Rhotic consonant

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In phonetics, rhotic consonants, or "R-like" sounds, are consonants that are traditionally represented orthographically by symbols derived from the Greek letter rho, including Roman R and Cyrillic Р. They are symbolized in the International Phonetic Alphabet by upper- or lower-case variants of Roman R.[1]

This class of sounds is difficult to characterise phonetically; from a phonetic standpoint, there is no single articulatory correlate common to rhotic consonants.[2] Rhotics have instead been found to carry out similar phonological functions or to have certain similar phonological features across different languages.[3] Although some have been found to share certain acoustic peculiarities, such as a lowered third formant[citation needed], further study has revealed that this does not hold true across different languages.[citation needed] For example, the acoustic quality of lowered third formants pertains almost exclusively to American varieties of English.[citation needed] Being "R-like" is an elusive and ambiguous concept phonetically and the same sounds that function as rhotics in some systems may pattern with fricatives, semivowels or even stops[citation needed] in others.[2]


Rhotic consonant in different languages

The most typical rhotic sounds found in the world's languages are the following:[4]

  • Trill (popularly known as rolled r): The airstream is interrupted several times as one of the organs of speech (usually the tip of the tongue or the uvula) vibrates, closing and opening the air passage. If a trill is made with the tip of the tongue against the upper gum, it is called an apical (tongue-tip) alveolar trill; the IPA symbol for this sound is [r]. If it is made with the uvula against the back of the tongue, it is a uvular trill; the IPA symbol for this sound is [ʀ]. The bilabial trill, however, is not considered a rhotic.

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