Pronunciation of English ⟨r⟩

Pronunciation of English r has many variations in different dialects.

Variations of "r"


R-labialization is a process occurring in certain dialects of the English language, particularly some varieties of Cockney, in which the /r/ phoneme is realized as a labiodental approximant [ʋ] in contrast to an alveolar approximant [ɹ]. To English speakers who are not used to [ʋ], this sounds nearly indistinguishable from /w/.

Use of labiodental /r/ is commonly stigmatized by prescriptivists. Regardless, the consonant [ʋ] is used in a variety of other languages and is increasing in many accents of British English.[4] Most speakers doing so are from the southeastern part of the country, particularly in London. It is also occasionally heard in some speakers of Boston and New York City English though more often in an exaggerated parody of these dialects, as famously portrayed by the Looney Tunes character Elmer Fudd.

It has also been reported to be an extremely rare realization of /r/ in New Zealand English.[5]

The /r/ 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 /r/ by some kind of labial approximant may also occur as symptom of a speech defect, called rhotacism or, more precisely, derhotacization.


R-tapping refers to pronouncing the "r" as a flap intervocalically. This occurs in for many Scottish English speakers.


R-rolling refers to pronouncing the "r" as a trill. This occurs in for some Scottish English speakers.

Rhotic and nonrhotic

Main article: Rhoticity in English

Rhotic dialects pronounce /r/ in words like "car" and "cord" whereas nonrhotic ones don't.

Vowel mergers before r

Many dialects have merged certain vowels occurring before historic /r/. For instance, most North Americans merge "Mary", "marry" and "merry".


  1. Ladefoged 2001, p. 55.
  2. Ladefoged, Peter (2001b). Vowels and Consonants. Blackwell. p. 103.
  3. Laver, John (1994). Principles of Phonetics. Cambridge. p. 300.
  4. Foulkes, Paul, and Gerard J. Docherty. (eds.) (1999). Urban Voices. Arnold
  5. Bauer, Laurie; Warren, Paul; Bardsley, Dianne; Kennedy, Marianna; Major, George (2007), "New Zealand English", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 37 (1): 100, doi:10.1017/S0025100306002830
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/23/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.