Pronunciation of γ

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Woods
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Pronunciation of γ

Postby Woods » 2022-07-11, 16:16

Does anyone pronounce γ like I've always imagined it - as a voiced h, or is it more like a German r?

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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby md0 » 2022-07-11, 16:52

Neither, really. It's a voiced velar fricative with a palatal allophone.
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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby linguoboy » 2022-07-11, 19:30

Woods wrote:Does anyone pronounce γ like I've always imagined it - as a voiced h, or is it more like a German r?

The velar allophone is closest to a intervocalic /g/ in Spanish or Catalan, if you happen to know what that sounds like.
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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby Woods » 2022-07-12, 0:02

linguoboy wrote:
Woods wrote:Does anyone pronounce γ like I've always imagined it - as a voiced h, or is it more like a German r?

The velar allophone is closest to a intervocalic /g/ in Spanish or Catalan, if you happen to know what that sounds like.

My knowledge of theoretic phonology is extremely limited compared to yours, that's why I use terms like "the German this," "the French that."

Still I listened to some YouTube guy pronounce the name Málaga (that sounded like the g in eggs), and then the first word with an intervocalic g I found in a random Spanish text was figura, I listened to this pronounced by a person allegedly from Spain and it's definitely a voiced h. So I guess it depends on the region but you're saying standard Castillian speakers have the γ sound on their g's when they're intervocalic only? I guess they're /h/'s before e and i and /g/'s everywhere else?

Good that this beautiful sound exists somewhere. Do you know how it works with (modern) Greek?

I'm not sure if you are confirming that the Greeks have the same sound, but that's not what I've noticed. But when I pronounce my voiced h to them, they don't seem to have a problem with it. Can it be that some Greeks have a problem pronouncing the sound, and that's why they render it as a German r? (I guess that would be called a velar fricative in proper terms).


md0 wrote:Neither, really. It's a voiced velar fricative with a palatal allophone.

Isn't that precisely what the standard German r is?

Maybe that "palatal allophone" is closer to what I mean?

But how does the majority of Greeks speak?

And by allophone you mean it depends on the speaker or it depends on the word?

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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby TheStrayCat » 2022-07-12, 1:44

I'm not a Greek speaker but if this helps, the voiced velar fricative is essentially the voiced version of the Bulgarian /х/ sound (which in its turn is different from the English /h/). Wikipedia also says the voiced sound you're asking about can also occur in Bulgarian when /х/ is followed by certain voiced vowels as in видях го. Does it sound similar to you?

Also, I listened to all variations of Málaga on Forvo and did not hear the hard [g] sound in any of them - that's the resource I normally use to hear native pronunciations. The Spanish g letter does sound like the voiceless Bulgarian x when placed before i or e, but that's not the intervocalic sound that linguoboy probably meant.

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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby md0 » 2022-07-12, 8:31

Woods wrote:
md0 wrote:Neither, really. It's a voiced velar fricative with a palatal allophone.

Isn't that precisely what the standard German r is?

Maybe that "palatal allophone" is closer to what I mean?

But how does the majority of Greeks speak?

And by allophone you mean it depends on the speaker or it depends on the word?


The German R can be realised in many different ways so I'm not sure which pronunciation you have in mind. Most likely the uvular fricative [ʁ] (sound sample). It's close to the untrained ear, for sure, but a Greek speaker would perceive that as a speech impediment or foreign accent pronunciation for rho, not for gamma.

The Greek gramma is pronounced like this, most of the time (velar fricative), and [like this](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiced_palatal_fricative) (palatal fricative) when it comes before the vowels /e/ and /i/ (including when /i/ is a semivowel and not a full vowel).

To the best of my knowledge, there's no dialectal variation when it comes to the pronunciation of gamma, only the above regular change in front of those specific vowels.
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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby Woods » 2022-07-12, 10:47

TheStrayCat wrote:I'm not a Greek speaker but if this helps, the voiced velar fricative is essentially the voiced version of the Bulgarian /х/ sound (which in its turn is different from the English /h/).

Apparently not - according to what md0 says below, the Greek r has more friction.


TheStrayCat wrote:Wikipedia also says the voiced sound you're asking about can also occur in Bulgarian when /х/ is followed by certain voiced vowels as in видях го. Does it sound similar to you?

Not unless you speak really fast and the two sounds merge together, but even then, I'd say it doesn't become fully voiced.


md0 wrote:The German R can be realised in many different ways so I'm not sure which pronunciation you have in mind. Most likely the uvular fricative [ʁ] (sound sample). It's close to the untrained ear, for sure, but a Greek speaker would perceive that as a speech impediment or foreign accent pronunciation for rho, not for gamma.

