Alveolar and postalveolar approximants

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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, 〈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〉, but 〈ɹ〉 is often used for convenience in its place. For further ease of typesetting, English phonemic transcriptions might use the symbol 〈r〉 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'
Assamese Standard ঙা/rônga [ɹɔŋa] 'red'
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic Alqosh dialect [ɹɑbɑ] 'many' Corresponds to /ɾ/ in most other Assyrian dialects.
Tyari dialect
Burmese[1][2] တိစ္ဆာန် [təɹeɪʔsʰàɴ] 'animal' Occurs only in loanwords, mostly from Pali or English
Chinese Mandarin /sì [sɹ̩˥˩] 'four' Can be a fricative [z̩] for some speakers.
Chukchi[citation needed] ңирэк [ŋiɹek] 'two'
Danish Standard[3][4][5] ved [ʋe̝ð̠˕ˠ] 'at', 'by' Velarized and laminal; allophone of /d/ in the syllable coda.[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' Corresponds to /r/ in other dialects.
Faroese róður [ɹɔuwʊɹ] 'rudder'
German Standard Austrian[6] Rebe [ˈɹeːbɛ] 'vine' The most common alveolar realization of /r/, with a trill [r] being the alternative realization. The more common uvular realizations are a fricative (either voiced [ʁ] or voiceless [χ]) and, more rarely, a trill [ʀ].[6] See Standard German phonology
Siegerland[7] [ˈɹeːbə] Most other dialects use a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] or a uvular trill [ʀ]. See Standard German phonology
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
Limburgish Montfortian dialect[10] 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 Inland Brazilian Centro-Sul's metro cities[11] amor [aˈmoɹ] 'love', 'dear' Allophone of [ɾ ~ ʁ] in the syllable coda. May also be retroflex, post-alveolar and/or rhotic vowel. See Portuguese phonology.
General Brazilian[12] marketing [ˈmaɹke̞tɕĩ] 'marketing' Appears in loanwords, even by speakers who do not use it as an allophone of [ɾ ~ ʁ]. Generally not as onset or final e.g. trailer [ˈtɾejle̞ʁ].
Greater São Paulo[13] permitir [pe̞ɹmiˈtɕiɾ] 'to allow', 'to enable'
Spanish Some dialects[14] 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.
Puerto Rican Sometimes occurs as an allophone of [ɾ ~ r] at syllable coda.
Swedish Central Standard[15] starkast [ˈs̪t̪äɹːkäs̪t̪] 'strongest' Allophone of /r/. Some speakers have [ɾ] ([r] when geminated) in all positions. See Swedish phonology
Vietnamese Saigon[16] ra [ɹa] 'go out' In free variation with [ɾ], [r] and [ʐ]. See Vietnamese phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[17] r [ɹd̪ɨ] 'pass' Allophone of /ɾ/ before any consonant


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
English most American dialects[18] red About this sound [ɹ̠ʷɛd]  'red' Often labialized. May also be a labialized retroflex approximant. For convenience it is often transcribed 〈r〉. See English phonology and Rhoticity in English.
Received Pronunciation
Igbo[19] rí [ɹ̠í] 'eat'
Maltese Some dialects[20] [example needed] Corresponds to [ɾ ~ r] in other dialects.[20]
Shipibo[21]  ? [ˈd̠ɹ̠o̽ɾ̠o̽] 'to break into pieces' Pre-stopped. Possible word-initial realization of /r/.[21]

As an allophone of other rhotic sounds, [ɹ] occurs in Edo, Fula, Murinh-patha, and Palauan.[22]

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?", in Jacobsen, Henrik Galberg; Bleses, Dorthe; Madsen, Thomas O.; Thomsen, Pia, Take Danish - for instance: linguistic studies in honour of Hans Basbøll, presented on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag, pp. 119–130 
  • 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" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38 (1): 107–114, doi:10.1017/S0025100308003344 
  • Moosmüller, Sylvia; Schmid, Carolin; Brandstätter, Julia (2015), "Standard Austrian German", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 45 (03): 339–348, doi:10.1017/S0025100315000055 
  • Puech, Gilbert (2013), "Prime constituents of Maltese sounds", in Borg, Albert; Caruana, Sandro; Vella, Alexandra, Perspectives on Maltese Linguistics, Berlin: Akademie Verlag GmbH, pp. 61–88, ISBN 978-3-05-006275-4 
  • 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 
  • Valenzuela, Pilar M.; Márquez Pinedo, Luis; Maddieson, Ian (2001), "Shipibo", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 31 (2): 281–285, doi:10.1017/S0025100301002109 
  • Thompson, Laurence C. (1959), "Saigon Phonemics", Language (Linguistic Society of America) 35 (3): 454–476, doi:10.2307/411232, 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