from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- adj. Bent, curved, or turned backward.
- adj. Pronounced with the tip of the tongue turned back against the roof of the mouth.
- n. A sound pronounced with the tongue in retroflex position, as the sound (r) in some varieties of English.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- adj. Bent or curved backwards.
- adj. : Of pronunciation in which the tip of the tongue is raised and bent backwards, so that the underside of the tongue is behind the alveolar ridge or touches the palate.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- adj. Reflexed; bent or turned abruptly backward.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- Same as reflexed.
- Same as retroflect.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- adj. bent or curved backward
- adj. pronounced with the tip of the tongue turned back toward the hard palate
- v. articulate (a consonant) with the tongue curled back against the palate
- v. bend or turn backward
The next seven consonants are 'retroflex': the tongue curls back to the palate (front part of the roof of the mouth), making a hard sound ṭh aspirated version of the above as in 'dry', but harder
Like alveolar consonants replaced by retroflex consonants e.g walked - walk.
The retroflex [r] and the clear [l] sound the same to the Japonese; i.e. rice and lice -- Yew!
The phonetic character of the /r/ is retroflex, i.e. the tip of the tongue is curled back towards the palate.
Also, I think that the retroflex quality is not the primary feature in rhoticity.
It might have been a trilled sound as in modern Scots, but from the descriptions at the time I think it's more likely to have been a retroflex one - that is, one where the tip of the tongue is curled back, as in a lot of American and West Country speech.
One is the refusal to use the IPA -- to the point that sometimes different transcriptions are used for different languages, so that an underdot can mean an ejective, a retroflex, a pharyngealized consonant and who knows what else.
They are not just meant to retroflex your knees, extend your legs, and make you callipygous.
The best American representation of Mandarin's retroflex zh, ch, sh would be jr, chr, shr.
I just wrote a paragraph in my term paper, regarding "interesting" observations concerning the interchangeable usage of the voiced alveolar trill and the voiced retroflex approximant in Yapese.