I've read that the Bavarian accent (or the southern regions in general) uses a trilled R -- IPA [r] -- instead of the "standard" voiced uvular fricative -- IPA [ʁ]. I've also read that the uvular trill -- IPA [ʀ] -- is how they pronounce R's in Switzerland.

So I have a couple questions about this situation:

  1. Would using a trilled R give a learner a marked Bavarian accent?
  2. Is having a marked Bavarian accent a bad thing?
  3. How "bad" is it to pronounce the uvular R as a trill instead of a fricative?

Basically, I can easily pronounce the trilled R from my Spanish experience, and I can sorta do the uvular trill like in French, but the standard uvular fricative is still difficult for me. So I'm looking for guidance on which "temporary" pronunciation I should favor while I practice the standard R.

  • 5
    +1 for your effort to study German so deliberately. My impression is that people are very, very relaxed about the R usage.
    – Sebastian
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 6:54
  • 1
    I studied linguistics in college; I can't help myself. ;)
    – Arthaey
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 0:26
  • 1
    French doesn't have an uvular trill, it has an uvular fricative. For me the fricative is pretty easy but the trill is extremely difficult even though I can produce other trills such as the Spanish one. -- Correction: Wikipedia says French does have it in some dialects though I've only heard it in German. Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 11:44

3 Answers 3


1.) Would using a trilled R give a learner a marked Bavarian accent?

No. The most distinct characteristic of Bavarian is its pronunciation of vowels (especially diphthongs). Without them, you won't sound Bavarian at all.

2.) Is having a marked Bavarian accent a bad thing?

Really, really depends on where you're going. Some people are pretty hostile when it comes to Bavarian and in some situations any dialect might just be considered too informal. But I don't think you'll ever going to have this problem. At least if you're not learning German in Bavaria from the scratch - I've heard some funny stories about foreign looking people with strong Bavarian accent. Will give you some startled looks usually. :-)

3.) How "bad" is it to pronounce the uvular R as a trill instead of a fricative?

It's really one of the minor mistakes. Most people won't even notice. Worst that can happen to you is that people find it charming. ;-)

  • 1
    +1 for "most people won't even notice". There are so many dialects using trilled 'R'.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 8:47
  • 2
    There are even a few dialects using ɻ (American English style R). That's something I wouldn't recommend, though. Has kind of a negative touch and sticks out.
    – ladybug
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 9:04
  • Thanks for the detailed anwser! I think I'll keep working at the uvular R and not worry too much if it's a trill more often than it's a fricative for now. :)
    – Arthaey
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 0:26

German /r/ can be pronounced as /R/ (uvular trill), /ʁ/ (fricative), and in some accents /r/ (/r/ is not very common). There is probably not any logical distribution of regions with a uvular trill versus fricative as in French, as it seems to be in free variation in German (it is very obvious in some languages when the sound is a uvular trill versus fricative because the fricative can be devoiced to a voiceless uvular fricative /X/, whereas the trill is less likely to). The difference between /R/ and /ʁ/ is not really noticeable, because in all environments where /ʁ/ would be devoiced (e.g. at the coda of a syllable before a voiceless consonant) the /R/ or /ʁ/ becomes a totally different allophone. For example, the /R/ in "warten" is not even pronounced as /R/ because it occurs in coda position. If it were pronounced as /ʁ/ it would theoretically be devoiced, but because German does not allow coda /R/ or /ʁ/ it is almost impossible for phoneticians to know whether it is a trill or fricative just by listening. The sounds are very difficult to distinguish by the human ear (except maybe /R/ can be longer), and you really would to analyze a spectrogram to come up with a concrete conclusion, unless the speaker was exaggerating the sounds so that the difference was obvious.

Basically, both the trill and fricative work in onset position (not at the end of a syllable), and it is almost impossible for the human ear to distinguish. People with large uvula's probably make something which sounds more like /R/ because the uvula would flap around automatically while making frication noise. Just don't pronounce "r" as a trill or fricative at the end of a syllable.


I would say both ways to pronounce an r are correct.

I think not mixing up the two pronunciations of o which are not differentiated in writing is more important than the pronunciations of r.


open like in die Woche [ˈvɔxə]

or closed like oder [ˈoːdər]

BTW: I use this online dictionary to find the phonetic spelling.

  • 5
    How does this connect to the question?
    – ladybug
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 8:37
  • Different spellings of r's are rather unimportant
    – bernd_k
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 11:21
  • Do you mean it's more important to learn to properly differentiate open and closed vowels? Then you should say that in your answer :-) (Incidentally, I think you mean pronunciations and not spellings in your comment.) Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 11:34
  • @Hendrik Thanks for correction. That's one I easily confuse.
    – bernd_k
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 11:50

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