Thursday, 30 August 2012

tap, tap

Alexis Contreras writes from Mexico with what at first sight is a simple and straightforward question.
I have been trying to figure out something about the alveolar flap or tap. I'm not sure whether the Spanish r as in words like "pero", "cero", "caro" and the like is the same as the English sound in words and phrases like "matter", "natalie", "order", "water", "how to" "about a" and the like. At first I thought the sounds were the same. But then I started to do some research and began doubting whether or not they were the same sounds. I began leaning towards them not being the same. But right now I'm in doubt again. I think they might be the same, but I'm still not sure. […] Could you please tell me if there is any articulatory difference between the two sounds or not?

In saying "English", Alexis is of course referring only to AmE. The usual BrE consonant in the middle of water ˈwɔːtə is very different from the Spanish single /r/ in pero ˈpeɾo. This BrE t is voiceless, slow, perhaps somewhat aspirated and indeed often affricated, whereas Spanish ɾ is voiced, and rapid. But in AmE, on the other hand. the etymological t in the words quoted is a voiced tap (‘flap’, say some) that is indeed very similar to the Spanish /r/, and is indeed sometimes transcribed identically, as ɾ.

Are the two sounds merely similar, or are they ‘the same’? Partly the problem is one of asking what we mean when we say that two sounds are ‘the same’. Do we just mean that language learners can safely treat them as equivalent? Or is it deeper than that?

Not all Spanish ɾ are identical. For example, some speakers articulate it with the tongue tip against the teeth, making it dental; but for others it may rather be alveolar. The duration of the closure is usually about 20 ms, but may on occasion be somewhat longer or shorter. The AmE sound is at least as variable, and probably more so. For example, it may not always be fully voiced (particularly for those relatively few Americans who consistently distinguish pairs such as shutter and shudder). Following the NURSE vowel, as in dirty, it may involve a ballistic movement, a true flap, in which the active articulator strikes the passive articulator and continues in the same trajectory, as opposed to the more usual type in which the active articulator ‘bounces off’ the passive, involving an up-then-down movement. In Natalie, battle etc, the tap is unlike anything in Spanish, since it has lateral release. (But some speakers use a glottal stop here rather than a tap. A glottal stop is equally un-Spanish.)

More importantly, perhaps, the tongue configuration before and after the consonant may differ considerably in the two languages, giving rise to different formant transitions in the on-glide and off-glide of the segment we are discussing.

The clincher comes, though, from x-ray tracings. I reproduce this from Ladefoged and Maddieson’s The Sounds of the World’s Languages (Blackwell 1996).

The authors comment

The English speaker has a preparatory raising and retraction of the tongue tip during the preceding vowel […] The tongue is then moved forward to make the contact which is captured in the frame illustrated here, after which it returns to the floor of the mouth. The Spanish tap does not involve any substantial anticipation, but instead has a quick upward and downward movement confined to the tongue tip.

It is possible that in the case of water, the word illustrated here, the preparatory retraction of the tongue tip may be in anticipation of the r-coloured ɚ which follows. Would we find the same retraction in a word such as atom ˈæɾəm? I do not know.

So what is my answer to Alexis? I think we can say that the two sounds are not really exactly identical, but that for language learning purposes we can treat them as if they were.

79 comments:

  1. On a somewhat related note, would you say that the usual American pronunciation of "winner" (and for many speakers also "winter") is wɪɾ̃ɚ? In other words, is /n/ realized as a nazalized alveolar tap?

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  2. Yes (at least as one possibility). See my Accents of English, or even my lecture handouts.

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  3. This is great. How does the (old fashioned?) tap in RP "very" compare with the North American and Spanish ones? I find them all quite similar (although my "r" in Spanish "pero, cero, caro" etc usually carries a degree of friction which I can't hear in its neat English counterparts).

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    1. I don't know, but in U-RP you kind of touch the alveolar ridge with the tip of your tongue, and it's very short durationally, whereas in AmE by voicing the t you kind of touch the ridge with that same tip, but in an upwards movement of the tongue.

      Or no?

      In U-RP the tongue moves from the centre of the mouth to its front part and the movement is horizontal.

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    2. The impression I get when hearing old recordings displaying the word "very", is that of a wet (with saliva) light blow. My Spanish tap is more of a brief dry rubbing.

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    3. That is unexpected since John Wells in his Accents of English, on the page 282, says:

      Tapped /r/ may contribute to the crisp, clipped effect which many claim to detect in U-RP.

      To which I would add dry too.

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    4. My fault. By "wet" I meant "clean" (cats use their own saliva to wash themselves), and I should have said "blurred" instead of "dry".

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  4. I thought that Spanish had two r phonemes, which is why the single /r/ here surprises me. Pero and perro is probably the most famous minimal pair. They contrast only word-medially, but...

    So is there a book that compares the sounds of the world's languages, that will for example tell me the difference between Spanish, Italian, English, Serbian and Croatian for example?

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    1. Yes, in Spanish the "-rr-" in "perro, carro" (and the "r-" in "rico, rosa") stands for a trill/roll (again, with a lot of friction in my speech), whereas the "-r-" in "pero, caro" represents a single tap.

