Retroflex approximant

The 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.

Retroflex approximant
IPA Number152
Entity (decimal)ɻ
Unicode (hex)U+027B
Audio sample
source · help


Features of the retroflex 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.


ChineseMandarin ròu[ɻoʊ̯˥˩]'meat'Can be a fricative [ʐ] for some speakers. See Standard Chinese phonology
DutchSome Netherlandic speakers[1]eerst[ɪːɻst]'first'Tongue bunched and root retracted. Occurs only in syllable coda. See Dutch phonology
EnglishSome American dialectsred[ɻʷɛd]'red'Labialized (pronounced with lips rounded). See Pronunciation of English /r/
Some Hiberno-English dialects
Some West Country English
Faroese[2]hoyrdi[hɔiɻʈɛ]'heard'Allophone of /r/.[2] Sometimes voiceless [ɻ̊].[2] See Faroese phonology
GreekCretan Greek (Sfakia and Mylopotamos variations) region[3]γάλα la[ˈɣaɻa]'milk'Intervocalic allophone of /l/ before /a o u/. Recessive. See Modern Greek phonology
KannadaSome dialectsಕೊೞೆ[kɒɻe]'to rot'
Malayalamതമിഴ്[t̪əˈmɨɻ] 'Tamil'
Mapudungun[4]rayen[ɻɜˈjën]'flower'Possible realization of /ʐ/; may be [ʐ] or [ɭ] instead.[4]
Pashtoسوړ[soɻ]'cold'Allophone of retroflex lateral flap /ɭ̆/. See Pashto phonology
PortugueseMany Centro-Sul registerscartas[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.
Conservative piracicabanograto[ˈgɻatʊ̥]'thankful' (m.)
Tamil[9]தமிழ்[t̪əˈmɨɻ] 'Tamil'See Tamil phonology. May be merged with [l] for many modern speakers.
Western DesertPitjantjatjara dialectUluu[ʊlʊɻʊ]'Uluru'

See also


  1. Sebregts, Koen (2014). The Sociophonetics of and Phonology of Dutch r (PDF). : LOT. ISBN 978-94-6093-161-1.
  2. Árnason (2011:115)
  3. Trudgill (1989:18–19)
  4. Sadowsky et al. (2013), p. 90.
  5. Nas trilhas do -r retroflexo Silvia Figueiredo Brandão. December 2007. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  6. (in Portuguese) Acoustic-phonetic characteristics of the Brazilian Portuguese's retroflex /r/: data from respondents in Pato Branco, Paraná. Irineu da Silva Ferraz. Pages 19–21
  7. (in Portuguese) Syllable coda /r/ in the "capital" of the paulista hinterland: sociolinguistic analisis. 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 (2004:111)


  • 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
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