Arabic has many dialects, but in general the /R/ in Modern Standard Arabic is an alveolar trill (or is it not?) - like the Spanish perro - according to Wikipedia and it is also what I have heard from many native speakers.

  1. I came across this teacher who seems to render it as an alveolar flap (?).


Is it the correct /R/ in Modern Standard Arabic? In fact, I often hear such an alveolar flap from native speakers, especially in fluent speech. I think in Arabic there are no rules about it, it simply a matter of how much you try to stretch the /R/ - if it's quite short then it will only be a flap.

But this teacher says that this is the way to render it - whether you speak fast or slowly.

  1. Then I came across this teacher


Here the /R/ sounds like neither a trill nor a flap. What is it actually?

Is it considered a more correct form of /R/ in Modern Standard Arabic?

Or are both these teachers refer to other dialects of Arabic?

  • What do you mean by "correct"? Though I think the second vid is just plain wrong unless this is a new dialect "MSA for Americans".
    – user6726
    Jul 2 '18 at 20:48
  • @user6726 Whatever it means in one's best judgment. I do not know who has the authority to decide when it comes to Arabic.
    – rapt
    Jul 2 '18 at 20:59
  • @jknappen There is an "Arabic" tag here.
    – rapt
    Jul 3 '18 at 18:25


arguably still the best book on Arabic phonetics, gives a detailed description of /r/ on pp. 21 sqq. There is even a picture of the correct tongue position.


According to Sabir and Alsaeed 2014 as well as Wikibooks and Wikipedia (*), the underlying phoneme is considered to be an alveolar trill /r/, with the flap being a very common realization (especially in Egypt and the Levant). The same variation is seen in Italian and several other Romance languages which preserved the Latin trilled /r/.

(*) Admittedly, none of these are particularly authoritative sources, but I haven't turned up anything more scholarly yet.

  • How would you describe the sound in the 2nd video?
    – rapt
    Jul 28 '18 at 17:50
  • 1
    @rapt Definitely some kind of approximant, it sounds like somewhere between [ɹ] and [ɰ].
    – Draconis
    Jul 28 '18 at 19:03
  • I have never thought of that sound (the 2nd video) before, but when I do now it sounds very familiar from listening to Arabic religious texts read by experts (as in a mosque). It is somewhat close to American [ɹ], which is strange when I think about it (although it is not exactly that), but it also sounds more like Quran readings I remember listening to; while the 1st video sounds more like how people talk. Maybe someone could comment on this.
    – rapt
    Jul 29 '18 at 17:52

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