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Retroflex approximant

Retroflex approximant
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IPA number 152
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Kirshenbaum r.
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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.


Features of the retroflex approximant:


The retroflex approximant occurs in American English, Hiberno-English, West Country English, Mandarin Chinese, Pashto, a few Brazilian Portuguese dialects and some languages of India such as Tamil and Malayalam, as well as several Australian Aboriginal and Indigenous South American languages.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Arrernte [example needed]
Chinese Mandarin ròu About this sound [ɻoʊ̯˥˩]  'meat' Can be a fricative [ʐ] for some speakers. See Standard Chinese phonology
Dutch Some Netherlandic speakers[1] eerst [ɪːɻst] 'first' Tongue bunched and root retracted, giving rise to retroflex resonance. Used by some speakers. Only occurs in the syllable coda. See Dutch phonology
English Some American dialects red [ɻʷɛd] 'red' See English phonology
Some Hiberno-English dialects
Some West Country English
Enindhilyagwa angwura [aŋwuɻa] 'fire'
Faroese[2] hoyrdi [hɔiɻʈɛ] 'heard' Allophone of /r/.[2] Sometimes voiceless [ɻ̊].[2] See Faroese phonology
Greek Cretan Greek (Sfakia and Mylopotamos variations) region[3] γάλα la [ˈɣaɻa] 'milk' Intervocalic allophone of /l/ before /a o u/. Recessive. See Modern Greek phonology
Kannada ಕೊೞೆ [kɒɻe] 'to rot' Koḻe: This consonant, , widely used in Old Kannada, has fallen out of use in writing and speaking in modern Kannada; however, the Kannada alphabet maintains a character for this consonant and it is present as a phoneme in certain dialects.
Malayalam വഴി [ʋɐɻi] vaḻi; "way"
Mapuche rúka [ˈɻuka] 'house'
Pashto سوړ [soɻ] 'cold' Allophone of retroflex lateral flap /ɭ̆/. See Pashto phonology
Pitjantjatjara dialect of the Western Desert language Uluu [ʊlʊɻʊ] 'Uluru'
Portuguese Inland Centro-Sul dialects cartas [ˈkaɻtɐs] 'letters' Allophone of rhotic consonant, and seldom /l/, in the syllable codas. The retroflex approximant is stigmatised as erre caipira "hillbilly r" mostly found in the non-metropolitan hinterlands of São Paulo, Paraná, south of Minas Gerais and surrounding areas, but may also be post-alveolar, alveolar and/or rhotic vowel, the more common realization in metropolitan areas and the coast. As with [ɽ], it appeared as mutation of Iberian /ɾ/ in the development of Brazilian Portuguese from several Amerindian languages (most importantly the línguas gerais) and Old Portuguese (português arcaico) spoken by non-natives of the latter, in the countryside of its more southern states, while more northern dialects started to use the guttural sounds equivalent to Portuguese /ʁ/ in the syllable coda. Originally, both of these major variants elided rs in final of words with more than one syllable, a feature that as with many common Romance characteristics, colloquial Brazilian Portuguese still shares with languages such as Catalan, but now this trait is not more ubiquitous, neither with dialects that use guttural nor with those that use coronal approximant /r/.[4][5][6] See Portuguese phonology.
Brazilian Caipira speakers temporal [tẽɪ̯̃po̞ˈɾaɻ] 'rainstorm'
Tamil[7] வழி [ʋɐɻi] vaḻi "way" See Tamil phonology
Yaghan rho [ˈwaɻo] 'cave'

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b c Árnason (2011:115)
  3. ^ Trudgill (1989:18–19)
  4. ^ Invalid language code. Acoustic-phonetic characteristics of the Brazilian Portuguese's retroflex /r/: data from respondents in Pato Branco, Paraná. Irineu da Silva Ferraz. Pages 19–21
  5. ^ Invalid language code. Syllable coda /r/ in the "capital" of the paulista hinterland: sociolinguistic analisis. Cândida Mara Britto LEITE. Page 111 (page 2 in the attached PDF)
  6. ^ Invalid language code. Callou, Dinah. Leite, Yonne. "Iniciação à Fonética e à Fonologia". Jorge Zahar Editora 2001, p. 24
  7. ^ 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 
  • 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