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    2. The way the article above was written, I thought John Wells acknowledges only the existence of one r phoneme (Spanish single /r/, Spanish r). There are two.

      Similarly, another Romance language, the português padrão (puɾtuˈgeʃ paˈdɾɐ̃ũ̯) differentiates between ‹r› (laminoalveolar tap, ɾ) and ‹rr› (dorso-uvular trill, ʀ)

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    3. It seems to me that both Italian and English /tʃ/ is laminal, postalveolar, slightly palatalized and slightly labialized. (OTOH, English /tʃ/ --like /p/, /t/ and /k/-- is usually aspirated in the onset of ‘strong’ syllables and preglottalized in syllable codas before consonant or pauses, which in Italian it isn't; and it is a fricative in most central and central-southern accents of Italian (though not in ‘standard’ Italian) in syllable onsets after vowels, which in English it isn't.)

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  5. Hi, I like your blog, it's interesting :) I'm sitting an exam in phonetics tomorrow, thanks for the articles, it helps a lot :)

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  6. The tapped T is not only used in American English. It's also used in Northern Ireland in almost the same environments (we don't use it before vocalic l and traditional accents don't use it before vocalic r either).

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    1. I remember from a biography of C. S. Lewis that he and his brother Warren referred to their Belfast-born father as "the P'daytabird" because of his characteristic pronunciation of the word "potato." When I heard the word pronounced by a waitress from County Sligo (in a restaurant in the USA, where I live; I asked her where she was from), it sounded like "p'dayta" to me. I a pretty sure that it had ɾ for the second /t/, as in American English; but a voiced consonant at the beginning of the second syllable, which her pronunciation definitely had, could not be a realization of /t/ in AmE, hence my perception of the first but not the second "t" as d. I wonder whether this consonant in northern Irish accents (uncapitalized "northern," to include northern counties of the Republic of Ireland as well as Northern Ireland) is ɾ, which could be a realization of /t/, or d, which would (I take it) have to be a realization of /d/. Any observations?

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    2. Sorry, by "BrE" and "AmE" I was referring, as usual, to the varieties taught to EFL learners. Various local accents of English in Britain and Ireland use a tapped /r/ (though no longer any form of contemporary RP, oddballs excluded). Northern Irish is of course extensively covered in my Accents of English and elsewhere.

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    3. Are there accents of American English which do not use the voiced t?

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    4. @MKR: No I think it's only the second T in potato that's tapped. The rules for which Ts are tapped are complicated but those in the onset of a stressed syllable are never tapped.

      I have to say that I don't think there's a noticeable difference between this realisation of /t/ and the normal intervocalic form of /d/. You can see this by the fact that Americans and Northern Irish people mistakenly substitute t for t when trying to do an English accent.

      However, the vowel before /d/ tends to be longer than one follwed by /t/, even in environments when both are realised [ɾ]. For example latter ˈlaɾɚ but ladder ˈlaːɾɚ.

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    5. @Duchesse de Guermantes: "Are there accents of American English which do not use the voiced t?" --I would be hugely surprised if there were shown to be any. Of course, there are plenty of AmE speakers who at one time or another will use a voiceless plosive in the pertinent contexts (before an unstressed vowel, etc.).

      @Pete: If what you say is right--and it sounds right to me, as I find that if I try to pronounce "potato" with ɾ for both "t"'s, it sounds more like the Portuguese name "Pereira" than like the northern-Irish "p'dayta"!--then "potato" must be, phonemically, /pəˈdetə/ in those accents. I wonder how that pronunciation could have developed, though?

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    6. [pʰǝɾˈeɪɾə] is found as a traditional dialectal pronunciation here in Massachusetts. I don't know if it has anything to do with the NI pronunciation (as far as I can tell, the Irish contribution to Eastern New England phonology has been surprisingly small, despite their great immigration here - and most of them came from what's now the Republic), but on the rare occasions that I have heard it in the wild, it's been from people of Irish descent.

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    7. Hrm, maybe I was too ambitious transcribing it as [pʰǝɾˈeɪɾə] - based on the few times I've heard it, it may as well have been [pʰǝˈdeɪɾə]. The /oʊ/-reduction on the end is, by the way, another moribund local feature.

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    8. Interesting observations, Lazar. I think that the pronunciation of "potato" with a schwa on the end will be with us (as a minority pronunciation) for quite a while yet, though!

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    10. @ MKR et al.:
      I was listening to this BBC Voices recording of people in County Donegal the other day and, what do you know, a lady said potato in a way that sounded to me like "p'dayta" at 13:26 (I'm not sure whether it was pǝˈɾeːɾə or pǝˈdeːɾə though). There's about 2 and a half hours of recorded speech there if anyone wants to listen to it.

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    11. One of the guys says potato at 18:30 too.

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  7. The retraction of the tongue tip in AmE atom is the same as in water. Since it is not due to anticipation of a following sound, but rather it's an essential part of it, it is incorrect to call it a tap. This sound is a true flap in any context, and it's never the same as a Spanish tap. However, traditional BrE very can have a tap like that of standard Spanish. The terms flap and tap aren't interchangeable at all.

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    1. Would you mind explaining the differences then and how one would go about producing each sound? Maybe using layman terms?

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  8. The usual BrE consonant in the middle of water ