Talk:R-colored vowel

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I've never heard the name "schwer" for this sound and suspect it is a neologism. There is already an article r-colored vowel which describes this sound and its near ally ɝ. There's no need for separate articles, and neologisms in titles are best avoided. Therefore this should be merged with r-colored vowel. --Angr/tɔk tə mi 15:20, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

Isn't "schwer" also the word meaning "suffering" in German? Could the Google search be picking that up? --HappyCamper 15:49, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
It's the word for "heavy" in German, and the Google search is picking up a lot of those. Nevertheless there are a few sites using "schwer" as the name of the r-colored schwa. --Angr/tɔk tə mi 16:03, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
schwer. that's funny. on a more serious note, how is the claimed "schwer" here different, from a phonological standpoint, from the ɚ as explained previously in the article? It's not. So why does it have a separate section? Better question, tho, why is there no coverage of the fact that ɚ is a convention used to represent both rhotic and non-rhotic prounciations? In GA, /ɚ/ is actually pronounced /ɹ̩/, as is /ɝ/, whereas in non-rhotic pronunciations /ɚ/ is pronounced /ə/ and /ɝ/ is pronounced /ɜ[:]/. Tomertalk 16:45, 18 January 2006 (UTC)
Um, because it isn't. [ɚ] is an r-colored schwa, which in American English (but not necessarily in other languages with the sound) can be interpreted as a syllabic allophone of /ɹ/, though not everyone does interpret it that way. Non-rhotic accents of English don't have [ɚ] or [ɝ]as surface sounds or /ɚ/ or /ɝ/as phonemes. --Angr (tɔk) 17:06, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Hrmm. I wonder where I got that idea from then. I guess I need to hear a sound file for /ɚ/ and /ɝ/ vs. /ɹ̩/ then. Tomertalk 17:36, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Using [ɹ̩] or [ɻ̩] for [ɚ] or[ɝ] is like representing [u] as [w̩]. Not as a degree of appropriateness, I just mean the relationship between "schwer" and the approximant [ɻ]. AEuSoes1 03:37, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

I think "schwer" might be a typo of "schwar" which is a term I've seen for [ɚ], I guess it's an analogy to Schwa. --Chlämens 18:26, 13 January 2007 (UTC)


Most American singers I hear don't use R-coloured vowels in their singing, even though they do in their speech, so I added a counterexample to Celine Dion. I don't have any good reference for this and welcome an improvement, or someone just striking the whole paragraph.

Perhaps opera. The [æ] sound is another that's discouraged by voice teachers as being cacophonic, and that's probably because Italian is thought of as the language of music, and Italian doen't have [æ]. Or perhaps rhotic vowels were once considered a provincialism compared to prestigeous non-rhotic dialects like RP? kwami 01:43, 13 December 2005 (UTC)
Well, Celine Dion is Canadian, though I don't know if that's really all that important for this article, since a good deal of Canadians speak with the standard American accent. —User:ACupOfCoffee@ 19:41, 24 January 2006 (UTC)
It's probably also relevant that, conversely, a lot of British pop singers seem to use R-coloured vowels in singing when they wouldn't in speech (although I have no good reference for this beyond Rhotic and non-rhotic accents). —Greg K Nicholson 15:15, 25 May 2007 (UTC)
Not just Opera, but traditional singing generally. De-emphasizing or completely eliding the r sound on the ends of syllables is a standard part of traditional vocal training. Go to a choir practice sometime. They also teach you not to hold consonants, such as s. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:17, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

"Rolled r's[edit]

Isn't one the reasons that the r-colored vowels don't happen, in say, Spanish, is because they roll their r's? Cameron Nedland 23:08, 21 January 2006 (UTC)

