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retroflex approximant: Wikis


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IPA – number 152
IPA – text ɻ
IPA – image File:Xsampa-rslash'.png
Entity ɻ
Kirshenbaum r.
Sound sample

The retroflex approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken 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:

  • Its manner of articulation is approximant, which means it is produced by bringing one articulator close to another but without the vocal tract being narrowed to such an extent that a turbulent airstream is produced.
  • Its place of articulation is retroflex, which prototypically means it is articulated with the tip of the tongue curled up, but more generally means that it is postalveolar without being palatalized.
  • Its phonation type is voiced, which means the vocal cords are vibrating during the articulation.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by allowing the airstream to flow over the middle of the tongue, rather than the sides.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic egressive, which means it is articulated by pushing air out of the lungs and through the vocal tract, rather than from the glottis or the mouth.


The retroflex approximant occurs in many languages of India and Australia. Elsewhere it is rare, though it occurs in two languages with a very large number of speakers, English and Mandarin.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Chinese Mandarin /ròu [ɻou̯˥˩]'meat' Has [ʐ] as allophone. See Standard Mandarin
English American dialects red [ɻʷɛd] 'red' See English phonology
Enindhilyagwa angwura [aŋwuɻa] 'fire'
Malayalam വഴി [ʋɐɻi] 'way'
Tamil[1] வழி [ʋɐɻi] 'way' See Tamil phonology
Yaghan rho [ˈwaɻo] 'cave'

See also



  • Keane, Elinor (2004), "Tamil", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 111-116


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