Alveolar and postalveolar approximants

Alveolar approximant
IPA number 151
Entity (decimal) ɹ
Unicode (hex) U+0279
X-SAMPA r\ or D_r_o
Kirshenbaum r
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Postalveolar approximant
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The 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\.

There is no separate symbol for the dental approximant (as in Spanish nada) in the International Phonetic Alphabet, which most scholars transcribe with the symbol for a voiced dental fricative, ð.

The most common sound represented by the letter r in English is the 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.


Features of the alveolar approximant:

  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.



Assyrian Neo-AramaicAlqosh dialectܪܒ[ɹɑbɑ]'many'Corresponds to /ɾ/ in most other Assyrian dialects.
Tyari dialect
Burmese[1][2]တိစ္ဆာန်[təɹeɪʔsʰàɴ]'animal'Occurs only in loanwords, mostly from Pali or English
Dahalo[3][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.[4]
DanishStandard[5][6][7]ved[ve̝ð̠˕ˠ]'at'Velarized and laminal; allophone of /d/ in the syllable coda.[5][6][7] For a few speakers, it may be a non-sibilant fricative instead.[7] See Danish phonology.
DutchCentral Netherlandicdoor[doːɹ]'through'Allophone of /r/ in the syllable coda for some speakers. See Dutch phonology.
Western Netherlandic
Leidenrat[ɹat]'rat'Corresponds to /r/ in other dialects.
Faroeseróður[ɹɔuwʊɹ]'rudder'See Faroese phonology.
GermanStandard Austrian[8]Rebe[ˈɹeːbɛ]'vine'The most common alveolar realization of /r/, with a trill [r] being the alternative realization. The more common uvular realizations are a fricative (either voiced [ʁ] or voiceless [χ]) and, more rarely, a trill [ʀ].[8] See Standard German phonology.
Siegerland[9][ˈɹeːbə]Most other dialects use a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] or a uvular trill [ʀ]. See Standard German phonology.
Upper Lusatian
Greek[11]μέρα ra[ˈmɛɹɐ]'day'Allophone of /r/ in rapid or casual speech and between vowels. See Modern Greek phonology.
Icelandicbróðir[ˈprou̯ð̠˕ir]'brother'Usually apical. See Icelandic phonology.
LimburgishMontfortian dialect[12]maintenant[ˈmæ̃ːn˦ð̠˕ənɑ̃ː˨]'now'
Persianفارسی[fɒːɹˈsiː]'Persian'Allophone of /ɾ/ before /d/, /l/, /s/, /ʃ/, /t/, /z/, and /ʒ/. See Persian phonology.
PortugueseMultiple Brazilian dialects[13][14]permitir[pe̞ɹmiˈtɕiɹ]'to allow'[ɾ] in the syllable coda. Common in central and southern large urban centres. May also be retroflex, post-alveolar and/or rhotic vowel. Often deleted from verbal infinitives. See Portuguese phonology.
SpanishAndalusian[15]doscientos[do̞ɹˈθje̞n̪t̪o̞s]'two hundred'Allophone of /s/ before [θ]. See Spanish phonology.
Belizeaninvierno[imˈbjeɹno]'winter'Possible realization of /r/ in the syllable coda.
Puerto Rican
Andean (mostly inland Ecuador, Peru, most of Bolivia and in parts of northern Argentina and Paraguay)hierro[ˈjeɹo]'iron'Corresponding to [r] in other dialects.
Costa Rican
SwedishCentral Standard[16]starkast[ˈs̪t̪äɹːkäs̪t̪]'strongest'Allophone of /r/. Some speakers have [ɾ] ([r] when geminated) in all positions. See Swedish phonology.
Tagalogparang[paɹaŋ]'like-'Allophone of the more traditional [ɾ ~ r] used by the more English-literate younger speakers.
VietnameseSaigon[17]ra[ɹa]'go out'In free variation with [ɾ], [r] and [ʐ]. See Vietnamese phonology.
ZapotecTilquiapan[18]r[ɹd̪ɨ]'pass'Allophone of /ɾ/ before consonants.


EnglishAustralianred[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
MalteseSome dialects[21]Corresponds to [ɾ ~ r] in other dialects.[21]
Shipibo[22]?[ˈd̠ɹ̠o̽ɾ̠o̽]'to break into pieces'Pre-stopped. Possible word-initial realization of /r/.[22]

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

See also



  • 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 Dutch), 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., 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, 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, 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 
  • Kohler, Klaus (1995), Einführung in die Phonetik des Deutschen, Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag 
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8. 
  • Maddieson, Ian; Spajić, Siniša; Sands, Bonny; Ladefoged, Peter (1993), "Phonetic structures of Dahalo", in Maddieson, Ian, UCLA working papers in phonetics: Fieldwork studies of targeted languages, 84, Los Angeles: The UCLA Phonetics Laboratory Group, pp. 25–65 
  • Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquiapan Zapotec" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 38 (1): 107–114, doi:10.1017/S0025100308003344 
  • Moosmüller, Sylvia; Schmid, Carolin; Brandstätter, Julia (2015), "Standard Austrian German", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 45 (03): 339–348, doi:10.1017/S0025100315000055 
  • Puech, Gilbert (2013), "Prime constituents of Maltese sounds", in Borg, Albert; Caruana, Sandro; Vella, Alexandra, Perspectives on Maltese Linguistics, Berlin: Akademie Verlag GmbH, pp. 61–88, ISBN 978-3-05-006275-4 
  • Recasens, Daniel (2004), "The effect of syllable position on consonant reduction (evidence from Catalan consonant clusters)", Journal of Phonetics, 32 (3): 435–453, doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2004.02.001 
  • Valenzuela, Pilar M.; Márquez Pinedo, Luis; Maddieson, Ian (2001), "Shipibo", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 31 (2): 281–285, doi:10.1017/S0025100301002109 
  • Thompson, Laurence C. (1959), "Saigon Phonemics", Language, Linguistic Society of America, 35 (3): 454–476, doi:10.2307/411232, JSTOR 411232 
  • Watkins, Justin (2001), "Illustrations of the IPA: Burmese" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 31 (2): 291–95, doi:10.1017/S0025100301002122 
  • Zawadzki, P.A.; Kuehn, D.P. (1980), "A cineradiographic study of static and dynamic aspects of American English /r/", Phonetica, 37 (4): 253–266, doi:10.1159/000259995, PMID 7443796 
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