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In phonetics, rhotic consonants, or "R-like" sounds, are liquid consonants that are traditionally represented orthographically by symbols derived from the Greek letter rho, including ⟨R⟩, ⟨r⟩ in the Latin script and ⟨Р⟩, ⟨p⟩ in the Cyrillic script.[citation needed] They are transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet by upper- or lower-case variants of Roman ⟨R⟩, ⟨r⟩:[1] r, ɾ, ɹ, ɻ, ʀ, ʁ, ɽ, and ɺ.

This class of sounds is difficult to characterise phonetically; from a phonetic standpoint, there is no single articulatory correlate (manner or place) common to rhotic consonants.[2] Rhotics have instead been found to carry out similar phonological functions or to have certain similar phonological features across different languages.[3]

Being "R-like" is an elusive and ambiguous concept phonetically and the same sounds that function as rhotics in some systems may pattern with fricatives, semivowels or even stops in others—for example, the alveolar flap is a rhotic consonant in many languages; but in North American English, the alveolar tap is an allophone of the stop phoneme /t/, as in water. It is likely that rhotics, then, are not a phonetically natural class, but a phonological one instead.[4]

Some languages have rhotic and non-rhotic varieties, which differ in the incidence of rhotic consonants. In non-rhotic accents of English, /ɹ/ is not pronounced unless it is followed directly by a vowel.


The most typical rhotic sounds found in the world's languages are the following:[1]


In broad transcription rhotics are usually symbolised as /r/ unless there are two or more types of rhotic in the same language; for example, most Australian Aboriginal languages, which contrast approximant [ɻ] and trill [r], use the symbols r and rr respectively. The IPA has a full set of different symbols which can be used whenever more phonetic precision is required: an r rotated 180° [ɹ] for the alveolar approximant, a small capital R [ʀ] for the uvular trill, and a flipped small capital R [ʁ] for the voiced uvular fricative or approximant.

The fact that the sounds conventionally classified as "rhotics" vary greatly in both place and manner in terms of articulation, and also in their acoustic characteristics, has led several linguists to investigate what, if anything, they have in common that justifies grouping them together.[4] One suggestion that has been made is that each member of the class of rhotics shares certain properties with other members of the class, but not necessarily the same properties with all; in this case, rhotics have a "family resemblance" with each other rather than a strict set of shared properties.[2] Another suggestion is that rhotics are defined by their behaviour on the sonority hierarchy, namely, that a rhotic is any sound that patterns as being more sonorous than a lateral consonant but less sonorous than a vowel.[3] The potential for variation within the class of rhotics makes them a popular area for research in sociolinguistics.[8]

Variable rhoticity

This section needs expansion with: an introduction explaining what "variable rhoticity" means in terms that summarize the rationale for binding all of its subsections under it, clarifying what they have in common. You can help by adding to it. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. (May 2020)


Main articles: Rhoticity in English and Pronunciation of English /r/

English has rhotic and non-rhotic accents. Rhotic speakers pronounce a historical /r/ in all instances, while non-rhotic speakers only pronounce /r/ at the beginning of a syllable.

Other Germanic languages

The rhotic consonant is dropped or vocalized under similar conditions in other Germanic languages, notably German, Danish and Dutch from the eastern Netherlands (because of Low German influence) and southern Sweden (possibly because of its Danish history). In most varieties of German (with the notable exception of Swiss Standard German), /r/ in the syllable coda is frequently realized as a vowel or a semivowel, [ɐ] or [ɐ̯]. In the traditional standard pronunciation, this happens only in the unstressed ending -er and after long vowels: for example besser [ˈbɛsɐ], sehr [zeːɐ̯]. In common speech, the vocalization is usual after short vowels as well, and additional contractions may occur: for example Dorn [dɔɐ̯n] ~ [dɔːn], hart [haɐ̯t] ~ [haːt]. Similarly, Danish /r/ after a vowel is, unless followed by a stressed vowel, either pronounced [ɐ̯] (mor "mother" [moɐ̯], næring "nourishment" [ˈnɛɐ̯eŋ]) or merged with the preceding vowel while usually influencing its vowel quality (/a(ː)r/ and /ɔːr/ or /ɔr/ are realised as long vowels [aː] and [ɒː], and /ər/, /rə/ and /rər/ are all pronounced [ɐ]) (løber "runner" [ˈløːb̥ɐ], Søren Kierkegaard (personal name) [ˌsœːɐn ˈkʰiɐ̯ɡ̊əˌɡ̊ɒːˀ]), which is similar to the standard German accent. The standard Dutch accent, meanwhile, has a rhotic r in syllable codas or after another consonant similar to the rhotic r typical in varieties of English that have it (such as American or Irish English).


