In medical contexts, rhotacism (/ˈroʊtəsɪzəm/) is the inability to pronounce or difficulty in pronouncing the sound r. Many speech pathologists call this problem de-rhotacization, because the sounds lose their rhotic quality rather than becoming rhotic.
Rhotacism (speech impediment) – Wikipedia
valensk: It is dependent on how you hear sounds and the way you were raised. If your family mostly uses trilled R’s then you would have a slightly higher chance of developing it. This is abundant in Asian countries.
A better explanation would be from this video:
Ishidan01: They call it what? Oh that is just cruel.
Zouea: Some causes are pretty straightforward: hearing loss, developmental disorders, neurological problems, cleft palate, brain injury. However, in a lot of cases the answer is that we just don’t know.
My significant other had a serious speech impediment growing up, and when I met him in college he still could not pronounce R and L sounds quite right, but it wasn’t very noticeable. I was studying phonetics at the time, so when he asked me how he was pronouncing the letters wrong and how other people pronounced them, I was able to point out the specific way the shape of his mouth was different from normal when he said those letters, and with that information he managed to change how he said R and L so it’s unnoticeable (I didn’t want him to, I actually really like his voice, but it wasn’t up to me).
In his case it’s pretty clear that he never learned the proper ways to move your tongue and lips to produce certain letters, but despite years of speech therapy nobody was able to tell him why.
It’s an unsatisfactory answer, I know, but we just can’t point to a specific cause for most people right now.
FenrisFrost: I don’t know if it’s always true, but I have a cousin who suffers from this and it was due to fetal alcohol syndrome and related developmental issues.
One of other cousin are merciless assholes to him about it. He really has a hard time with Christmas Tree (it comes out “Fissmiss Fee”). Whole family sings the song, “O fissmiss fee, o fissmiss fee.”
redpxreports: SLP here, we usually refer to it as “derhotacism” because when a sound is rhotacized, it has an “r” sound. When you aren’t producing the “r” sound, you are de-rhotacizing it.
As others have mentioned, a speech issue may be secondary to another significant condition. You can have physical conditions (like cleft lip or palate) or a neurological condition (like cerebral palsy). Or, the speech impairment may be the only present condition, meaning nothing else explains the articulation or sound difficulty.
In this case, the person may be unable to say “r” for a variety of reasons. One example is when children are young, they frequently naturally say “w” instead. If the parents or other family members think it is cute and encourage it, the child never learns the correct pronunciation and the “w” becomes habit.
The child is usually not tensing the tongue (keeping it too lax) which results in the “uh” sound or is not moving their tongue to the correct place in their mouth (up and backwards in one of several different movements, depending on the person’s preference and dialect). Or, that person may move their lips instead of their tongue, making a “w” sound.
It is also possible the child grew up around someone else who cannot say the sound so now that incorrect speech pattern has become part of their speech. In general, the students I have worked with usually struggle to understand how to move only their lips and not their tongue at the same time or struggle with tensing their tongue. This reflects some difficulty with brain-muscle communication that is usually undiagnosed.
Any speech issue should be diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist to discover exactly what the articulation or phonological disorder is and why it is happening.
zeabu: I speek various languages, I pronounce the “r” normal in Dutch, French and Spanish, but I have rhotacism when speaking English. It’s the way I learnt it.
Murpeen12: Special Education teacher here. Some kids are just not there developmentally. Speech pathologists will work on these miscues and correct them, but the accountability to fix the sound at home and in the classroom makes a big difference. I always refer to the speech path for support on correcting speech sounds because if all children ever do is work on it in a specialized setting, he/she won’t correct it. Some kids are of average ability, too. It’s not necessarily a reflection of their cognitive ability.
NoobAck: Mother fuckers WOULD call the inability to say a letter THE EXACT LETTER YOU CAN’T SAY.
How do you tell anyone you have the issue!?!@$@$)UO%$
3xducharme: what’s weird is that it seems that there’s a certain dialect in England where r’s are are pronounced like w’s. I think it’s a dialect.
Mynameisspam1: Not an explanation, just a follow up question:
Did the same person who came up with “Lisp” come up with this word? Because people with severe Rhotacism can’t pronounce their condition either.
Tanagrammatron: I don’t know, but my dad was just telling me that when he was in high school during the 1940s they had a teacher who couldn’t pronounce ours because of his speech impediment. Their nickname for him was “the pwick”.
MadScienceDreams: Another common cause is a tongue tie. There is in almost all kids a stretch of skin along the bottom of of the tongue. If that skin is too tight and reaches all the way to the tip, it can make pronouncing (and this, learning how to pronounce) sounds like L and R difficult. If you don’t get it corrected early enough, it can be very hard to learn them later.
Reaperzeus: Sorry this is not an answer but why does it seem that speech disorders where you can’t pronounce something right tend to have the part you can’t pronounce right in them? (Lisp, Rhotacism, etc)
Pansyrocker: Not an answer towards the cause, but one of the best examples is the front man for The Tear Garden and Legendary Pink Dots. His name is Edward Ka-Spel and he managed to turn it into a unique sound and selling point.
AlwaysWannaDie: Wow this is relevant to me and I have an interesting thing as well I hope someone can answer.
I have “Rhotacism” (first time I ever heard the word) and I also happen to have an identical twin who also can’t say it. We got speech “teaching” for like a few months then idk what happened but we stopped doing it. We are actually kind of intelligent (did IQ-tests and shit during the same time-period) but we do have ADHD/ADD which I think might have something to do with it. We both can do a rolling R but it comes out very forced and is really hard to get into everyday language, even tho I try. Any tips or interesting information is super welcome! (I’m not as self-concious about it as I used to be but growing up really sucked, when you can tell people to fuck off it’s alot easier)
iowamechanic30: The word for the inability to pronounce the letter R starts with an R, that just plain evil.
mymuffinlovesher: Can you imagine having this and not being able to tell people what you have properly?