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Alveolar tap

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Alveolar tap

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 dental, alveolar, and postalveolar flaps is ⟨ɾ⟩.

The terms tap and flap may be used interchangeably. Peter Ladefoged proposed for a while that it may be useful to distinguish between them; however, his usage has been inconsistent, contradicting itself even between different editions of the same text.[1] The last proposed distinction was that a tap strikes its point of contact directly, as a very brief stop, whereas 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."[this quote needs a citation] However, later on, he no longer felt this was a useful distinction to make, and preferred to use the word flap in all cases.

For linguists who do make the distinction, the coronal tap is transcribed as a fish-hook "r", [ɾ], while the flap is transcribed as a small capital "d", [ᴅ], 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.

This sound is often analyzed (and therefore transcribed) by native English speakers as an 'R-sound' in many foreign languages. For example, the 'Japanese R' in hara, akira, tora, etc. is actually an alveolar tap. In languages where this segment is present but not phonemic, it is often an allophone of either an alveolar stop (] or ]) or a rhotic consonant like the alveolar trill or alveolar approximant.


Features of the alveolar tap:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Albanian emër [ɛməɾ] 'name' Contrasts with // in all positions.
Arabic Egyptian[2] رجل [ɾeɡl] 'foot' Contrasts with emphatic form. See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[3] րոպե ) 'minute' Contrasts with // in all positions.
Asturian yera [ˈʝe̞ɾa] 'I/it was' Contrasts with //.
Austro-Bavarian Rose [ɾoːzə] 'rose'
Basque lore [lo̞ɾe̞] 'flower' Contrasts with //.
Catalan[4] mira [ˈmiɾə] 'look' Contrasts with //. See Catalan phonology
Chechen рагI / r [ɾɑɣ] 'mountain range'
Dutch Many dialects Peru ) 'Peru' In free variation with ] and ]. Pronunciation of /r/ varies regionally. See Dutch phonology
English RP[5] better [ˈbe̞ɾə] 'better' Intervocalic allophone of /t/ for some speakers. See English phonology and flapping
Australian[6] [ˈbeɾə] Intervocalic allophone of /t/, and also /d/ among few Australians. Used more often in Australia than in New Zealand. See Australian English phonology and flapping
New Zealand[7] [ˈbeɾɘ]
Cockney[8] [ˈbɛɾə] Intervocalic allophone of /t/. In free variation with [ʔ ~ ~ ]. See flapping
Dublin ) 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[9]
West Country
Irish three [θɾiː] 'three' Conservative accents. Corresponds to ~ ~ ] in other accents.
Scottish[10] Most speakers. Others use ~ ].
Older RP[11] Allophone of /ɹ/.
South African[13] Broad speakers. Can be ~ ] instead.
Galician cordeiro [koɾˈðejɾo] 'lamb' Contrasts with // in all positions.
Greek[14] μηρός mirós [miˈɾo̞s] 'thigh' Most common realization of //. See Modern Greek phonology
Hebrew Mizrahi רבע [ˈɾevaʕ] 'quarter' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Ilokano tumakder [tʊmakˈdeɾ] 'to stand up'
Irish carr
'dry' (adj.)
Exists in velarised ("broad") and palatalised ("slender") forms. See Irish phonology
Japanese kokoro ) 'heart' May instead be an alveolar lateral flap. See Japanese phonology
Korean 바람 baram [paɾam] 'wind' See Korean phonology
Māori reo [ˈɾeo] 'language'
Norwegian Norge [ˈnɔɾɡə] 'Norway' See Norwegian phonology
Persian كشور [keʃvæɾ] 'country' See Persian phonology
Portuguese[15] prato [ˈpɾatu] 'dish' Dental to retroflex allophones, varying by dialect. Contrasts with //, with its guttural allophones and, in all positions, with its archaic form ]. See Portuguese phonology
Sicilian corna [ˈkɔɾna] 'horns'
Spanish[16] caro [ˈkaɾo̞] 'expensive' Contrasts with //. See Spanish phonology
Tagalog bihira [bɪˈhiɾɐ] 'rare' See Tagalog phonology
Turkish rkiye [ˈt̪yɾcijɛ] 'Turkey' See Turkish phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[17] ran [ɾaŋ] 'to see'

See also



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