American English r sound and l sound
There are multiple reasons that the American English l sound and r sound are among the most difficult sounds for non-native speakers to learn to produce clearly.
- Both of these sounds are possible to pronounce correctly using moderately differing vocal tract shapes
- Both of these sounds can be syllabic, meaning they can exist in a syllable with no accompanying vowel sound (in some texts, a syllabic r (schwa+r) is considered to be a vowel sound)
- The sound representing the letter r is quite different in English than in many other languages' sounds for the same letter
- American English is rhotic, meaning that the r sound is pronounced when it follows a vowel sound (British English, in contrast, is non-rhotic and does not have this feature)
- The shift in vowel quality of r-controlled vowels (schwa+r, ar sound, air sound, and or sound) is due to the inclusion of the r sound
Syllabic l and r
Most syllabic consonants can exist only on an unstressed syllable. The syllabic r (schwa+r) is unique in that it can also exist on a stressed syllable. For this reason, schwa+r is often considered to be a vowel sound.
When pronouncing a syllablic consonant, do not include any additional vowel sound in the syllable. The syllabic consonants are underlined in the examples below.
Combination l sound and r sound
Additional pronuncation practice is often necessary when an l sound and an r sound are adjacent to one another. It is usually easier to begin with the sounds being in separate syllables and working toward them occurring in the same syllable.
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