In standard Spanish, a single r is tapped once /ɾ/ and a double r (rr) (or a word-initial r) is trilled /r/. In practice this isn't always the case, but that's not "why" Spanish doesn't have r-colored vowels. In most pronunciations of American English, the tapped phoneme /ɾ/ occurs quite commonly (as in most Americans' prounciation of words like "ladder" /ˈlæ·ɾɹ̩/) and American English, which pronounces "r" almost exclusively as /ɹ/ and more frequently has r-colored vowels (since most American English speakers speak rhotic dialects) than British and Irish English speakers, yet their [the Brits and Irish] pronunciations also have r-colored vowels (although less frequently, from what I understand). I assume that the original pronunciation of "r" in English was either /ɾ/ or /r/ and that the pronunciation /ɹ/ is an innovation. All of this to say that the probably "reason" that Spanish doesn't normally have r-colored vowels is because standard Spanish doesn't have /ɹ/. I haven't read much about it, but I would guess that Spanish, German and various Slavic languages have palatalized l-colored vowels and that Russian's dark/heavy "l" l-colors vowels as well (albeit not palatally, obviously). In upper Midwestern AmE, I know I frequently hear l-colored vowels (more like the l-coloring in Brazilian Portuguese, oddly enough) that turns some people's pronunciation, e.g., of "Milwaukee" into what sounds very much like /mo·ˈɑ·ki/ (that's a fun example, although I rather strongly suspect that the former /w/ plays a large role in turning /ɪlʷ/ into /o/). Tomertalk 03:53, 22 January 2006 (UTC)
It's related, but not the cause, so much as another result of the same phonetic phenomenon, namely, that the Spanish r is pronounced with the tongue in a different part of the mouth than the English r. The English r is much more difficult to trill because of this, but it forms blends more readily, especially when preceding a plosive. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:20, 13 December 2009 (UTC)


An anon just added "and some dialects of Portuguese" to the end of the first paragraph. I've never heard of r-colored vowels being present in any dialect of Portuguese, and would like verification of the claim before it is returned to the article. --Angr 19:30, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

What about the girl here? Her name's Michelle. (talk) 09:20, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

R-colored vowels in Dutch???[edit]

I am Dutch, but I seldomly hear people talk with rhotic sounds. (Except for some isolated individuals in just a few words.) Moreover it might on occasion be heard in English borrowings, but only by speakers who really proficient in English. Can anyone elaborate the claim of this article that it occurs in Dutch? The above occurrences of a rhotic vowel look insufficient to me to claim that they "occur in Dutch". --JorisvS 18:23, 8 February 2006 (UTC)

I don't have any references right to hand, but I was under the impression that in many dialects of Dutch a word like water is pronounced [ˈʋɑtɚ] with an r-colored schwa in the last syllable. Angr/talk 19:32, 8 February 2006 (UTC)

For now I can tell that some Hollandic dialects of Dutch seem to rhoticize vowel before an r-consonant, but the r-sound is usually still pronounced. This change is dialectal however, since this is not ABN (Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands). --JorisvS 12:35, 12 February 2006 (UTC)

I still want to tell you this: In standard Dutch the word water is pronounced [ˈʋatər]. --JorisvS 15:46, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

Formant 3[edit]

From the image, it seems as though the only difference between regular schwa and r-colored schwa is formant three. Doesn't formant three indicate lip rounding? Considering the English rhotic is labialized, it seems as though the image doesn't indicate the R-coloredness of "schwer" just the lip-rounding aspect. That being the case, the image doesn't seem nearly as relevant. AEuSoes1 17:20, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

I think lip rounding is indicated by a lowered F2, not F3. Angr (talkcontribs) 17:29, 5 April 2006 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that F1 indicates height and F2 indicates backness. I vaguely recall Ladefoged saying something to that effect in vowels and consonants. AEuSoes1 18:34, 5 April 2006 (UTC)
Yes, F2 indicates backness, but it also indicates rounding. The F2s of [y] and [ɨ] are very close. Angr (talkcontribs) 19:30, 5 April 2006 (UTC)
Does this mean that languages that distinguish between [y] and [ɨ] are rare if not nonexistant? If F3 doesn't indicate rounding, what does it indicate? AEuSoes1 21:15, 5 April 2006 (UTC)
Yes, it does mean that such languages are rare (though I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few). I really don't know what else F3 indicates besides rhotacization (and I don't know what F4 indicates at all), and I've taught a class in acoustic phonetics myself! Angr (talkcontribs) 05:21, 6 April 2006 (UTC)
Some Bostonians pronounce "certain" as [sʏtn̩], which is does not rhyme, I'm pretty sure, with "bitten".--Atemperman (talk) 05:02, 28 July 2010 (UTC)
D'oh, of course they don't. Somehow I thought I was going to be contrasting [ʏ] with [ɪ].--Atemperman (talk) 05:06, 28 July 2010 (UTC)


Both American Heritage[1] and MW[2] give pronunciations of apparatus with the r being [ɹ] at the beginning of the third syllable.--Atemperman 17:58, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Merge proposal with 'Vocalic r'[edit]