In Asturian, word final /r/ is always lost in infinitives if they are followed by an enclitic pronoun, and this is reflected in the writing; e.g. The infinitive form dar [dar] plus the 3rd plural dative pronoun "-yos" da-yos [daˈʝos] (give to them) or the accusative form "los" dalos [daˈlos] (give them). This will happen even in southern dialects where the infinitive form will be "dare" [daˈre], and both the /r/ and the vowel will drop (da-yos, not *dáre-yos). However, most of the speakers also drop the rhotics in the infinitive before a lateral consonant of a different word, and this doesn't show in the writing. e.g. dar los dos [daː los ðos] (give the two [things]). This doesn't occur in the middle of words. e.g. the name Carlos [karˈlos].


In some Catalan dialects, word final /r/ is lost in coda position not only in suffixes on nouns and adjectives denoting the masculine singular and plural (written as -r, -rs) but also in the "-ar, -er, -ir" suffixes of infinitives; e.g. forner [furˈne] "(male) baker", forners [furˈnes], fer [ˈfe] "to do", lluir [ʎuˈi] "to shine, to look good". However, rhotics are "recovered" when followed by the feminine suffix -a [ə], and when infinitives have single or multiple enclitic pronouns (notice the two rhotics are neutralized in the coda, with a flap [ɾ] occurring between vowels, and a trill [r] elsewhere); e.g. fornera [furˈneɾə] "(female) baker", fer-lo [ˈferɫu] "to do it (masc.)", fer-ho [ˈfeɾu] "to do it/that/so", lluir-se [ʎuˈir.sə] "to excel, to show off".


Final R is generally not pronounced in words ending in -er. The R in parce que (because) is not pronounced in informal speech in French.

Indonesian and Malaysian Malay

In Indonesian, which is a form of Malay, the final /r/ is pronounced, however it varies in different forms of Malay spoken on the Malay Peninsula. In Indonesia, it is usually a flap (/ɾ/), but for some Malaysian speakers, it is a retroflex approximant /ɻ/.


Historical final /r/ has been lost from all Khmer dialects but Northern.[citation needed]


In some dialects of Brazilian Portuguese, /r/ is unpronounced or aspirated. This occurs most frequently with verbs in the infinitive, which is always indicated by a word-final /r/. In some states, however, it happens mostly with any /r/ when preceding a consonant. The "Carioca" accent (from the city of Rio de Janeiro) is notable for this.


Among the Spanish dialects, Andalusian Spanish, Caribbean Spanish (descended from and still very similar to Andalusian and Canarian Spanish), Castúo (the Spanish dialect of Extremadura), Northern Colombian Spanish (in cities like Cartagena, Montería, San Andrés and Santa Marta, but not Barranquilla, which is mostly rhotic) and the Argentine dialect spoken in the Tucumán province may have an unpronounced word-final /r/, especially in infinitives, which mirrors the situation in some dialects of Brazilian Portuguese. However, in Antillean Caribbean forms, word-final /r/ in infinitives and non-infinitives is often in free variation with word-final /l/ and may relax to the point of being articulated as /i/.


