Free Sounds Guidebook

How to Pronounce the AR /ɑɹ/ Vowel


(Video Transcript)


The AR vowel

The AR /ɑɹ/ vowel is in the words party, car, and heart. AR.  I just described the AR sound as a vowel. You may be thinking - there’s an R in that vowel - isn’t the R sound a consonant? Well...the R sound is both a consonant and vowel, depending on where it occurs in the word. I discussed this concept in a previous video called An Introduction to R-colored Vowels, and if you want more background information about the R-colored vowels, I recommend that you watch that video first. 


You should feel movement in your articulators as you say AR. AAARRR. Because the AR vowel is made up of two sounds: the AH vowel plus the R sound. AR.  AAARRRR. AR.


Let’s take a closer look at the AR vowel in slow motion.


How to make the AR vowel

The mouth starts in an open position. The tongue is low and back in the mouth, and the tongue tip is down, behind the bottom front teeth. Then as you transition to the R sound, watch how the tongue moves up and back. The sides of the tongue should push against the inside of the upper back teeth or along the upper gum line. The tongue tip is neutral - not pointed up or down, but straight. The tongue tip does not touch anything else in the mouth. 


Now let’s look at the AR vowel in a word like party. Notice the jaw drop for the beginning of the vowel and the tongue is low in the mouth. Then as you progress to the second part of the vowel, the tongue pulls up and back, and the tongue tip remains neutral. The lips flare out slightly.


Stressed AR vs. unstressed AR

When the AR vowel is in a stressed syllable, the pitch of the voice glides up and then down. AR. The vowel is also said louder and for a longer duration. AR. Party. But when the AR vowel is in an unstressed syllable, the pitch of the voice is lower, and the vowel is said faster and with a flatter shape. AR. The AR vowel is unstressed in a word like cartoon.


The top pictures show the stressed AR vowel in the word party. And the bottom pictures show the unstressed AR vowel in the word cartoon. Both vowels have an open mouth at the beginning, but the mouth is more open in the stressed position. This is typical in American English because unstressed syllables are said faster than stressed syllables, so there isn’t enough time to give the unstressed syllables the full mouth position. Notice how the lips slightly flare out at the end of the vowel in both positions. 

Stressed AR. Party. AR. 

Unstressed AR. AR. Cartoon.

Practice words and sentences with the AR vowel

Here are some practice words and sentences.


Dark. AR. Dark.

It’s really dark - can you turn on the light?


Alarm. AR. Alarm.

Set an alarm so you won’t forget.


Market. AR. Market.

I go to the market every week.


Participate. AR. Participate.

I need you to participate.


Argue. AR. Argue.

Let’s not argue anymore.


Article. AR. Article.

I read that newspaper article this morning.

Thanks so much for watching! And I'd love to hear from you - contact me to learn how we can work together to perfect your American English pronunciation!


Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent

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