Do it. They cover the same ground.Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 22:00, 17 August 2007 (UTC)

I'm a bit unsure. The material currently at Vocalic r does seem to refer to R-coloring. However, I thought a vocalic r was a syllabic consonant, like the Czech "vowel" r... FilipeS 15:14, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
Yeah, that's true. There's no mention of that on the page. There's some muddy water between the two (i.e. some R-colored vowels can be considered manifestations of vocalic r). I would suggest that, if we want to mention the syllabic /r/ (such as in a number of Slavic languages) that we could merge the two pages under the title "vocalic r" (i.e. merging r-colored vowel to vocalic r rather than the other way around) and describe both the rhotic vowels and the syllabic /r/ in different sections. Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 01:18, 21 August 2007 (UTC)
I'm thinking it might be better to do a conservative edit: move the text that is currently at 'Vocalic r' here, but turn the other article into a redirect to Syllabic consonant. FilipeS 16:24, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
Okay. That does sound better. Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 23:31, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

After rereading the Vocalic r, I realised that some of it did not deal with R-coloring, so I decided to let the article remain for the time being, and merge only the section that was out of place into this one. FilipeS 22:46, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

The problem is that it's talking about an English language phenomenon, which is pretty much always an r-colored vowel. Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 23:05, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

I think you're right. I'm not thinking very brightly, lately. I will merge the rest when I have the time. FilipeS 23:17, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

Changed my mind again about 'Vocalic r'. Since it seems it's used as a synonym of an r-colored vowel in some contexts, I thought it was best to redirect it to this article. FilipeS 17:43, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

Sanskrit ऋ[edit]

It seems as though the Sanskrit ऋ (and its longer equivalent ॠ) deserve to be mentioned here: they are mentioned as vowel sounds ("containing [consonantal] r") by the ancient grammarians, and they are usually thought to have been pronounced as the vocalic retroflex approximant in ancient times. (Today they are usually pronounced "ri" as a result of changes in Hindi and other Indian languages). Grover cleveland 16:14, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

I agree, but it sounds like it would be something that is a vocalic r but not an r-colored vowel. Maybe we should rename the article to "vocalic r." Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 16:44, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

Oxford and Midwestern English[edit]

The Oxford Dictionary ©2008 appears to be specific about the rhotic applying to Midwestern American English rather than general American English. They further provide the examples, e.g., Midwestern American English, in which r is pronounced before a consonant (as in hard) and at the ends of words (as in far).

I'm not religious about this, but offer this information in case some of you are.

regards, --UnicornTapestry (talk) 04:08, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

Contradiction in Sanskrit ऋ section[edit]

If the Sanskrit vowel ऋ corresponds to a PIE vowel, then how can it be retroflex? Weren't retroflex sounds in Indo-Aryan a result of Dravidian influence? GSMR (talk) 04:05, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

Dravidian influenced how Indo-Aryan developed. The retroflexes in Sanskrit aren't simply the result of borrowing. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 05:27, 6 November 2009 (UTC)
Aha! I knew it! According to Kurgan proponents retroflex consonants in Indo-Aryan are a telltale sign that India was not the Urheimat! But apparently retroflex consonants can develop independently as they do with other Indo-Iranian languages (like Pashto). Oh, what science... GSMR (talk) 18:53, 8 November 2009 (UTC)

So you're okay with that now? Retroflex or not, a consonant like r can be syllabic. No contradiction there. This article itself says, “A vowel may have either the tip or blade of the tongue turned up during at least part of the articulation of the vowel (a retroflex articulation)”... So I'm removing {{Contradict|date=November 2009}}. Okay? —Gyopi (talk) 09:57, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

I can see your original question was something different, but I don't think that's a contradiction, either (though 'Citation needed' there is still valid).—Gyopi (talk) 10:04, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

I'm moving the section on Sanskrit (which I originally, misguidedly added) to this section: I'm convinced it doesn't belong in the article: also the section on Czech etc. syllabic [r] is not an "R-colored vowel"! It's not even a vowel of any kind... Grover cleveland (talk) 09:55, 9 May 2010 (UTC)

The ancient Indian language Sanskrit possessed short and long versions of a vowel sound often referred to as "vocalic r".[1] It is represented in Devanagari by ऋ (short form) and ॠ (long form), and in IAST transliteration by ṛ (short form) and ṝ (long form), and is thought to correspond to original vocalic "l" or "r" in Proto-Indo-European.[1] The grammarian Pāṇini classified this vowel as retroflex[2] and its pronunciation is thought to have been a retroflex approximant [ɻ] in classical Sanskrit (c. 500 BC).[citation needed] Earlier grammarians classified its sound in the Vedic period as velar.[2] In Middle Indo-Aryan languages, the sound developed into a short vowel, usually /i/, but sometimes /a/ or /u/ (the latter sound especially when adjacent to a labial consonant).

