Hi I'm new to German and trying to learn words with their IPA represented pronunciations. About the word Universität I get this IPA representation:


Well in IPA chart the ʁ consonant is stated as the fricative version of ʀ and I'm able to pronounce it, but when I listen to Duden's TTS of this word I don't hear any ʀ sound. Can you help me about this?

  • The difference is there, it's just hard to hear when you are not used to it. Any German speaker would pronounce "Univesität" und "Universität" in two different ways, no matter how close they are. In the latter case you close your throat for a split second.
    – shuhalo
    Jul 24, 2017 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


Note: There is no fixed distinction between ʁ, ʀ and r in German. Dialects heavily differ but they may also be mixed in one word and any of them is considered correct.

ʁ is described as a fricative version of ʀ, but this mostly applies at beginning of syllables

Ich     ←→  Richter
Angst   ←→  Rang

and after the b/p, d/t, g/k consonants pairs, where the ʁ inserts a "backstop" after the preceding consonant.

Band    ←→  Brand
Buch    ←→  Bruch  (note: long u in Buch)
Pacht   ←→  Pracht
Punze   ←→  Prunk
Dach    ←→  Drache
Deck    ←→  Dreck
Tag     ←→  trag
Gas     ←→  Gras
Kasse   ←→  krass

With the f most people would use rather a ʀ instead:

Fisch   ←→  frisch

That is because this "backstop" ʁ is barely hearable after non-plosives. And that's exactly what you have after a vowel. Vowels are not plosives. The ʁ is barely hearable.

A common tongue twister plays with this:

Fischers Fritz fischt frische Fische. Frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritz.

Most people will give up because the name Fritz sounds weird when not pronounced with ʁ, while frisch "requires" the ʀ.

In addition, the very common German syllable ending -er is pronounced ɐ, so people often place this ɐ everywhere they spot a stray -er-.

  • Eh, how does the r in Fritz sound different from the r in frisch?
    – sgf
    Jul 27, 2017 at 12:08
  • 1
    In Fritz the r is nearly unhearable while in frisch people tend to emphasize it to make the word distinct from Fisch.
    – Janka
    Jul 27, 2017 at 12:16

In some regional variations of German (especially more to the North of the country) you can replace the "r" in that position by a short "a" directly following the "e" ["univeasiteet"]. However, it is not the best thing to do.

The best thing would be pronouncing it as a very slight tightening of the throat at the end of the "e". Depending from where you are, this might be almost unrecognizable for you (at the beginning). Perhaps that's the reason why you hear the Duden example as leaving the "r" out?

  • If you listen closely, you can definitely hear the R but for a non-native speaker that might be difficult indeed.
    – idmean
    Jul 21, 2017 at 20:32

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