R Colored Vowels

1.1.1        R-Colored Vowels




Overwhelm [oʊvɚˈwɛlm̩]

Stir [stɚ]



Early [ɝli]

Bird   [bɝd]

Worm [wɝm]



Art [ɑrt]

Start [stɑrt]

Star [stɑr]



Orb [ɔrb]

Morbid [mɔrbɪd]

Store [stɔr]



Air [ɛr]

Fairly [fɛrli]

Stair [stɛr]


In English, there is an ‘r’ consonant [ɹ] and then a number of places where an ‘r’ sound is added to a vowel.  It can be written different ways, but I am using the most common which is an upside down ‘r’ [ɹ]. The first two rows indicate the position of the vowel and the hook that is attached to it indicates that you simultaneously make an ‘r’ sound.  The two symbols [ɚ] and [ɝ] both indicate the same sound, but [ɚ] is used in unstressed syllables and [ɝ] is used in stressed ones just as [ə] is used in unstressed syllables and [ʌ] is used in stressed one.

The last three rows add an ‘r’ symbol after the vowel to indicate that it is “r colored.”

The symbol [ɔ] stands for a rounded low back vowel that is close to [ɑ].  In some dialects of English the words “cot” and “caught” are pronounced differently, [kɑt] and [kɔt].  In California English, they are pronounced the same.

Though the IPA has the symbol, ‘r,’ it stands for the rolled (or trilled) ‘r’ that is found in Spanish, Finnish, and many Slavic languages and is not the common English ‘r’ consonant. To differentiate the English ‘r’ consonant is represented as an upside down ‘r’ [ɹ].