Pronunciation of English /r/

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Template:Refimprove Template:English phonology topics Template:IPA notice Pronunciation of the phoneme [[English phonology|Template:IPA]] in the English language has many variations in different dialects.


Depending on dialect, Template:IPA has at least the following allophones in varieties of English around the world:[1]

In most dialects Template:IPA is labialized Template:IPA in many positions, as in reed Template:IPA and tree Template:IPA; in the latter case, the Template:IPA may be slightly labialized as well.[4] In General American, it is labialized at the beginning of a word but not at the end.[citation needed]

In many dialects, Template:IPA in the cluster Template:IPA, as in dream, is realized as a postalveolar fricative Template:IPA or less commonly alveolar Template:IPA. In Template:IPA, as in tree, it is a voiceless postalveolar fricative Template:IPA or less commonly alveolar Template:IPA.[5] In England, while the approximant has become the most common realization, Template:IPA may still be pronounced as a voiceless tap Template:IPA after Template:IPA (as in thread).[6]

There are two primary articulations of the approximant Template:IPA: apical (with the tip of the tongue approaching the alveolar ridge or even curled back slightly) and domal (with a centralized bunching of the tongue known as "molar r" or sometimes "bunched r" or "braced r"). Peter Ladefoged wrote: "Many BBC English speakers have the tip of the tongue raised towards the roof of the mouth in the general location of the alveolar ridge, but many American English speakers simply bunch the body of the tongue up so that it is hard to say where the articulation is".[7] The extension to the IPA recommends the use of the IPA diacritics for "apical" and "centralized", as in Template:Angbr IPA, to distinguish apical and domal articulations in transcription. However, this distinction has little or no perceptual consequence, and may vary idiosyncratically between individuals.[8]

Rhoticity and non-rhoticity

All English accents around the world are frequently characterized as either rhotic or non-rhotic. The majority of accents in England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa speak non-rhotic accents, and in these dialects the historical English phoneme /r/ is not pronounced except when followed by a vowel. However, the historical /r/ is pronounced in all contexts in rhotic accents, which are spoken across the majority in Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Canada, and also in some English accents (for example West Country and some parts of Lancashire and the far north). Thus, a rhotic accent pronounces marker as Template:IPA, while a non-rhotic accent pronounces the same word as Template:IPA. Generally speaking in rhotic accents, when Template:IPA is not followed by a vowel phoneme, it surfaces as r-coloring of the preceding vowel or its coda: nurse Template:IPA, butter Template:IPA.


R-labialization, not to be confused with the rounding of initial Template:IPA described above, is a process occurring in certain dialects of English, particularly some varieties of Cockney, in which the Template:IPA phoneme is realized as a labiodental approximant Template:IPA in contrast to an alveolar approximant Template:IPA. To English-speakers not used to Template:IPA, it is nearly indistinguishable from Template:IPA.

Use of labiodental Template:IPA is commonly stigmatized by prescriptivists. Regardless, it is used in many other languages and its use is growing in many accents of British English.[9] Most speakers who do so are from the southeast of England, particularly London. It is also occasionally heard in some speakers of the Boston accent but more often in an exaggerated parody of those dialects.

It has also been reported to be an extremely rare realization of Template:IPA in New Zealand English.[10]

The Template:IPA realization may not always be labiodental: bilabial and velarized labiodental realizations have been reported.

R-labialization leads to pronunciations such as the following:

However, replacement of Template:IPA by some kind of labial approximant may also occur as symptom of a speech defect called rhotacism or, more precisely, derhotacization.

See also


  1. Wells, John C. (1982). Accents of English. Volume 1: An Introduction, Volume 2: The British Isles, Volume 3: Beyond the British Isles. Cambridge University Press.
  2. Hickey, Raymond (2007). Irish English: History and present-day forms. Cambridge University Press. pp. 14-15, 320.
  3. "Investigating Language Attitudes: Social Meanings of Dialect, Ethnicity and Performance". Google Books. Peter Garrett, Nikolas Coupland, Angie Williams. Retrieved 10 November 2019. 
  4. Ladefoged, Peter (2001). Vowels and Consonants (4th ed.). Blackwell. p. 103. 
  5. Gimson, Alfred Charles (2014). Cruttenden, Alan, ed. Gimson's Pronunciation of English (8th ed.). Routledge. pp. 177, 186–8. ISBN 9781444183092. 
  6. Ogden, Richard (2009). An Introduction to English Phonetics. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 90–2. ISBN 9780748625413. 
  7. Ladefoged, Peter (2001). A Course in Phonetics. Harcourt College Publishers. p. 55. 
  8. Laver, John (1994). Principles of Phonetics. Cambridge. p. 300. 
  9. Foulkes, Paul, and Gerard J. Docherty. (eds.) (1999). Urban Voices. Arnold
  10. Template:Citation