In Italian we have the alveolar trill as a phoneme, but not all native speakers (me, for example) can do it: some people have what we call an "Erre Moscia" meaning we can't properly do the trill and instead do a completely different sound.

I tried looking online and some people said that it is a Uvular trill (/ʀ/) a Voiced uvular fricative (/ʁ/) or a Voiced labiodental approximant (/ʋ/), but I tried making all those sounds and they're completely different, it's not the ones I nor anyone I know do instead of the normal /r/. I tried looking through the IPA chart and sound formation but I couldn't find anything that resembles the sound I make.

So my question is: does anyone know what this sound actually is? Does it have a name/symbol? How is it articulated/made exactly?

If it can help, I personally do it with my tongue in rest position, as it usually stays flat in the bottom of the mouth. I also remember reading somewhere that it could be made by vibrating the back part of the tongue rather than the tip, but I don't remember where I read it so I can't confirm.

  • 1
    It’s not generally possible to vibrate the back part of the tongue – only the tip (in the same way that you can shake your fingers, but not your wrists). Most likely what you heard a description of is when the back of the tongue touches the uvula, which then vibrates. This is the uvular trill, the r sound found in Standard French and Standard German, as well as in Portuguese for rr. Uvular trills are indeed common substitutes for [r] for people who can’t trill with the tip of their tongue, but we can’t tell you what ‘your’ sound is without hearing it. Aug 1, 2022 at 10:12
  • 1
    It's not one sound. It can be any of a number of sounds depending on the affected speaker. For me, it was/is some kind of approximant, maybe similar to an American /r/ but not retroflexed, so I guess you could also say an R-colored vowel (schwa?). But this is me, it's not representative of everyone with "erre moscia", which just refers to anyone with a speech defect on their "regular Italian" trilled/tapped /r/.
    – LjL
    Aug 1, 2022 at 19:07


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.