I don't think the most-commonly heard german r is uvular, isn't that what the French one is called (it's quite different)? (And even then, I don't think the uvula is engaged).

But the two sound samples in the Wikipedia articles do sound a bit different; to me they both sounds like r's thought, apparently the sound I imagined for the Greek g is only available in Spanish.

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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby md0 » 2022-07-12, 11:11

I think what I wrote was misunderstood. The velar version of γ is indeed a voiced /x/, like the one found in Turkish, BCMS, and likely Bulgarian too.

As far as I know, the Greek γ and the Spanish fricative allophone of g are also the same sound. That Spanish may be missing is the palatal allophone which is very strongly a fricative and never an approximant (like in most European languages with a y/j).
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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby Woods » 2022-07-12, 12:41

md0 wrote:I think what I wrote was misunderstood. The velar version of γ is indeed a voiced /x/, like the one found in Turkish, BCMS, and likely Bulgarian too.

As far as I know, the Greek γ and the Spanish fricative allophone of g are also the same sound.

No, there is for sure more friction in the g's of some greeks I've heard.


Actually, if you listen to the following sample, I think you'll notice that the g's are different - the first one is more like an r, what I'd call the German r, and the second one is more like a voiced h, like I've always imagined it. Can it be that the second person is older and the γ is evolving towards one with more friction?

https://forvo.com/word/%CE%AC%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%B5_%CE%B3%CE%B1%CE%BC%CE%AE%CF%83%CE%BF%CF%85/

(Sorry for the choice of words for the sample, but that was the first word that came to mind - my Greek friends are assholes and that's the kind of stuff they're teaching me 😁)

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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby md0 » 2022-07-12, 12:56

I honestly have nothing more to add that I didn't already say or was mentioned by the others. Please entertain the idea that maybe you just can't hear the contrast between the consonants - it can always be the case. For example, despite the best effort of my BCMS-speaking peers, I don't hear any difference between ć and č unless I concentrate an inordinate amount.

To recap: There's no question that the Greek γ is a fricative - no more like an approximant. You keep mentioning German R, but without knowing what German R you have in mind, this doesn't help me understand what's the difference you say you are hearing. The closest I can think of is the voiced uvular fricative I mentioned, and Greek γ is not uvular by any stretch of imagination and as native speakers we do not consider them variants of the same sound (as I said, we would perceive the uvular fricative as a type of ρ, not of γ). Do you have some other R in mind?

Also, some offence is taken at the sample sentence. You always had the chance to look up and find a sentence that is not profane and addressed at the second person.
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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby linguoboy » 2022-07-12, 15:51

Woods wrote:[
md0 wrote:Neither, really. It's a voiced velar fricative with a palatal allophone.

Isn't that precisely what the standard German r is?

Absolutely not. This isn't even true of any German dialects I know (some of which do have [ɣ] as an allophone of /g/, with a palatal variant used before front vowels).

Woods wrote:And by allophone you mean it depends on the speaker or it depends on the word?

Both. Time for a little Phonology 101.

In the traditional view[*], there are abstract mental representations of minimal speech units called "phonemes". In alphabetic scripts, there is a rough correspondence between phonemes and letters; it is never exact, not even in newly-fashioned scripts, partly because there are edge cases in every language. (Is /x/ phonemic in English? /ʤ/ in German?) In speech, these phonemes manifest as individual speech sounds called "phones". All the possible phonetic manifestations of a particular phoneme are called "allophones" of it. (Note that it is frequently the case that allophones overlap--that is, the same phone can be an allophone of more than one phoneme. Also, phonemes can be deleted entirely in speech without leaving any phonetic traces at all--though it's more often the case that there is some phonetic effect on neighbouring sounds.)

So what determines which allophones get used in which situations? It's a complex interplay of factors. The most important are probably what phonemes are adjacent but it's also dependent on speech level, social context, and--yes--the idiolects of the particular speakers. My realisation of certain phonemes is very dependent on who I'm talking to and what kind of impression I'm seeking (consciously or unconsciously) to give them.

Probably the most frequent allophone of German /r/ in my speech is actually [ɐ], since this is the default realisation in syllable codas. That is, in a typical sentence like:

So reicht mir eure Hände und gebt mir eure Herzen.

all the bolded r's have this value. (At least in ordinary speech. Sung--this is a line from a song--I might trill them all, but that's a very distinctive and limited register.)

[*] Various theoretical models try to do away with the notion of "phonemes" entirely (generally substituting "feature bundles" instead), but these are challenging to use without a pretty thorough grounding in linguistics.
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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby linguoboy » 2022-07-12, 16:11

md0 wrote:To recap: There's no question that the Greek γ is a fricative - no more like an approximant.

