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In medical contexts, rhotacism (/ˈrtəsɪzəm/) is the inability to pronounce or difficulty in pronouncing R sounds.[1] Speech pathologists call the condition de-rhotacization, because the sounds lose their rhotic quality rather than becoming rhotic.[citation needed]


Language developmentEdit

Rhotic sounds are usually the last ones a child masters. Some people never learn to produce them; they substitute other sounds, such as the velar approximant, the uvular approximant (often called the French R), and the uvular trill.[citation needed]

In English, the most common occurrence of this type is a pronunciation perceived as closer to [w] (typically, though, actually the labiodental approximant [ʋ]), which is known as r-labialisation.[citation needed] This form of rhotacism has often been used in English-language media for comedic effect, since it evokes among English speakers a childlike way of pronouncing the letter R, an example being Elmer Fudd's pronunciation of "rabbit" [ˈɹ̠ʷæbɪ̈t] as "wabbit" [ˈwæbɪ̈t] in Looney Tunes cartoons.[citation needed] Often, people with the condition are mistakenly referred to as a person with a lisp, which is a completely different condition.[citation needed]

Across languagesEdit

Rhotacism is more common among speakers of languages that have a trilled R,[citation needed] such as Arabic, Bulgarian, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish (except in the provinces of Skåne, Halland, Blekinge, Öland and southern Småland).[citation needed]

People with rhotacismEdit

In popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Stinchfield, Sara M (1933). "Speech Disorders: A PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY of the Various Defects of Speech". Routledge. Retrieved 10 June 2019. rhotacism for difficulty on the r sounds
  2. ^ Radio's New Wave: Global Sound in the Digital Era. Routledge. 2013. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-136-44630-6.
  3. ^ Jones, Ellen E. (6 April 2014). "Lucy Worsley: The TV historian on BBC's The First Georgians, David Starkey and why she'll never appear on Strictly Come Dancing". The Independent. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  4. ^ a b Finnerty, Deirdre (3 May 2012). "Roy Hodgson: Is it wrong to mock the way he speaks?". BBC News. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  5. ^ Arsan, Andrew (2018). Lebanon: A Country in Fragments. London: Hurst & Company. ISBN 978-1-84904-700-5.
  6. ^ Arthur, Isaac (8 April 2016). Fermi Paradox: The Dyson Dilemma v2.0. YouTube. Event occurs at 0:54. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  7. ^ "The Princess Bride (1987)". IMDb. Retrieved 21 January 2019.