Alveolar approximant

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Alveolar approximant
IPA number 151
Entity (decimal) ɹ
Unicode (hex) U+0279
X-SAMPA r\ or D_r_o
Kirshenbaum r
Braille ⠼ (braille pattern dots-3456)

Postalveolar approximant

The alveolar approximant is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the alveolar and postalveolar approximants is ɹ, a lowercase letter r rotated 180 degrees. The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is r\. There is no separate symbol for the dental approximant (as in Spanish nada) in the International Phonetic Alphabet, which most scholars transcribe with the symbol for voiced dental fricative, that is ð.

The most common sound represented by the letter r in English is the postalveolar approximant, pronounced a little more back and transcribed more precisely in IPA as ɹ̠. For ease of typesetting, English phonemic transcriptions might use the symbol r instead of ɹ, even though the former symbol represents the alveolar trill in phonetic transcription.


Features of the alveolar approximant:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Armenian Eastern[citation needed] սուրճ [suɹtʃ] 'coffee'
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic [ɹɑbɑ] 'many' Used only in Tyari and Alqosh dialects. The /ɾ/ is predominantly used in most of Assyrian dialects
Burmese[1][2] တိစ္ဆာန် [təɹeɪʔsʰàɴ] 'animal' Occurs only in loanwords, mostly from Pali or English
Chukchi[citation needed] ңирэк [ŋiɹek] 'two'
Danish Standard[3][4][5] ved [ʋɪð̠˕ˠ] 'at, by' Most often transcribed ð. It is an allophone of /d/ in the syllable coda, velarized and laminal, weak, acoustically similar to the back vowel [ɯ] or [ɤ], and may be syllabic.[3][4][5] For few speakers, it may be a non-sibilant fricative instead.[5] See Danish phonology
Dutch Central Netherlandic door [doːɹ] 'through' Allophone of /r/ in the syllable coda for some speakers. See Dutch phonology
Western Netherlandic
Leiden rat [ɹat] 'rat' Dialect of this city, unlike any other, uses [ɹ] for every instance of /r/
English most American dialects[6] red About this sound [ɹ̠ʷɛd]  'red' Often retracted and labialized. Has been lost in non-rhotic varieties except before a vowel. May also be a labialized retroflex approximant; corresponds to an [r] or [ɾ] in a few other dialects. For convenience it is often transcribed r. See English phonology
Received Pronunciation
Faroese róður [ɹɔuwʊɹ] 'rudder'
German Siegerland[7] Rebe [ˈɹeːbə] 'vine shoot' Most other dialects use a voiced uvular fricative or uvular trill. See German phonology
Silesian German
Upper Lusatian
Greek[9] μέρα ra [ˈmɛɹɐ] 'day' Allophone of /r/ in rapid or casual speech. See Modern Greek phonology
Icelandic bróðir [ˈproːð̠˕ir] 'brother' Usually apical. See Icelandic phonology
Igbo[10] rí [ɹí] 'eat' Post-alveolar
Limburgish Montfortian dialect[11] maintenant [ˈmæ̃ːn˦ð̠˕ənɑ̃ː˨] 'now'
Persian فارسی [fɒːɹˈsiː] 'Persian' Allophone of /ɾ/ before /d/, /l/, /s/, /ʃ/, /t/, /z/, and /ʒ/. See Persian phonology.
Portuguese General Brazilian[12] marketing [ˈmaɹke̞tɕĩ] 'marketing' Allophone of [ɾ ~ ʁ] in recent loanwords, used even by many speakers who do not use coda alveolar, post-alveolar or retroflex approximants in native words. Varies individually. Generally not as onset or final e.g. trailer [ˈtɾejle̞ʁ].
Greater São Paulo[13] permitir [pe̞ɹmiˈtɕiɾ] 'to allow', 'to enable' Some or all coda /ɾ/ may instead be a guttural or an approximant, varying by speaker, albeit more likely to be aspirated or deleted altogether than to be an approximant among native speakers when as final. See Portuguese phonology.
Inland Brazilian Centro-Sul's metro cities[14] amor [aˈmoɹ] 'love', 'dear' Allophone of [ɾ ~ ʁ] in the syllable coda. May also be retroflex, post-alveolar and/or rhotic vowel. As most rhotic coda in colloquial Brazilian Portuguese, likely to get deleted as final or at the end of sentences
Spanish Some dialects[15] doscientos [do̞ɹˈθje̞n̪t̪o̞s] 'two hundred' Allophone of /s/ in the syllable coda. See Spanish phonology
Belizean invierno [imˈbjeɹno] 'winter' Sometimes occurs as an allophone of [ɾ ~ r] at syllable coda, an influence of British English. See Belizean Spanish phonology
Puerto Rican Sometimes occurs as an allophone of [ɾ ~ r] at syllable coda, an influence of American English. See Puerto Rican Spanish phonology
Swedish Central Standard[16] starkast [ˈs̪t̪äɹːkäs̪t̪] 'strongest' Allophone of /r/. Some speakers have [ɾ] ([r] when geminated) in all positions. See Swedish phonology
Vietnamese Saigon[17] ra [ɹa] 'go out' In free variation with [ɾ], [r] and [ʐ]. See Vietnamese phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[18] r [ɹd̪ɨ] 'pass' Allophone of /ɾ/ before any consonant

