R-colored vowel

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In phonetics, vocalic r refers to the phenomenon of a rhotic segment such as Template:IPA or Template:IPA occurring as the syllable nucleus. This is a feature of a number of Slavic languages such as Croatian and Czech as well as languages like English and Mandarin Chinese, where it occurs as an r-colored vowel, a vowel whose distinctive feature is a low third formant.

In rhotic accents of English such as General American, vocalic r occurs in words like butter and church.

Vocalic R in Sanskrit

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 Template:Unicode (short form) and Template:Unicode (long form), and is thought to correspond to original vocalic "l" or "r" in Proto-Indo-European.[1] The grammarian [[Pāṇini|Template:Unicode]] classified this vowel as retroflex[2] and its pronunciation is thought to have been a retroflex approximant Template:IPA in classical Sanskrit (c. 500 BC). Earlier grammarians classified its sound in the Vedic period as velar.[2] When Sanskrit words containing this sound are borrowed into modern Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi or Nepali its pronunciation changes to Template:IPA (short form) or Template:IPA (long form),[3] leading to forms such as "Krishna" for Template:Unicode and "Rigveda" for Template:Unicode, a pronunciation that is also prevalent among contemporary pandits.[4]

R-colored vowel

File:Rhoticity spectrogram.png
Spectrogram of Template:IPA and its rhotacized counterpart Template:IPA.Template:Audio

Template:Infobox IPA

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) or with the tip of the tongue down and the back of the tongue bunched. Both articulations produce basically the same auditory effect, a lowering in frequency of the third formant. Although they are rarely attested, they occur in some non-standard varieties of Dutch and in a number of rhotic accents of English like General American. The English vowel may be analyzed phonemically as an underlying Template:IPA rather than a syllabic consonant.

Considering the different word positions--initial, medial and final--it has been suggested there are at least 21 distinct allophones of Template:IPA in English.[5]

English spelling

The r-colored vowels of General American are written with vowel-r digraphs. Any vowel can be used:

Stressed Template:IPA: assert, mirth, work, turkey, myrtle
UnstressedTemplate:IPA: dinner, lincolnshire, editor, measure

An example of an r-colored vowel written as a vowel following "r" can be found in the word iron Template:IPA.

In singing

Many vocalists who would normally speak English with r-colored vowels will replace them with their non-rhotic equivalents when singing in English. Exceptions include many Irish singers.

Speech disorders

In English, pronunciation of vocalic /r/ is variable due to the inconsistencies of the different vowel combinations. These inconsistencies can cause articulation disorders or speech disorders, especially in younger children when producing /r/. Pronunciation of /r/ is difficult, and one of the most frequently misproduced sounds for a number of reasons including:

  • It can be either consonantal or vocalic;
  • There is no single defined way to produce the sound either by manner or place of articulation;
  • It tends to be a later developing sound; and
  • Correct pronunciation is not dependent upon spelling.[6]

Vocalic /r/ evaluation and treatment is most commonly made by a speech-language pathologist.

Other examples

In Mandarin Chinese, the rhotacized ending of some words is the prime way by which to distinguish speakers of Beijing dialect from those of other forms of Mandarin. Mandarin speakers call this phenomenon Erhua. In many words, -r suffix is added to indicate some meaning changes. In simplified written Chinese, the change is indicated with the suffix 儿 (If the word ends in a nasal, the final consonant is lost and the vowel becomes nasalized if what is lost is a nasal velar).

In the 1930s the Dravidian language Badaga had two degrees of rhoticity among all five of its vowels, but few speakers maintain the distinction today, and then only in one or two vowels. An example is non-rhotic Template:IPA mouth, slightly rhotacized ("half retroflexed") Template:IPA bangle, and fully rhotacized ("fully retroflexed") Template:IPA crop.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Burrow, Thomas (2001). The Sanskrit Language (1st Indian edition ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 105. ISBN 8120817672.
  2. 2.0 2.1 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 (2006). Sanskrit. Chicago: Contemporary Books. p. 5. ISBN 0071426663. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  5. Ristuccia, C.L. , Gilbert, D.W. & Ristuccia, J.E. (2005) The Entire World of R Book of Elicitation Techniques, 'Say It Right': Tybee Island, GA ISBN 0-9760490-7-4.
  6. Curtis, J.F.& Hardy, J.C. (1959) A phonetic study of misarticulation of /r/. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 2 (3), 244-257.


  • Aungst, L.F. & Frick, J.V. (1964) Auditory discrimination ability and consistency of articulation of /r/. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 29, 76-85.
  • Curtis, J.F.& Hardy, J.C. (1959) A phonetic study of misarticulation of /r/. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 2 (3), 244-257.
  • Ristuccia, Christine. (2002) 'Phonologic strategy for /r/ remediation.' Advance for Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, 39, 21.
  • Ristuccia, C.L. , Gilbert, D.W. & Ristuccia, J.E. (2005). The Entire World of R Book of Elicitation Techniques. Tybee Island, GA: 'Say It Right'. ISBN 0-9760490-7-4. External link in |publisher=, |title= (help)

See also

Template:LetterR ko:치조 접근 수반음

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