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R (letter)

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See also R (programming language)

R, r is a letter of the Latin alphabet. It is the eighteenth letter of most variants, being placed after Q and before S, as is the case for instance in the English alphabet. Its English name is pronounced [ˈaː] or [ˈaːɹ], like the word are (with that r silent in British English finally or before a consonant: ah).

Use in English

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Use in English
Alphabetical word list
Retroalphabetical list  
Common misspellings  

r is rather weak in most varieties of English. Comparing it with the trilled r’s of Spanish and Italian, the guttural r’s of French and German, and the two r sounds of Portuguese, it most resembles single, medial and final Portuguese r, never double or initial guttural. It is pronounced in the front of the mouth (but not so far as Japanese r: the tongue doesn’t go quite so near the teeth): réd, rêal, rîce, wrîte read = rîght correct, side, rún, árrow, írritate, érror, cárry, bárrier, wróng, rāther.

  • The accents show stress and pronunciation (see English spellings): A: sát, mâde, pàrk, cāst (cást/càst), åll, ãir; E: ére, êar, vèin, fërn; I: sít, mîne, skì, bïrd; O: sóng, môde, lòve, wörd, ŏr; OO: moôn, foòt; U: sún, mûse, fùll, pürr; W: neŵ, ẁant; Y: gým, mŷ, keỳ, mÿrrh.

r can occur before any consonant (but it is rare before j: përjury, màrjoram, Màrjorie). In British and Commonwealth English, it is silent before a consonant, though it significantly affects the pronunciation of the preceding vowel: this is sometimes rather confusingly called "post-vocalic" r; "pre-consonantal" is perhaps clearer. This pronunciation is known as "non-rhotic", i.e. "without r": hàrd, vërse, fïrm, wörd, bŏrn, bürn, heàrt, hëard, cürl, nŏrth, wörk, bïrd, përson, làrge, wård, áfterwards, pronounced *hàad, etc. And the r is silent before a vowel in BrE îron metal = îon electron.

As in AmE, r before consonants is not silent in General American, Scottish, Irish and many other varieties of English, where, in every non-rhotic example given above, the r is distinctly heard.

r is very often doubled in the middle of words, especially after á, é and ú and before ôw and y, giving the short sound of the preceding vowel: árrow, márrow, búrrow, fúrrow, Térry, Dérry, cúrry, sórry, mérry, márry, hárry, húrry.

And also in bárrack, bárrier, cárrot, érror, térror, jàrring, bàrring, hárrier, férret.

Sometimes it doubles after other sounds: für + -y = fürry, and wòrry (AmE wörry, effect of w on o).

And before -ed and -ing added to words ending in r: stàrring, bàrred (cf. bŏred, from bŏre, which ends in e).

But not always: véry, árid, and never after the sound ã: fãiry, vãry. And in táriff and shériff, it is the f, not the r, that doubles.

rh, from initial Greek r, occurs at the beginning of some words; the h is redundant: Rhôdes, rhododéndron, rhôdium, rhêsus, rhétoric, rhetórical, rhýthm, rhŷme, rhûbarb, rhápsody, rhêa (a as schwa: *rìə), rheûmatism, rheumátic, and beware of diarrhoêa.

wr, too, is, pronounced r; it too tends to appear at the beginning of words, some very common: wrîte read (= rîght correct, side), wróng, wrétch poor (= rétch vomit), wrítten, wréck, wrŷ, awrŷ.

The phrases rêad and wrîte and rîght and wróng both have r- followed by wr-.

rw is rare and accidental: fŏrwards, òtherwise, āfterwards.

Initial re- is pronounced - when part of a long-established word: réverie, recolléct, récognise (and in réctify, where isn’t actually a prefix) or like an unstressed - : recür, revërse, rehëarse, regâle, relŷ, recêive, recoil.

But re-, when less ‘connected’ to the rest of the word, can be stressed equally with the other tonic syllable, as -, in verbs: rêcáp, rêdesîgn, rêdo, rêwrîte, rêplây, and receives sole stress in shorter nouns: rêplay, rêtail, and equal stress in longer nouns: rêpercússion, rêdevélopment.

Effect on preceding vowels

r before a consonant is not pronounced separately in BrE, nor usually in Australasian or Welsh English, but it is audible in most American, Scottish and Irish pronunciations. It has an important effect on preceding vowels:

àr: bàr, stàr, stàrt, làrva, càr, margarìne (màrj-), stàrve, Càrl, màrk, vãry, stãre look (= stãir step), cãring, nefãrious, wãres goods, phãraôh, Clãra and similarly in: ãerial, Ãyrshire, BrE mãyor

ãr, ãir: cãring, bãre naked = béãr animal, stãir step = stãre look wãry, ãir, fãiry

But there is a completely different effect after w: wårm, wårning, wårble; ẁarrant, Ẁarwick (= ó, as in ẁas, ẁant, all in American English)

ër: për, përson, dërvish, nërvous, fërn, bërth ship (= bïrth born), vërve, përson, prefër - but most often unstressed as in bútter

êar has three sounds:

1. usually = êer: clêar, hêar, wêary, êar, fêar, nêar, bêard, dêar loved, expensive
2.= ër: hëard, ëarly, dëarth, ëarth, lëarn, pëarl
3.= àr: heàrt, heàrth

êer = êar (1): stêer, dêer animal, quêer, bêer, shêer absolute (= shêar shears), vêer, dêer, (sêer is two syllables: *sê-er)

êir: wêir water = Wêir person (= wê’re we are), wêird

eùr: eùro, Eùrope, áneurism, neùral (all yù-)

ìêr: cavalìêr, chandelìêr, fìêrce, pìêr, pìêrce = Pìêrce (= Pêarce = Pêirce persons)

ïr = ër: gïrl, bïrth, stïr, fïr, dïrt, flïrt

ŏar: ŏar, bŏard, rŏar, sŏar, fly (= sŏre hurt)

ŏr: ŏr, fŏrt, tŏrch, mŏrning, wŏrn, bŏre doŏr nŏrmal bŏrn - but, after w, usually ör: wörth, wörd, wörm, wörk, wörse (but not in BrE wòrry, AmE wörry)

ür = ïr = ër: bürn, distürb, hürt, spürn, pürse, fürniture, blür

or as in: pûre, allûre, jûry, AmE sûre
or BrE: sůre, assůrance; in some varieties of BrE, assůre sounds just like ashŏre

ûr: pûre, pûrest, fûry, jûry, rûral, dûring

ÿr: mÿrrh, mÿrtle

But unstressed at the end of a word, r, sounded in AmE, silent in BrE, can be preceded by any vowel, and this vowel mostly, apart from in monosyllables, has the schwa sound: dóctor, véctor, fürther, bürsar, Qátar, lêmur, fêmur. Exceptions to schwa: quâsàr, púlsàr.

Spelling pronunciations

Traditionally, one of the r's of lîbrary and Fébruary is silent (*lîbry, BrE *Fébyury, AmE *Fébyuãry), though nowadays many people pronounce two r's because of the spelling.

Anomalous pronunciation

Most English-speakers pronounce the ř in Dvořák as zh, preceded by r in those varieties of English that pronounce r before consonants, *Dvǒ(r)zhàk.[1]

Scientific uses

  • r: radius
  • r: position vector

References

  1. The Czech pronunciation, roughly, is the two sounds mixed together simultaneously.