Onset vs. coda asymmetry in the articulation of English /r/

James M. Scobbie, Eleanor Lawson, Satsuki Nakai, Joanne Cleland, Jane Stuart-Smith

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We describe an asymmetric categorical pattern of onset-coda allophony for English /r/, the post-alveolar rhotic approximant, drawing on published and unpublished information on over 100 child, teenage and adult speakers from prior studies. Around two thirds of the speakers exhibited allophonic variation that was subtle: onset and coda /r/ were typically both bunched (BB), or both tip-raised (RR), with minor within speaker differences. The other third had a more radical categorical allophonic pattern, using both R and B types. Such variable speakers had R onsets and B codas (RB): but the opposite pattern of allophony (BR) was extremely rare. This raises questions as to whether the asymmetry is accidental or motivated by models of syllable structure phonetic implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences
Place of PublicationGlasgow
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9780852619414
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • rhotics
  • ultrasound
  • allophones
  • phonology
  • retroflexion

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