The most difficult English sound for speakers of many languages is the ‘r’ sound. Though it is considered a single phoneme, that can occur in four different places. It can occur as a consonant, as a vowel, and attached to vowels.
|2.||'ir,' 'or'||/ɝ/||"bird" /bɝd/
|3.||'er,' 'or'||/ɚ/||"butter" /bʌɾɚ/
|5..||"air," "ear"||/ɛr/||"bear" /bɛr/
|6..||"fear," "ear"||/ɪr/||"beer" /bɪr/
The first row of the table is the sound of ‘r’ as a consonant. We write it as an upside-down ‘r’ /ɹ/. This is the sound in words like, “red” /ɹɛd/,, or “tried” /tɹɑɪd/.
A right-side-up ‘r’ /r/ is used to stand for the trilled ‘r’ that that occurs in many languages such as Spanish and Finish. For instance Spanish “perro” /pero/ and Finnish “Hari” /hari/.
The second and third rows are two ways of representing the same sound, a vocalic ‘r.’ Vocalic consonants are constants that act as a vowel and can be the core to a syllable. The sound is the ‘r’ sound in “bird,” “early,” “letter,” and “paper.” The reason that there are two ways of representing the same sound is that same as for /ʌ/ and /e/, when the syllable is stressed, we write the sounds as /ɝ/, and when it is unstressed, we write it is ɚ/.
The fourth, fifth, and sixth rows add an ‘ɹ’ symbol after the vowel to indicate that the vowel sound merges into the /ɚ/ sound similar to a diphthong. Following is a list of the r-colored vowels.
Three of the vowel sounds are written with two symbols, but /ɝ/ and /ɚ/ are not. They have been written as /ʌɹ/ and /əɹ/. However, that misses the fact that you are making the vowel sound and modifying it with the ‘r’ sound by curling back your tongue or bunching it up. Some linguists write /ɔɹ/, /ɑɹ/, and /ɛɹ/ as single symbols. Remember not to get too hung up on symbols because there is some variation. I try to be consistent on this website.
|Beginning of Word||Middle of Word||End of Word|
|2.||/ɝ/||Early [ɝli]||Bird [bɝd]||Worm [wɝm]|
|3.||/ɑr/||Art [ɑrt]||Start [stɑrt]||Star [stɑr]|
|4.||/ɔr/||Orb [ɔrb]||Morbid [mɔrbɪd]||Store [stɔr]|
|5.||/ɛr/||Air [ɛr]||Fairly [fɛrli]||Stair [stɛr]|
- Early morbid art is fairly rare. [ɝli mɔrbɪd ɑrt ɪz fɛrli ɹɛr]
- The early bird catches the worm. [ðə ɝli bɝd kæt͡ʃz ðə wɝm̩]
- The moon orbits the Earth. [ðə mun ɔrbɪts ðə ɝθ].
- Air is necessary to breathe.