Note 6:

Uvular and lingual ‘double’ r

The terms double and single refer to the fact that the ‘double’ phoneme is sometimes written rr and the single phoneme is always written r. They are not phonetic or even linguistic terms.

The /R\/ is most often a uvular flap or roll, but a lingual rolled r is also sometimes heard, both in Portugal and Brazil. Example from a fado sung by Francisco Fialho: refúgio ©. Amália Rodrigues used this lingual r sometimes too, e.g. rasgando © and rua ©; but see also here.

Note that such an alternation of lingual and uvular r’s occurs only with the ‘double’ phoneme, and (in Portugal) never with the ‘single’ r. In Brazil however, uvular r’s can also occur for the ‘single’ phoneme in pre-consonantal and final position, but never in intervocalic position. This means that a genuine Portuguese pronunciation with only lingual r’s is possible (both in Brazil and in Portugal), but that any pronunciation that uses only uvular r’s and no lingual r’s immediately betrays a foreign accent (German, French, Dutch, etc.). (But exceptions exist!).
For a foreign learner, it is almost a requirement to master both, and quickly switch from the one to the other, because the two sounds can easily occur in a same word: correr (run), morrerei ©, barreiro (barrier), regra (rule), riram (they laughed), terrorismo. The sample of querer romper ©. is also interesting in this respect.

Using a lingual sound for the ‘double’ phoneme r makes the situation regarding the two types of r’s the same as in Spanish, (Puerto Rico excepted) where both are always articulated with the tongue, not the uvula. This style does occur in Portugal too, but the uvular ‘double’ r is much more common.

Some people switch from one style to the other, others – most – use one style consistently. This seems to be a matter of personal preference. But even those who are very consistent sometimes switch: on four Cristina Branco records I found only one occurrence of a ‘double’ lingual r ©, which is again uvular © in a different recording of the same song. Text: Da água que não correu (Of the water that didn’t flow).
Dulce Pontes © sometimes does it too, and so did Amália Rodrigues: lingual © here, but uvular © in the same word ‘rua’ elsewhere. Also in roda ©.

The uvular r is often more fricative in Brazil than in Portugal; for more details see note 23, item 5.

Among the minimally differing pairs for /R\/ and /r/ are the following: (see also the present tense of verbs like correr)

erra (he is mistaken)era (he was)
ferro (iron)fero (fierce)
carro (car)caro (dear/expensive)
morre (he dies)more (that he lives/dwells)
corres (you run) cores (that you blush) /kOr1s/ (confer cores (colours) /kor1s/
gorro (a kind of cap) /goR\u/ goro (rotten, failed, useless) /goru/
ira (anger, makes angry)irra (damn!, blimey!)
fora (outside)forra (saves)
foro (rent)forro (lining)
foro (forum)forro (I line)
mira (looks at)mirra (myrrh)
vara (stick)varra (that he sweeps)
bera (fake)berra (bleats)
espiro (I breathe)espirro (I sneeze)
(these last 8 examples thanks to Ekkehard Dengler)

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Note 6a: Native speakers with all r’s uvular

Pronouncing all Portuguese r’s deep in the throat is often a sign of a French, German, Danish or Dutch accent. But not always! There are native speakers who do this too. In Willis in section 5, page 22, I read:
“3. Particularly in Setúbal and Lisbon some speakers replace the alveolars [r, rr] by the velars [R, RR].”
I asked for confirmation that that is true, if this accent really still exists, and got some respons, but not much. Perhaps it is now old-fashioned, or native speakers don’t pay much attention to it.

The only person I heard speak like that, and who always does this as far as I know, is politician Nuno Morais Sarmento (Ministro de Estado e da Presidência, no Governo de Pedro Santana Lopes, 2003-2005). He’s not from Setúbal, but was born in Lisbon in 1961.

I don’t know if his accent is a personal peculiarity, of really the regional accent that Willis descibes. I sometimes thought that the then Presidente da República Jorge Sampaio (born in Lisbon) also did it, but I’m not sure and didn’t hear confirmation. Perhaps he uses some strange mixture of uvular and lingual articulation for the single r at times, although it is most often fully lingual.

In that usenet thread I now see I heard it one other time: Patrick Monteiro de Barros. He was born in France of Portuguese parents, so perhaps it is a French accent in his case? But none of the bilinguals on Rádio Alfa, who can switch between French and Portuguese in a fraction of a second in both directions - for Paris traffic information, or Portuguese artist names mentioned in a French-language program) ever mix up their Portuguese r’s like that. And Monteiro de Barros otherwise sounds genuinely Portuguese.

Addition 19 September 2006:
I heard fadista Argentina Santos, in a record played on Rádio Portalegre, in a song the title of which I missed -- but the word ‘rugas’ occurred in the lyrics -- do it too. I heard her sing before (even live, one time), but either she didn’t do it then or I didn’t notice.