/r/ and /l/ in English

This page contains examples of variants of the “liquid” consonants /l/ and /r/ in English speech. Liquid consonants are articulatorily complex sounds that show a great deal of variation in different accent varieties and in different syllabic and phonological contexts. They are among the most difficult sounds to acquire as a first or second language learner.

Videos are organized by phonetic descriptive category and contain multiple utterances from different accent varieties, with examples of the liquid segment in syllable-onset and syllable-coda position. This resource was created by Dr. Eleanor Lawson as part of an Economic and Social Research Council funded project: Changes in Space, Shape and Time

Labialised onset /r/

Production of syllable-onset /r/ with pronounced lip rounding as a secondary or tertiary articulation, followed by examples of /r/ with low labialisation.
English Varieties: Canada, B.C.; N.Z., Christchurch; England, Manchester; U.S.A., L.A.; England, Newcastle; U.S.A. Rhode Island; U.S.A., Oregon; Scotland, Perthshire.
Keywords: agreed; greed; real; red; ring; risks; run

Labiodental onset /r/

Production of syllable-onset or ambisyllabic /r/ with approximation/frication between the lower lip and upper incisors. In all examples shown here, there is a specified (bunched or retroflex) tongue gesture underlying the labiodental gesture.
English Varieties: England, Chester; England, Isle of Man; England, Oxford; England, Manchester.
Keywords: hear it; read; red; run;

Bunched /r/

Production of /r/ with a bunched tongue body posture in various syllable positions.
English Varieties: Rep. Ireland; Co. Monaghan; Rep. Ireland, Co. Tipperary; U.S.A., Rhode Island; U.S.A., Maryland; Scotland, Black Isle; U.S.A., Oregon; Canada, Ontario; Scotland, South Lanarkshire; Scotland, Edinburgh; Canada, B.C.
Keywords: risks; real; prize; err; fur; girl; nurse; worm ; air; far; near; poor; arrow; hearing; hear it

Retroflex /r/

Production of an approximant /r/ with retroflexion of the tongue tip and blade
English Varieties: N. Ireland, Co. Antrim; England, Cumbria; England, Darlington; England, Kent; England, N. Yorkshire; Scotland, Renfrewshire; N.Z., South Island (West Coast); West Indies, Trinidad; Scotland, Perthshire.
Keywords: brewed; prize; rack; real; ring; root; run; fur; worm; air; more; arrow

Tip up /r/

Production of an approximant /r/ with raising of the tongue tip and blade, but no retroflexion
English Varieties: U.S.A., San Jose; England, Plymouth; U.S.A., L.A.; Scotland, W. Lothian; Scotland, Renfrewshire; West Indies, Trinidad; N. Ireland, Co. Antrim; N.Z., Christchurch.
Keywords: red; prize; risks; nurse; fur; nurse; far; poor; hearing; hear it

Tapped /r/

Production of an alveolar/dental tapped /r/
English Varieties: Scotland, Renfrewshire; Scotland, Perthshire; N. Ireland, Co. Antrim; Scotland, Aberdeenshire; Scotland, West Lothian; Scotland, S. Lanarkshire
Keywords: greed; three; arrow; girl; hear it

Trilled /r/

Production of an alveolar trilled /r/
English Varieties: Scotland, Aberdeenshire
Keywords: risks; fur; worm

Delayed-devoiced /r/

Utterance-final tip-up /r/ with a temporal delay and devoicing
English Varieties: Scotland, Fife; Scotland, W. Lothian; Scotland, Renfrewshire
Keywords: near; poor; fur; cure

Composite onset /r/

Syllable-onset /r/ - different articulatory variants
English Varieties: Canada, B.C.; U.S.A, Oregon; England, Isle of Man; N. Ireland, Co. Antrim; U.S.A., San Jose; Scotland, Renfrewshire; Scotland, Aberdeenshire
Keywords: read; real; three

Composite coda /r/

Syllable-coda /r/ - different articulatory variants
English Varieties: Canada, B.C.; Scotland, Perthshire; N. Ireland, Co. Antrim; Scotland, Aberdeenshire
Keywords: hear; near