Interesting. I've always been taught that the Spanish sound was approximant in contrast to the Greek sound, which represents a true fricative. (I've listened to enough Spanish that I can easily distinguish [ɣ̞] and [g], but I find distinguishing [ɣ] from [g] more challenging.)
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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby md0 » 2022-07-12, 16:56

linguoboy wrote:
md0 wrote:To recap: There's no question that the Greek γ is a fricative - no more like an approximant.

Interesting. I've always been taught that the Spanish sound was approximant in contrast to the Greek sound, which represents a true fricative. (I've listened to enough Spanish that I can easily distinguish [ɣ̞] and [g], but I find distinguishing [ɣ] from [g] more challenging.)


I think I accidentally some words (sic) in the quoted section, so to be clear, what I meant to say is that the Greek γ is unambiguously a fricative.
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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby Woods » 2022-07-13, 9:11

md0 wrote:I honestly have nothing more to add that I didn't already say or was mentioned by the others. Please entertain the idea that maybe you just can't hear (...)

To recap: There's no question that the Greek γ is a fricative - no more like an approximant. (...) 🤔

Also, some offence is taken at the sample sentence. You always had the chance to look up and find a sentence that is not profane and addressed at the second person.

I've literally been hanging out with one Greek guy lately and when I ask him to teach me something in Greek, he teaches me sentences like that. It has happened before too, so I got the impression that this is part of Greek humour. If I wanted to offend you or something, I would have done it in a much more straightforward way!

Can you not hear a difference in the gammas pronounced by the two speakers? I kept this example especially because the two samples perfectly illustrate what I'm talking about - the second one is what I'd call a voiced h (a.k.a. Spanish intervocalic g), while the first one is more fricative, it sounds like what I've noticed from a couple young Greeks and it also sounds like an r to me.

The German r I mention is the one you provided a sample to I guess, or something close to that. I mentioned that it doesn't sound uvular to me, but I guess you skipped that.

And talking of offence, I also think your tone becomes inappropriate at some point - I appreciate your explanations, but has it crossed your mind that maybe I haven't fully understood what you are talking about or have more questions? You don't have to answer me if you don't want, why does it feel like you want to start an argument?

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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby md0 » 2022-07-13, 11:33

I think I felt frustrated by the circular path this discussion was taking. I should have withdrawn from it earlier.
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Re: Pronunciation of γ

Postby mōdgethanc » 2022-08-09, 10:56

To mine ears, as a filthy foreigner, these are all fairly different sounds. I don't get the confusion.

[ɣ] is like a weaker [ɡ] to me. [ʝ] is like a stronger [j]. Both allophones are quite different. [ʝ] can work as an allophone of [ɣ] because velar sounds often and easily get fronted to palatals. In some languages (Old English is one, and Swedish) this sound merges with /j/ as well.

[ɰ] is a weird sound that's like an unrounded [w] (which is indeed more or less what the Japanese /w/ is). But in Spanish, it's a symbol sometimes used to write the weaker allophone of /ɡ/, which is otherwise written [ɣ]. Side note: IMO this sound is rare because it's awkward to make and it's easily deleted (Korean technically has it but drops it all the time).

Here's a key thing however: with fricatives (especially dorsals or "back" ones like velar, uvular, and pharyngeal sounds) there is often ambiguity between a fricative and approximant. In Spanish, I've read the sound written [ɣ] is perhaps better written [ɰ]. But in European Portuguese and Catalan, the convention is to write [ɣ] for the "weak" allophone of /ɡ/. Are these really different sounds? Do speakers of European Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan notice this slight difference? Probably not I think. It's nitpicking to say the Greek [ɣ] is more strongly fricated. Maybe it is, I don't know. But I doubt anyone cares. I can't think of a single language where [ɣ] and [ɰ] are different phonemes.

Anyway:

As for [ʁ], that can either be a rhotic, or not, depending on the language; but Greek does not have that sound so whatever. However in some languages (Arabic is one) there can be a lot of ambiguity on whether they have velar or uvular fricatives. IMO Arabic has these sounds further back than in Greek, closer to uvular. Sometimes these are called "post-velar" to avoid having to answer if they are uvular or not.

[ɦ] is literally just a breathy /h/ and not a [ɡ]-like sound at all, although in some Slavic languages (Czech is one) that is where it historically came from.

The bottom line here is that you simply need to learn phonetics better if you are confused by all this. To answer your first question: the sound [ɣ] is closer to an [ʁ], but not the same thing. There you go.
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