Has there been any investigation into the ATR quality of the central alveolar approximant [ɹ]? It is very vowel-like and I have this theory that it could simply be the result of an advanced tongue root and a retracted tongue tip. Is that a crazy idea? I know there is probably more to it than that.

  • Are you asking about the /r/ phoneme in English? Or [ɹ] universally? There's a reason why it's called an "approximant".
    – jlawler
    Aug 16, 2013 at 23:35
  • All of the above.
    – Moss
    Aug 17, 2013 at 1:26
  • As far as English /r/ goes, there are quite a few different articulations in use that all pass as acceptable--ATR may well play a role in some. Have a look at this SE-Linguistics question and some of the links therein. Aug 17, 2013 at 7:55
  • Hmm. Yes, that link lead me to some other stuff and I see that there may indeed be multiple articulations for [ɹ]. If only the IPA told the whole story. Now that I try I seem to be able to produce two different styles of r. One that seems to be -ATR (or maybe its pharyngealization, can't tell the difference), the other +ATR. In their extremes the -ATR sounds like a sterotypical Southern States accent and the +ATR sounds like a strong Eastern Canadian. Does that make any sense? I guess [ɹ] is a much more mysterious sound than I was hoping for.
    – Moss
    Aug 17, 2013 at 19:00

1 Answer 1


If you are talking about [ATR] the phonological feature, then you will want to know whether there is [-ATR] approximant that alternates with [r] in some language. If you are talking about the physical parameter normally correlated with [ATR] in languages which have that feature, then it gets tricky since the exact articulatory/acoustic correlates to be associated with [ATR] are not fully agreed upon.

For the latter question, see, inter alia, Edmondson and Esling (2009) "The valves of the throat..."; Fulop, Kari and Ladefoged (1998) "An acoustic study of the tongue root contrast..."; and references therein.

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