Voiced alveolar and postalveolar approximants

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Voiced alveolar approximant
IPA Number151
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)ɹ
Unicode (hex)U+0279
X-SAMPAr\ or D_r_o
Braille⠼ (braille pattern dots-3456)
Voiced postalveolar approximant
Audio sample

The voiced 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\.

The most common sound represented by the letter r in English is the voiced 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 this symbol represents the alveolar trill in phonetic transcription.

The bunched or molar r sounds remarkably similar to the postalveolar approximant and can be described as a voiced labial pre-velar approximant with tongue-tip retraction. It can be transcribed in IPA as ⟨ψ[1] or ⟨ɹ̈⟩.


A schematic mid-sagittal section of an articulation of a voiced alveolar approximant [ɹ].
A schematic mid-sagittal section of an articulation of a voiced postalveolar approximant [ɹ̠].

Features of the voiced alveolar approximant:



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Albanian gjelbër [ˈɟʑɛlbəɹ] 'green'
Armenian Classical սուրճ [suɹtʃ] 'coffee'
Assamese Standard ঙা (rônga) [ɹɔŋa] 'red'
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic Alqosh dialect ܪܒ [ɹɑbɑ] 'many' Corresponds to /ɾ/ in most other Assyrian dialects.
Tyari dialect
Bengali[2] আবা [abaɹ] 'again' Phonetic realisation of /r/, especially in some Eastern Dialects and sometimes in conjunct before consonants. Corresponds to [r ~ ɾ] in others. See Bengali phonology
Burmese[3][4] တိစ္ဆာန် [təɹeɪʔsʰàɴ] 'animal' Occurs only in loanwords, mostly from Pali or English
Chukchi[citation needed] ңирэк [ŋiɹek] 'two'
Dahalo[5] [káð̠˕i] 'work' Apical. It is a common intervocalic allophone of /d̠/, and may be a weak fricative [ð̠] or simply a plosive [d] instead.[6]
Danish Standard[7][8][9] ved [ve̝ð̠˕ˠ] 'at' Velarized and laminal; allophone of /d/ in the syllable coda.[7][8][9] For a minority of speakers, it may be a non-sibilant fricative instead.[9] 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' See Faroese phonology.
German Moselle Franconian (Siegerland[10] and Westerwald[11] dialects) Rebe [ˈɹeːbə] 'vine' Most other dialects use a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] or a uvular trill [ʀ]. See Standard German phonology.
Upper Lusatian
Greek[12] μέρα ra [ˈmɛɹɐ] 'day' Allophone of /ɾ/ in rapid or casual speech and between vowels. See Modern Greek phonology.
Icelandic bróðir [ˈprou̯ð̠˕ir] 'brother' Usually apical. See Icelandic phonology.
Limburgish Montfortian dialect[13] 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 Multiple Brazilian dialects, mostly inland Centro-Sul[14] amor [aˈmoɹˠ] 'love' Allophone of /ɾ ~ ʁ/ in the syllable coda. Velarized, may also be retroflex, post-alveolar and/or a rhotic vowel. See Portuguese phonology.
Spanish Andalusian[15] doscientos [do̞ɹˈθje̞n̪t̪o̞s] 'two hundred' Allophone of /s/ before [θ]. See Spanish phonology.
Belizean invierno [imˈbjeɹno] 'winter' Possible realization of /r/ in the syllable coda.
Puerto Rican
Costa Rican hierro [ˈjeɹo] 'iron' Corresponding to [r] in other dialects.
Swedish Central Standard[16] starkast [ˈs̪t̪äɹːkäs̪t̪] 'strongest' Allophone of /r/. Some speakers have [ɾ] ([r] when geminated) in all positions. See Swedish phonology.
Tagalog parang [paɹaŋ] 'like-' Allophone of the more traditional [ɾ ~ r] used by the more English-literate younger speakers.
Turkish Marmara Region artık [aɹtɯk] 'excess, surplus' Occurs as an allophone of [ɾ] in syllable coda, in free variation with post-alveolar [ɹ̠]. See Turkish 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 consonants.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
English Australian red [ɹ̠ʷed] 'red' Often labialized. May also be a labialized retroflex approximant. For convenience it is often transcribed ⟨r⟩. See Australian English phonology, English phonology and Rhoticity in English.
Most American dialects[19] [ɹ̠ʷɛd] 
Received Pronunciation
Igbo[20] rí [ɹ̠í] 'eat'
Malay راتوس / ratus [ɹ̠ä.tos] 'hundred' More commonly trill [r] or flap [ɾ]. See Malay phonology
Maltese Some dialects[21] malajr [mɐˈlɐjɹ̠] 'quickly' Corresponds to [ɾ ~ r] in other dialects.[21]
Shipibo[22] roro [ˈd̠ɹ̠o̽ɾ̠o̽] 'to break into pieces' Pre-stopped. Possible word-initial realization of /r/.[22]
Thai Standard Thai กรุงเทพ / Krungthep [kɹ̠ūŋ.tʰêp̚]  Bangkok Allophone with the alveolar approximant [ɹ]. Contrast with standard form which pronounce alveolar trill [r].

As an allophone of other rhotic sounds, [ɹ] occurs in Edo, Fula, Murrinh-patha, and Palauan.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laver, John (1994). Principles of Phonetics. p. 302. ISBN 0-521-45655-X.
  2. ^ Khan (2010), pp. 223–224.
  3. ^ Cornyn (1944:7)
  4. ^ Watkins (2001)
  5. ^ Maddieson et al. (1993:34)
  6. ^ Maddieson et al. (1993:28, 34)
  7. ^ a b Basbøll (2005:59 and 63)
  8. ^ a b Grønnum (2003:121)
  9. ^ a b c Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:144)
  10. ^ Kohler (1995:165f), cited in Universität zu Köln: Phonologische Analyse
  11. ^ Wäller Platt: Die Aussprache
  12. ^ Arvaniti (2007:15–18)
  13. ^ Bakkes (2007:[page needed])
  14. ^ Acoustic-phonetic characteristics of the Brazilian Portuguese's retroflex /r/: data from respondents in Pato Branco, Paraná. Irineu da Silva Ferraz. Pages 19–21 (in Portuguese)
  15. ^ Recasens (2004:436) citing Fougeron (1999) and Browman & Goldstein (1995)
  16. ^ Engstrand (1999:141)
  17. ^ Thompson (1959:459)
  18. ^ Merrill (2008:109)
  19. ^ Hallé, Best & Levitt (1999:283) citing Delattre & Freeman (1968), Zawadzki & Kuehn (1980), and Boyce & Espy-Wilson (1997)
  20. ^ Ikekeonwu (1999:108)
  21. ^ a b Puech (2013:74)
  22. ^ a b Valenzuela, Márquez Pinedo & Maddieson (2001:282)
  23. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:240–241)


  • Arvaniti, Amalia (2007), "Greek Phonetics: The State of the Art" (PDF), Journal of Greek Linguistics, 8: 97–208, doi:10.1075/jgl.8.08arv, archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-11
  • Bakkes, Pierre (2007), Mofers Waordebook (in Limburgish), 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. (eds.), 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, vol. 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 (eds.), 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
  • Khan, Sameer ud Dowla (2010), "Bengali (Bangladeshi Standard)" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 40 (2): 221–225, doi:10.1017/S0025100310000071

External links[edit]