Dental and alveolar taps and flaps

The alveolar tap or flap is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents a dental, alveolar, or postalveolar tap or flap is [ɾ].

The terms tap and flap are often used interchangeably. Peter Ladefoged proposed the distinction that a tap strikes its point of contact directly, as a very brief stop, and a flap strikes the point of contact tangentially: "Flaps are most typically made by retracting the tongue tip behind the alveolar ridge and moving it forward so that it strikes the ridge in passing."[1] That distinction between the alveolar tap and flap can be written in the IPA with tap [ɾ] and flap [ɽ], the 'retroflex' symbol being used for the one that starts with the tongue tip curled back behind the alveolar ridge. The distinction is noticeable in the speech of some American English speakers in distinguishing the words "potty" (tap [ɾ]) and "party" (flap [ɽ]).

For linguists who make the distinction, the coronal tap (as in Spanish pero) is transcribed as [ɾ], and the flap (as in American English ladder) is transcribed as [ᴅ], the latter of which is not recognized by the IPA. Otherwise, alveolars and dentals are typically called taps and other articulations flaps. No language contrasts a tap and a flap at the same place of articulation.

The sound is often analyzed and thus interpreted by native English-speakers as an 'R-sound' in many foreign languages. In languages for which the segment is present but not phonemic, it is often an allophone of either an alveolar stop ([t], [d], or both) or a rhotic consonant (like the alveolar trill or the alveolar approximant).

If the alveolar tap is the only rhotic consonant in the language, it may be transcribed /r/ although that symbol technically represents the trill.

The voiced alveolar tapped fricative reported from some languages is actually a very brief voiced alveolar non-sibilant fricative.

Voiced alveolar tap and flap

Alveolar tap or flap
ɾ
IPA Number124
Encoding
Entity (decimal)ɾ
Unicode (hex)U+027E
X-SAMPA4
Braille
Audio sample
source · help

Features

Features of the alveolar tap or flap:

  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.

Occurrence

LanguageWordIPAMeaningNotes
Arabic[2]most dialects[2]رجل[ɾeɡl] (Egyptian)'leg'Contrasts with emphatic /ɾˤ/ in e.g. Egyptian Arabic phonology.
ArmenianEastern[3]րոպե[ɾopɛ] 'minute'Contrasts with /r/ in all positions.
Basquebegiratu[beˈɣiɾaˌtu]'look'Contrasts with /r/. See Basque phonology
Catalan[4]mira[ˈmiɾə]'look'Contrasts with /r/. See Catalan phonology
Danish[5][6]Vil du med?[ʋe̝ ɾu ˈme]'Are you coming too?'Possible realization of intervocalic /d/ when it occurs between two unstressed vowels.[5][6] See Danish phonology
EnglishCockney[7]better[ˈbe̞ɾə]'better'Intervocalic allophone of /t/. In free variation with [ʔ ~ ~ ]. See Flapping
Australian[8][ˈbeɾə]Intervocalic allophone of /t/, and also /d/ for some Australians. Used more often in Australia than in New Zealand. See Australian English phonology and Flapping
New Zealand[9][ˈbeɾɘ]
Dublin[ˈbɛɾɚ] Intervocalic allophone of /t/ and /d/, present in many dialects. In Local Dublin it can be [ɹ] instead, unlike New and Mainstream. See English phonology and Flapping
North America[10]
Ulster
West Country
Irishthree[θɾiː]'three'Conservative accents. Corresponds to [ɹ ~ ɻ ~ ʁ] in other accents.
Scottish[11]Most speakers. Others use [ɹ ~ r].
Older Received Pronunciation[12]Allophone of /ɹ/
Scouse[11]
South African[11]Broad speakers. Can be [ɹ ~ r] instead
Greek[13]μηρός / mirós[miˈɾ̠o̞s]'thigh'Somewhat retracted. Most common realization of /r/. See Modern Greek phonology
Japanese /こころ kokoro[ko̞ko̞ɾo̞] 'heart'[14] Varies with [ɺ].[15] See Japanese phonology
Korean여름 / yeoreum[jʌɾɯm]'summer'Allophone of /l/ between vowels or between a vowel and an /h/
Māoriwhare[ɸaɾɛ]'house'Sometimes trilled.
Portuguese[16]prato[ˈpɾatu]'dish'Dental to retroflex allophones, varying by dialect. Contrasts only intervocalically with /ʁ/, with its guttural allophones. See Portuguese phonology
Scottish Gaelicr[moːɾ]'big'Both the lenited and non-initial broad form of r. Often transcribed simply as /r/. The initial unlenited broad form is a trill [rˠ], while the slender form is [ɾʲ] ([ð] in some dialects). See Scottish Gaelic phonology.
Spanish[17]caro[ˈkaɾo̞] 'expensive'Contrasts with /r/. See Spanish phonology
Turkish[18]ara[ˈäɾä]'interval'Intervocalically; may not make full contact elsewhere.[18] See Turkish phonology
Uzbek[19]ёмғир/yomg‘ir[ʝɒ̜mˈʁ̟ɨɾ̪]'rain'Denti-alveolar.[19]

Alveolar nasal tap and flap

Alveolar nasal tap/flap
ɾ̃
IPA Number124 424
Encoding
X-SAMPA4~

Features

Features of the alveolar nasal tap or flap:

  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • It is a nasal consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the nose, either exclusively (nasal stops) or in addition to through the mouth.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.

Occurrence

LanguageWordIPAMeaningNotes
English[20]Estuarytwenty[ˈtw̥ɛ̃ɾ̃i] 'twenty'Allophone of unstressed intervocalic /nt/ for some speakers, especially in rapid or casual speech. See English phonology,
North American English regional phonology and Flapping
North American[21]

See also

Notes

References

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  • Arvaniti, Amalia (2007), "Greek Phonetics: The State of the Art" (PDF), Journal of Greek Linguistics, 8: 97–208, doi:10.1075/jgl.8.08arv, archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-11
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