However, when Sanskrit words containing this sound are borrowed into modern Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi or Nepali its pronunciation changes to [ɾɪ] (short form) or [ɾiː] (long form),[3] leading to forms such as "Krishna" for Kṛṣṇa and "Rigveda" for ṛgveda, a pronunciation that is also prevalent among contemporary pandits.[4] In the Southern Indo-Aryan language Sinhala, vocalic r in Sanskrit words is pronounced as [ur] or [ru], depending on the phonological context.

In Czech and Slovak, the syllabic r is present in many common words. Strč prst skrz krk! (Czech and Slovak for “Stick a finger through your throat!”) is a sentence with no obvious vowels, where each of the four r’s is syllabic (the most sonorant segment of a syllable), or in other words, vocalic (acting as a vowel).

  1. ^ a b Burrow, Thomas (2001). The Sanskrit Language (1st Indian ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 105. ISBN 8120817672. 
  2. ^ a b Deshpande, Madhav M. (1993), "Genesis of Rgvedic Retroflexion", Sanskrit & Prakrit: Sociolinguistic Issues, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p. 178, ISBN 8120811364 
  3. ^ Cardona, George (2003), "Sanskrit", in Cardona, George; Jain, Dhanesh, The Indo-Aryan Languages, New York: Routledge, p. 257, ISBN 0700711309 
  4. ^ Coulson, Michael; Richard F Gombrich, James Benson (2006). Sanskrit. Chicago: Contemporary Books. p. 5. ISBN 0071426663.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)

Just American, or other rhotic varieties of Engilsh as well?[edit]

Are r-colored vowels only found in American English, or in other rhotic varieties of English as well (e.g. West Country, Scots)? (Although presumably they would be r-coloured;) ) Iapetus (talk) 11:23, 21 January 2013 (UTC)

Yeah, they're found all over. Phonetically, many non-rhotic dialects of Southern England also feature r-colo(u)red vowels in statements like the fur is here. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 15:05, 21 January 2013 (UTC)

Citations needed[edit]

The sections "In singing", "In Mandarin Chinese" and "In Quebec French" need source citations.Lisapaloma (talk) 13:41, 31 March 2013 (UTC)

"Fear" and "bear"[edit]

I dimly recall from past reading that in General American there is r-coloring in words like "fear" and "bear", though there is no mention of it in this article.

I thought that "fear" is between /fɪr/ and /fir/ for many Americans (though /fɪr/ or /fir/ for others), and that this in-between sound never appears except before /r/.

And I thought that "bear" is between /bɛr/ and /ber/ for many Americans (though /bɛr/ or /ber/ for others), and that again this in-between sound never appears except before /r/.

Am I just remembering wrong here? Duoduoduo (talk) 16:56, 8 October 2013 (UTC)

Also, Triphthong#First segment is the nucleus says that in British Received Pronunciation, [eɪ] becomes [ɛə] before /r/. (Sorry I can't render the diacritic underneath the ɪ and the ə.) Duoduoduo (talk) 17:37, 8 October 2013 (UTC)

"bear" has a "tensed ash (ae)" in the current trend of American accents, sitting in the shadow of the cot-caught merger. This is sometimes loosely transcribed with [ɛə], but in reality, many languages have ɛ phonemes that overlap this sound. Also, it's somewhere between ɛ and æ, but even further fronted (in terms of formants). This doesn't have anything to do with r-coloring; r-coloring is a process that makes vowels more rhotic. (talk) 19:42, 23 September 2016 (UTC)

Rename to Rhotic Vowel[edit]

I propose that this article be renamed to Rhotic vowel, which currently redirects to this page. The primary reasoning is for consistency across article titles. As the article for R-like consonants is named Rhotic consonant, it would make since for R-like vowels to likewise be named Rhotic Vowel. This also would stay consistent with other article titles such as Nasal vowel. Zombiedude347 (talk) 02:08, 22 November 2015 (UTC)