This is my humble apology to you all. This kind of question already exists in many forms here, but I felt the need to reconstruct it in my own way to my better understanding. But I'll mention some of examples I saw in the related questions.

I always thought that depending on the position it is located, the uvular trill /r/( or is it /ʁ/?) could be muffled. It could almost sound like /h/, but the place of articulation is in the uvular still, and not in glottal, but in a subtle kind of way that native speakers could easily say it's uvular sound.

So I tried to search similar questions only to find that there ARE some IPA symbols to represent /r/ sound. They were mentioning three pronunciations such as /R/, /r/(what could this be, English r?) and /ʁ/(all of which I can't distinguish which is which yet.) If they are allophones of uvular trill for speaker's convenience, can my understanding of h-like r sound be one of them?

And this is another example of my question.

When I first tried to pronounce some of basic German words, I found that pronouncing /r/ before /i/ vowel is quite difficult. Whenever I tried to produce the trill sound I somehow put some delays only to say /r/ sound or ended up in h-like sound without a trill. Now I can make the /ri/sound clearly, for example in Viktoria, Kaiserin, Frits, But the quality of the sound is somewhat different. It's strong and explosive and sharp. My tongue and the uvular is more tightened, so as to almost touch each other. Is this considered the allophone too? It DOES say that /R/ is an uvular trill(rose), /ʁ/ is a fricative (Österreich, maybe?).

I'll add one more question regarding this. I'm sorry. What is 'a backdrop ʁ', as shown in the quotation below from someone in the forum(if is okay by any means).

**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.**

1 Answer 1


If you are learning German as a second language, my main advice is: don’t bother too much. It is not the pronunciation of /r/ that will give you away as a non-native speaker.

There are a number of allophones of /r/. The main allophones are the alveolar trill and the uvular trill. By main allophone I mean that they are what people will use in almost exaggerated, extra-careful pronunciation. In normal pronunciation, they will naturally degrade into more fleeting sounds, especially at the end of a syllable:

  1. Alveolar trill [r] → alveolar tap [ɾ] → (at the end of syllables) alveolar approximant [ɹ]
  2. Uvular trill [ʀ] → voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] → (at the end of syllables) near open central vowel [ɐ]

For learning German as a second language, it is best to start up with one of the main allophones [r] or [ʀ]. This will allow you to naturally switch to the more fleeting allophones once you have spent time among native speakers and become very fluent. Within German, the choice of the main allophones depends on the region: the Northern standard dialects have [ʀ], while the Southern standard dialects have [r]. You will get by with either one in any region.

I imagine that the voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] might be described as a “h-like sound without a trill”, especially if your native language lacks [x], which would be much closer. Unlike [h] (or [x]), [ʁ] is voiced, though.

I have no idea what the “backdrop ʁ” could be. The /r/ in the words Fritz and frisch are pronounced exactly the same since the surrouncings are identical: between /f/ and /ɪ/.

  • This is a very good answer. Additionally I would say that, should you have problems with the trills, you could also go directly for the other allophones. I'm a native speaker from Hannover, where generally [ʀ], [ʁ] and [ɐ] are used, but I can't consistently produce the uvular trill [ʀ] myself. I only use the the other two sounds.
    – Emil
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 17:05

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