|IPA number||322 + 419|
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In phonetics, an R-colored or rhotic vowel (also called a vocalic R or a rhotacized vowel) is a vowel that is modified in a way that results in a lowering in frequency of the third formant. R-colored vowels can be articulated in various ways; the tip or blade of the tongue may be turned up during at least part of the articulation of the vowel (a retroflex articulation) or the back of the tongue may be bunched: in addition the vocal tract may often be constricted in the region of the epiglottis. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, an R-colored vowel is indicated by a modification placed to the right of the regular symbol for the vowel. For example, the IPA symbol for schwa is ə, while the IPA symbol for an R-colored schwa is ɚ.
R-colored vowels are rare, occurring in less than one percent of the languages of the world: however they occur in three of the most widely spoken varieties: North American English, Mandarin Chinese and Quebec French. In North American English, they are found in words such as butter, nurse and, for some speakers, start. They also occur in some variants of Dutch, of Brazilian Portuguese, and of Danish (some Jutlandic dialects).
The r-colored vowels of General American can be written with vowel-r digraphs:
- Stressed [ɝ]: hearse, assert, mirth, work, turkey, myrtle
- Unstressed [ɚ]: standard, dinner, Lincolnshire, editor, measure, martyr
- Stressed [ɑ˞]: start, car
- Stressed [ɔ˞]: north, war
In words such as start, many speakers have R-coloring only in the coda of the vowel, rather than as a simultaneous articulation modifying the whole duration. This can be represented in IPA by using a succession of two symbols such as [ɑɚ] or [ɑɹ], rather than the unitary symbol [ɑ˞].
Dropping r-colored vowels when singing has traditionally been nearly universal and a standard part of vocal training, but there are now numerous exceptions, including many Irish singers and many performers of country music; though this is not universal. In certain particular cases, a vowel + r is pronounced as two syllables instead, a non-rhotic vowel followed by a syllabic r.
In Mandarin Chinese
In Mandarin Chinese, the rhotacized ending of some words is the prime way by which to distinguish speakers of Standard Northern Mandarin (Beijing Mandarin) and Southwestern Mandarin from those of other forms of Mandarin in China. Mandarin speakers call this phenomenon Erhua. In many words, -r suffix is added to indicate some meaning changes. In simplified written Chinese, the change is indicated with the suffix 儿. (If the word ends in a nasal, the final consonant is lost and the vowel becomes nasalized if what is lost is a nasal velar (ng.) Major cities that have this form of rhotacized ending include Beijing, Tianjin, Tangshan, Shenyang, Changchun, Jilin, Harbin, and Qiqihar. This Erhua has since spread to other non-Standard Mandarin speaking provincial capitals, such as Shijiazhuang, Jinan, Xian, Chongqing, and Chengdu.
In rhotic accents of Standard Mandarin Chinese such as accents in cities Beijing, Tianjin, most of Hebei province (e.g. Tangshan, Baoding, Chengde), Eastern Inner Mongolia (e.g. Chifeng, Hailar), and the three Northeastern provinces, vocalic r occurs as a diminutive ending to nouns (simplified Chinese: 儿; traditional Chinese: 兒; pinyin: ér) and the perfective aspect particle (Chinese: 了; pinyin: le). This also occurs in the middle syllables of compound words consisting of 3 or more syllables. For example, the famous restaurant 'Gou Bu Li' (狗不理) in Tianjin is pronounced as 'Gourbli' (Gǒubùlǐ → Gǒurblǐ). 'Do not know' 不知道 (Bù Zhī Dào) is pronounced as 'Burdao' (Bùzhīdào → Bùrdào). The street 'Da Shan Lan' (大栅栏) in Beijing South City is pronounced as 'Da Shi Lar' (Dàshànlàn → Dàshílàr).
In Quebec French
In Quebec French, the vowel /œ̃/ may be pronounced [œ̃˞] and the r-colored vowels are also pronounced in loan words. For example, the word hamburger can be pronounced [ambɚɡɚ], the word soccer can be pronounced [sɒkɚ] etc.
In the 1930s the Dravidian language Badaga had two degrees of rhoticity among all five of its vowels, but few speakers maintain the distinction today, and then only in one or two vowels. An example is non-rhotic [be] "mouth", slightly rhotacized ("half retroflexed") [be˞] "bangle", and fully rhotacized ("fully retroflexed") [be˞˞] "crop".
The Algic language Yurok illustrates rhotic vowel harmony. The non-high vowels /a/, /e/, and /o/ may become /ɚ/ in a word that has /ɚ/. For example, the root /nahks-/ 'three' becomes [nɚhks-] in the word [nɚhksɚʔɚjɬ] 'three (animals or birds)'.
- Ladefoged, Peter; Ian Maddieson (1996). The sounds of the world's languages. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 313. ISBN 0-631-19815-6.
- (Portuguese) Acoustic-phonetic characteristics of the Brazilian Portuguese's retroflex /r/: data from respondents in Pato Branco, Paraná. Irineu da Silva Ferraz. Pages 19–21
- (Portuguese) Syllable coda /r/ in the "capital" of the paulista hinterland: sociolinguistic analisis. Cândida Mara Britto LEITE. Page 111 (page 2 in the attached PDF)
- (Portuguese) Callou, Dinah. Leite, Yonne. "Iniciação à Fonética e à Fonologia". Jorge Zahar Editora 2001, p. 24
- Clark, John Ellery; Colin Yallop;Janet Fletcher (2007). An introduction to phonetics and phonology (third ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell. p. 66. ISBN 1-4051-3083-0.
- Aungst, L.F. & Frick, J.V. (1964) Auditory discrimination ability and consistency of articulation of /r/. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 29, 76–85.
- Curtis, J.F.& Hardy, J.C. (1959) A phonetic study of misarticulation of /r/. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 2 (3), 244–257.
- Ristuccia, Christine. (2002) 'Phonologic strategy for /r/ remediation.' Advance for Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, 39, 21.
- Ristuccia, C.L. , Gilbert, D.W. & Ristuccia, J.E. (2005). The Entire World of R Book of Elicitation Techniques. Tybee Island, GA: 'Say It Right'. ISBN 0-9760490-7-4.