Voiced retroflex approximant
IPA Number152
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)ɻ
Unicode (hex)U+027B
Braille⠲ (braille pattern dots-256)⠼ (braille pattern dots-3456)
Labialised voiced retroflex approximant
Audio sample

The voiced retroflex approximant is a type of consonant used in some languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɻ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is r\`. The IPA symbol is a turned lowercase letter r with a rightward hook protruding from the lower right of the letter.

The velar bunched approximant found in some varieties of Dutch and American English sounds similar to the retroflex approximant but it has a very different articulation.


A schematic mid-sagittal section of an articulation of a voiced retroflex approximant [ɻ]

Features of the voiced retroflex approximant:


Family Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Sinitic Chinese Mandarin 日光 guāng [ɻ̺͢ɻ̺̞̍˥˩ku̯ɑ͢ŋ˥] 'sunlight' Apical.[1] As an initial in free variation between fricative and approximant, but never has friction as strong as a true fricative (Chinese "fully muddy"/全浊-class) to trigger a (free or conditional) devoicing or postvoicing into /ʐ̥ʱ/, nor weak enough to become an apical vowel. As a rime it's an apical vowel that is frequently coarticulated with a close near-back unrounded vowel /ɨ̟/ (thus phonetically [ɻ̺͢ɨ̟͡ɻ̺̞̍˥˩ku̯ɑ͢ŋ˥], but this phonetic representation should be avoided as the tie-bar for coarticulation may be misunderstood as a sliding into an erhua rhotic vowel, a phonemically distinct syllable in Chinese), but it can be prolonged indefinitely and never truly developed into an /ɨ̟/. Both the consonant and the vowel may gain some friction especially when prolonged to force a more "distinct/clear" effect in teaching or when swearing, and thus it may be inaccurately transcribed as fricative [ʐ] both as initial and as rime (when precision is necessary, a true fricative in Wu Chinese may be transcribed as [ʐ̥ʱ], as that's how it's pronounced in the first syllable). See Standard Chinese phonology.

The character 日 (sun), when pronounced with an overall strengthened friction (on both z and ɿ), may likely be understood as a profanity, thus pronouncing as an approximant is important; but the two do not form a minimal pair, because the profanity can also be pronounced with little friction (though in some other dialects they further evolved to form a minimal pair).

Nungish Derung Tvrung [tə˧˩ɻuŋ˥˧] 'Derung'
Germanic English Some American dialects red [ɻ(ʷ)ɛd] 'red' Labialized (pronounced with lips rounded). See Pronunciation of English /r/
Some Hiberno-English dialects
Some West Country English
Arnhem Enindhilyagwa angwura [aŋwuɻa] 'fire'
Germanic Faroese[2] hoyrdi [hɔiɻʈɛ] 'heard' Allophone of /ɹ/.[2] Sometimes voiceless [ɻ̊].[2] See Faroese phonology
Hellenic Greek Cretan (Sfakia and Mylopotamos variations) region[3] γάλα la [ˈɣaɻa] 'milk' Intervocalic allophone of /l/ before /a, o, u/. Recessive. See Modern Greek phonology
Eskimo-Aleut Inuktitut Nattilingmiutut kiuřuq /kiuɻuq/ 'she replies'
Dravidian Malayalam ആഴം [aːɻɐm] 'depth'
Mapudungun Mapuche[4] rayen [ɻɜˈjën] 'flower' Possible realization of /ʐ/; may be [ʐ] or [ɭ] instead.[4]
Romance Portuguese Many Centro-Sul registers cartas [ˈkaɻtə̥̆s] 'letters' Allophone of rhotic consonants (and sometimes /l/) in the syllable coda. Mainly[5] found in rural São Paulo, Paraná, south of Minas Gerais and surrounding areas, with the more common and prestigious realization in metropolitan areas being [ɹ] and/or rhotic vowel instead. As with [ɽ], it appeared as a mutation of [ɾ].[6][7][8] See Portuguese phonology.
Caipira temporal [tẽɪ̯̃pʊˈɾaɻ] 'rainstorm'
Conservative Piracicabano grato [ˈgɻatʊ̥] 'thankful' (m.)
Dravidian Tamil[9] தமிழ் [t̪əˈmɨɻ] 'Tamil' See Tamil phonology. May be merged with [ɭ] for some modern speakers.
Pama-Nyungan Western Desert Pitjantjatjara dialect Uluu [ʊlʊɻʊ] 'Uluru'
Isolate Yaghan rho [ˈwaɻo] 'cave'

See also


  1. ^ Lee, Wai-Sum (1999). An articulatory and acoustical analysis of the syllable-initial sibilants and approximant in Beijing Mandarin (PDF). Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. S2CID 51828449.
  2. ^ a b c Árnason (2011), p. 115.
  3. ^ Trudgill (1989), pp. 18–19.
  4. ^ a b Sadowsky et al. (2013), p. 90.
  5. ^ Brandão, Silvia Figueiredo (15 December 2007). "Nas trilhas do -R retroflexo". Signum: Estudos da Linguagem. 10 (2): 265. doi:10.5433/2237-4876.2007v10n2p265.
  6. ^ Ferraz, Irineu da Silva (2005). Características fonético-acústicas do /r/ retroflexo do portugues brasileiro : dados de informantes de Pato Branco (PR) (Thesis). hdl:1884/3955.
  7. ^ (in Portuguese) Syllable coda /r/ in the "capital" of the paulista hinterland: sociolinguistic analisis. Archived 2013-09-26 at the Wayback Machine Cândida Mara Britto LEITE. Page 111 (page 2 in the attached PDF)
  8. ^ (in Portuguese) Callou, Dinah. Leite, Yonne. "Iniciação à Fonética e à Fonologia". Jorge Zahar Editora 2001, p. 24
  9. ^ Keane (2004), p. 111.


  • Árnason, Kristján (2011), The Phonology of Icelandic and Faroese, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-922931-4
  • Keane, Elinor (2004), "Tamil", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (1): 111–116, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001549
  • Sadowsky, Scott; Painequeo, Héctor; Salamanca, Gastón; Avelino, Heriberto (2013), "Mapudungun", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (1): 87–96, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000369
  • Trudgill, Peter (1989), "The Sociophonetics of /l/ in the Greek of Sphakiá", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 15 (2): 18–22, doi:10.1017/S0025100300002942, S2CID 143943154