these areas, vocalized -r often changes the quality of the preceding vowel in many different ways.
German-speaking countries and regions where -r- is generally pronounced as a trill and not vocalized include Switzerland (all regions?), Liechtenstein and some western parts of Austria (Vorarlberg, Tirol); further north, parts of Franken (Nuremberg). In final position, the trill may sometimes be reduced to a tap (or a flap?).