Uvular trill

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Uvular trill
IPA number 123
Entity (decimal) ʀ
Unicode (hex) U+0280
Kirshenbaum r"
Braille ⠔ (braille pattern dots-35) ⠗ (braille pattern dots-1235)

The uvular trill is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʀ, a small capital letter R. This consonant is one of several collectively called guttural R.


Features of the uvular trill:


Distribution of guttural R (e.g. [ʁ ʀ χ]) in Continental Europe at the end of the 20th century.1
  not usual
  only in some educated speech
  usual in educated speech

There are two main theories regarding the origination of the uvular trill in European languages. According to one theory, the uvular trill originated in Standard French around the seventeenth century, spreading to standard varieties of German, Danish, Portuguese, as well as in parts of Dutch, Norwegian, and Swedish; it is also present in other areas of Europe, but it is not clear if such pronunciations are due to French influence.2 In most cases, varieties have shifted this to a voiced uvular fricative ʁ.

The other main theory posits that the uvular R originated within Germanic languages through a process where the alveolar R was weakened and then replaced by an imitation of the alveolar R (vocalisation).3 As counterevidence against the "French origin" theory, it is stipulated that there are many signs that the uvular R existed in certain German dialects long before the 17th century.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Some dialects rooi [ʀoːɪ̯] 'red'
Catalan4 Some northern dialects rrer [koˈʀe] 'to run' See Catalan phonology
Dutch rad About this sound [ʀɑt]  'wheel' Common in Randstad, Zuid-Holland and some central, eastern and southern dialects. Rather rare in Belgium. See Dutch phonology
English Northumbrian dialect5 red [ʀed] 'red' Dialectal "Northumbrian Burr", mostly found in eastern Northumberland, declining. See English phonology
French6 rendez-vous About this sound [ʀɑ̃devu]  'appointment' Dialectal. More commonly a fricative ʁ. See French phonology
German Standard7 Rübe [ˈʀyːbə] 'turnip' In free variation with a voiced uvular fricative. See German phonology
Hebrew ירוק [jaˈʀok] 'green' May also be a fricative or approximant. See Modern Hebrew phonology
Judaeo-Spanish mujer [muˈʒɛʀ] 'woman', 'wife'
Italian Northern dialects (especially Parma)8 raro [ˈʀaːʀo] 'rare' May also be a voiced uvular fricative ʁ or a labiodental approximant ʋ.
Occitan Southern Auvergnat garçon [ɡaʀˈsu] 'son' See Occitan phonology
Southeastern Limousin filh [fʲiʀ] 'son'
Provençal parts [paʀ] 'parts'
Eastern dialects garric [ɡaʀi] 'oak' Contrasts with alveolar trill ([ɡari] 'cured')
Portuguese European9 rarear [ʀəɾiˈaɾ] 'to get scarcer' Alternates with other uvular forms and the older alveolar trill. See Portuguese phonology
Fluminense10 mercado [me̞ʀˈkaðu] 'market', 'fair' Tendency to be replaced by fricative pronunciations with time. If as coda, generally in free variation with x, χ, ʁ, ħ and h before non-voicing environments
Sulista10 repolho [ʀe̞ˈpoʎ̟ʊ] 'cabbage'
Romani Some dialects rom [ʀom] 'man' Allophone of a descendant of the Indic retroflex set, so often transcribed /ɽ/. A coronal tap, approximant or trill in other dialects; in some it merges with /r/
Sioux Lakota1112 ǧí [ʀí] 'it's brown' Allophone of /ʁ/ before /i/
Selkup Northern dialects [ˈqaʀlɪ̈] 'sledge' Allophone of /q/ before liquids.
Sesotho Most speakers moriri [moʀiʀi] 'hair' See Sesotho phonology
Swedish Southern dialects räv [ʀɛːv] 'fox' See Swedish phonology

See also



  • Bisiada, Mario (2009), "[R] in Germanic Dialects — Tradition or Innovation?", Vernacular 1: 84–99 
  • Canepari, Luciano (1999) [1992], Il MªPi – Manuale di pronuncia italiana Handbook of Italian Pronunciation (in Italian) (2 ed.), Bologna: Zanichelli, ISBN 88-08-24624-8 
  • Ewert, A. (1963), The French Language, London: Faber 
  • Grevisse, Maurice; Goosse, André (2008), Le Bon Usage (14th ed.), De Boeck et Larcier 
  • Hall, Tracy Alan (1993), "The phonology of German /ʀ/", Phonology 10 (1): 83–105, doi:10.1017/S0952675700001743 
  • Martinet, A. (1969), Le Français sans fard, Paris: Presses Universitaires 
  • Mateus, Maria Helena; d'Andrade, Ernesto (2000), The Phonology of Portuguese, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-823581-X 
  • Moulton, W.G. (1952), "Jacob Böhme's uvular r", Journal of English and Germanic philology 51: 83–89 
  • Rood, David S.; Taylor, Allan R. (1996), "Sketch of Lakhota, a Siouan Language, Part I", Handbook of North American Indians 17, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 440–482 
  • Trudgill, Peter (1974), "Linguistic change and diffusion: Description and explanation in sociolinguistic dialect", Language in Society 3 (2): 215–246, doi:10.1017/S0047404500004358 
  • Wheeler, Max W. (2005), The Phonology Of Catalan, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-925814-7 

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