Linguistic Change in Southwest German: from apical to uvular r
We start with a brief description of the realization of /r/ in standard German and proceed to examine the evolution of the /r/ in Alemannic dialects in general. We then look at the specific conditions which apply to the /r/ in southwest Germany. Recordings for the ‘Atlas of Southwest German’ demonstrate a multitude of variations of the /r/; in the west, the uvular R dominates, whereas in the east the apical r is the most common realization. In the area around Lake Constance, there is a third variant, namely dorsal r.
According to the definition of sound change established by Haag (Teuthonista 6: 1–35, 1929), the change from apical to uvular r should be classified as the older one; it was a conscious adoption of uvular r, first by speakers in towns and their immediate surroundings, which then became incorporated into regional dialects. The transformation of lingual to dorsal r, on the other hand, is regarded in Haag's terms as a current sound change, which is still in progress.