I am unsure which features would be inclusive of trills, any information is greatly appreciated! Also, if anyone knows of a feature chart online that includes trills and could link to it that would be great.

  • 2
    [+trill] ......
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 19:16
  • Sorry I should have been little for specific. In my class we're not using that feature, but we are using coronal, anterior, distributed, labial, continuant, nasal, lateral, syllabic, sonorant, consonantal, voice.
    – Lara
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 19:21
  • 1
    Well, what I meant to imply is that if you need that feature, make it up and use it. Be bold. That's where features come from -- linguists make them up. But of course it's up to you to show that no combination of previously known features is suitable to characterize the change that you're interested in.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 20:17

1 Answer 1


There is no standard answer, though there is a correct one (I daresay). Trills are voiced sonorants but they have to be distinguished from glides and nasals. Their value for [continuant] depends on how exactly you define/diagnose that feature -- the issue is that trills are "intermittent stops", so there is some oral airflow (but there is a complete oral constriction). "Voiced oral sonorant stop" would identify the trills, and trilliness would be a consequence of the minimal vocal tract constriction, which is necessitated by the feature [+sonorant]. Essentially, the constriction is so loose that it is temporarily blown open by the increasing air pressure (and the cycle repeats). The only other candidate for "voiced oral sonorant stop" would be [ɾ], so this analysis might not work if the language has [ɾ] and it can be shown that the segment is a sonorant and a stop.

[Edit] Bearing on mind the observations in the comments, and upon reflection, voicing is not an essential feature of trills, just of the trills listed in the question.

  • 1
    Trills are not necessarily voiced. Nivkh contrasts voiced and voiceless alveolar trills, for instance. [roɟ] 'to help' [r̥oɟ] 'to carry' (Mattissen 2003: 38).
    – limetom
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 5:50
  • 1
    @limetom The example doesn't need to be as obscure as Nivkh; Icelandic and Welsh also contrast voiced and voiceless alveolar trills (and Polish and Ukranian have [r̥] as an allophone of /r/).
    – Zgialor
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 22:30

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