The native Thai rhotic is the alveolar trill. The English approximants /ɹ/ and /l/ are used interchangeably in Thai. That is, Thai speakers generally replace an English-derived R(ร) with an L(ล) and when they hear L(ล) they may write R (ร).[9]


In Istanbul Turkish, /r/ is always pronounced, with the exceptions in colloquial speech being the present continuous tense suffix yor as in gidiyor ('going') or yazıyordum ('I was writing') and bir ('one') when used as an adjective/quantifier (but not other numbers containing this word, such as on bir ('eleven')). In these cases, the preceding vowel is not lengthened. The unfavorability of dropping /r/ can be explained with minimal pairs, such as çaldı ('stole') versus çaldır (imperative 'ring').[citation needed]

In some parts of Turkey, e.g. Kastamonu, the syllable-final /r/ is almost never pronounced, e.g. "gidiya" instead of "gidiyor" (meaning "she/he is going"), "gide" instead of "gider" (meaning "she/he goes"). In "gide", the preceding vowel e is lengthened and pronounced somewhat between an e and a.


Among the Turkic languages, Uyghur displays more or less the same feature, as syllable-final /r/ is dropped, while the preceding vowel is lengthened: for example Uyghurlar [ʔʊɪˈʁʊːlaː]Uyghurs’. The /r/ may, however, sometimes be pronounced in unusually "careful" or "pedantic" speech; in such cases, it is often mistakenly inserted after long vowels even when there is no phonemic /r/ there.


Similarly in Yaqui, an indigenous language of northern Mexico, intervocalic or syllable-final /r/ is often dropped with lengthening of the previous vowel: pariseo becomes [paːˈseo], sewaro becomes [sewajo].


Lacid, whose exonyms in various literature include Lashi, Lachik, Lechi, and Leqi, is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by the Lacid people. There are various reports of their population size ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 people. The majority are in Myanmar but there are also small groups located in China and Thailand.[10] Noftz (2017) reports finding an example of a rhotic alveolar fricative in Lacid while doing phonological research at Payap University in Thailand in 2015. He was not able to continue his research and expressed the need for further examination of the segment to verify his results. It is postulated that the segment is a remnant of the rhotic fricative in Proto-Tibeto-Burman.[11]


The Shekaki accent of the Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish is non-rhotic, that is the postvocalic flap "r" is not pronounced but the trill "R" is. When r is omitted, a "compensatory lengthening" of the preceding vowel takes place. For example:

Shekaki retains morphological syllables instead of phonological syllables in non-rhotic pronunciation.[12]

Berber languages

Syllable-final /r/ is lost in many varieties of Rif Berber. It lengthens preceding /a/ to [aː], while /i/ and /u/ become diphthongs, similarly to languages like English or German. However, there exists a distinct phoneme /ɾ/ from earlier /l/, which does not undergo the same development.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b Ladefoged, Peter; Ian Maddieson (1996). "Rhotics". The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 215–245. ISBN 0-631-19814-8.
  2. ^ a b Lindau, Mona (1978). "Vowel features". Language. 54 (3): 541–63. doi:10.2307/412786. JSTOR 412786.
  3. ^ a b Wiese, Richard (2001). "The phonology of /r/". In T Alan Hall (ed.). Distinctive Feature Theory. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-017033-7.
  4. ^ a b Chabot, Alex (2019). "What's wrong with being a rhotic?". Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics. 4 ((1)38): 1–24. doi:10.5334/gjgl.618.
  5. ^ Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003). Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1403917232.
  6. ^ Barbosa & Albano (2004:5–6)
  7. ^ "Portuguese Consonants".
  8. ^ Scobbie, James (2006). "(R) as a variable". In Roger Brown (ed.). Encyclopaedia of Language and Linguistics (2nd ed.). Oxford: Elsevier. pp. 337–344. ISBN 978-0-08-044299-0.
  9. ^ Kanokpermpoon, Monthon (2007). "Thai and English consonantal sounds: A problem or a potential for EFL learning?". ABAC Journal. 27 (1): 57–66.
  10. ^ Noftz 2017, A Literature Review on Segments in Lacid (Lashi)
  11. ^ A Literature Review on Segments in Lachid (Lashi), Robert Noftz, 2017
  12. ^ Îrec Mêhrbexş, linguist
  13. ^ "Kossmann, M.G.; Stroomer, H.J.: "Berber Phonology", p. 469-71, in Phonologies of Asia and Africa (1997)" (PDF).

Further reading