As an allophone of other rhotic sounds, [ɹ] occurs in Edo, Fula, Murinh-patha, and Palauan.[19]

See also[edit]



  • Arvaniti, Amalia (2007), "Greek Phonetics: The State of the Art" (PDF), Journal of Greek Linguistics 8: 97–208, doi:10.1075/jgl.8.08arv 
  • Bakkes, Pierre (2007), Mofers Waordebook (in Dutch), ISBN 978-90-9022294-3 
  • Basbøll, Hans (2005), The Phonology of Danish, ISBN 0-19-824268-9 
  • Boyce, S.; Espy-Wilson, C. (1997), "Coarticulatory stability in American English /r/", Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 101 (6): 3741–3753, Bibcode:1997ASAJ..101.3741B, doi:10.1121/1.418333, PMID 9193061 
  • Browman, C.P.; Goldstein, L. (1995), "Gestural syllable position in American English", in Bell-Berti, F.; Raphael, L.J., Producing Speech: Contemporary Issues: for Katherine Safford Harris, New York: AIP, pp. 9–33 
  • Cornyn, William (1944), Outline of Burmese Grammar, Supplement to Language, vol. 20 no. 4, Baltimore: Linguistic Society of America 
  • Delattre, P.; Freeman, D.C. (1968), "A dialect study of American R's by x-ray motion picture", Linguistics 44: 29–68 
  • Engstrand, Olle (1999), "Swedish", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, pp. 140–142, ISBN 9780521637510 
  • Fougeron, C (1999), "Prosodically conditioned articulatory variation: A Review", UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics 97, pp. 1–73 
  • Grønnum, Nina (2003), Why are the Danes so hard to understand? 
  • Hallé, Pierre A.; Best, Catherine T.; Levitt, Andrea (1999), "Phonetic vs. phonological influences on French listeners' perception of American English approximants", Journal of Phonetics 27 (3): 281–306, doi:10.1006/jpho.1999.0097 
  • Ikekeonwu, Clara I. (1999), "Igbo", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, pp. 108–110, ISBN 9780521637510 
  • Kohler, Klaus (1995), Einführung in die Phonetik des Deutschen, Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag 
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8. 
  • Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquiapan Zapotec", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38 (1): 107–114, doi:10.1017/S0025100308003344 
  • Recasens, Daniel (2004), "The effect of syllable position on consonant reduction (evidence from Catalan consonant clusters)", Journal of Phonetics 32 (3): 435–453, doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2004.02.001 
  • Thompson, Laurence C. (1959), "Saigon Phonemics", Language (Linguistic Society of America) 35 (3): 454–476, JSTOR 411232 
  • Watkins, Justin (2001), "Burmese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 31 (2): 291–95, doi:10.1017/S0025100301002122 
  • Zawadzki, P.A.; Kuehn, D.P. (1980), "A cineradiographic study of static and dynamic aspects of American English /r/", Phonetica 37 (4): 253–266, doi:10.1159/000259995, PMID 7443796