Alveolar trill

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Alveolar trill
IPA number122
Entity (decimal)r
Unicode (hex)U+0072


The alveolar trill is a type of consonant. It is found in some spoken languages. It is usually called the rolled R, rolling R, or trilled R. The sound of this consonant is formed by placing the tip of your tongue against the ridge just behind the top row of your teeth. This is what is meant by "alveolar". The sound is then made by vibrating your tongue against that ridge. This makes it a trill consonant.

The International Phonetic Alphabet represents dental, alveolar and postalveolar trills with the symbol ⟨r⟩. The X-SAMPA symbol of it is r.

Quite often, we use ⟨r⟩ in phonemic transcriptions (especially those found in dictionaries) of languages like English and German. They have rhotic consonants that are not an alveolar trill. This is because typing the r will be easier in the orthographies of these languages.

In many Indo-European languages, this sound is at least occasionally allophonic with an alveolar tap [ɾ], particularly in unstressed positions. Exceptions to this include Catalan, Spanish, Albanian and some Portuguese dialects, which treat them as separate phonemes.

Occurrence[change | change source]

These are some examples where the alveolar trill occurs in various languages:

Language Word IPA Meaning
Arabic رأس [rɑʔs] 'head'
Dutch rood About this sound[roːt]  'red'
English Scottish curd [kʌrd] 'curd'
French southern France and Corsica rouge [ruʒ] 'red'
German some dialects Schmarrn About this sound[ʃmaːrn]  'nonsense'
Hindi घर [ɡʱər] 'house'
Italian[1] terra [ˈtɛrra] 'earth'
Malay Standard arah [arah] 'direction'
Russian[2] играть [ɪˈɡr̠atʲ] 'to play'
Spanish[3] perro [ˈpe̞ro̞] 'dog'

Voiceless alveolar trill[change | change source]

Some languages have a voiceless alveolar trill. In the normal alveolar trill, the vocal cord vibrates. In voiceless alveolar trill, the vocal cord does not vibrate. We do not often use voiceless alveolar trill, but we often use the voiced alveolar trill. We can find it in Ancient Greek, where it was spelled ⟨⟩; this sound has combined with [r] in Modern Greek.

Some examples of occurrence
Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Icelandic dagur [ˈtaːɣʏr̥] 'day' Postvocalic allophone of /r/.
Welsh Rhagfyr [ˈr̥aɡvɨr] 'December' Contrasts voiced and voiceless alveolar trills.

Raised alveolar non-sonorant trill [change | change source]

In Czech, there are two different alveolar trills. Besides the normal trill, written r, there is another, written ř. This is found in words such as rybáři [ˈrɪbaːr̝ɪ] ('fishermen'), čtyři ('four'), and the common surname Dvořák. The way it is pronounced is similar to [r] but the tongue is raised; it is partially fricative, with the frication sounding rather like [ʒ], though not so retracted. Thus in the IPA it is written as ⟨r⟩ plus the raising diacritic, ⟨⟩. (Before the 1989 IPA Kiel Convention, it had a dedicated symbol ⟨ɼ⟩). It is normally voiced, but there is a voiceless allophone [r̝̊] as with many other Czech consonants.

Listen: About this sound[r̝] 

References[change | change source]

  1. Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (1): 117–121, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001628
  2. Skalozub, Larisa (1963), Palatogrammy i Rentgenogrammy Soglasnyx Fonem Russkogo Literaturnogo Jazyka, Izdatelstvo Kievskogo Universiteta; cited in Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996), The Sounds of the World's Languages, Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 0-631-19815-6
  3. Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana Ma.; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 33 (2): 255–259, doi:10.1017/S0025100303001373