The retroflex approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɻ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is r\`. The IPA symbol is a turned lowercase letter r with a rightward hook protruding from the lower right of the letter.
Features of the retroflex approximant:
- Its manner of articulation is approximant, which means it is produced by narrowing the vocal tract at the place of articulation, but not enough to produce a turbulent airstream.
- Its place of articulation is retroflex, which prototypically means it is articulated subapical (with the tip of the tongue curled up), but more generally, it means that it is postalveolar without being palatalized. That is, besides the prototypical sub-apical articulation, the tongue contact can be apical (pointed) or laminal (flat).
- Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
- It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
- It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.
- The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.
The retroflex approximant occurs in American English, Irish English, West Country dialects, Mandarin Chinese, Pashto, a few Brazilian Portuguese dialects and some languages of India such as Tamil and Malayalam, as well as several Australian Aboriginal and Indigenous South American languages.
See also 
- ^ Trudgill (1989:18–19)
- ^ The retroflex approximant is stigmatized, being referred to as erre caipira (hillbilly ar, in free translation), mostly found in non-metropolitan hinterlands of São Paulo, Paraná, south of Minas Gerais and surrounding areas, but may also be post-alveolar, alveolar and/or rhotic vowel, the more common realization in metropolitan areas and the coast. As with [ɽ], it appeared as mutation of Iberian /ɾ/ in the development of Brazilian Portuguese from several Amerindian languages (most importantly the línguas gerais) and Old Portuguese (português arcaico) spoken by non-natives of the latter, in the countryside of its more southern states, while more northern dialects started to use the guttural sounds equivalent to Portuguese /ʁ/ in the syllable coda. Originally, both of these major variants elided ars in final of words with more than one syllable, a feature that as with many common Romance characteristics, colloquial Brazilian Portuguese still shares with languages such as Catalan, but now this trait is not more ubiquitous, neither with dialects that use guttural nor with those that use coronal approximant /r/.
- ^ (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
- ^ Keane (2004:111)
- Keane, Elinor (2004), "Tamil", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 111–116, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001549
- Trudgill, Peter (1989), "The Sociophonetics of /l/ in the Greek of Sphakiá", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 15 (2): 18–22, doi:10.1017/S0025100300002942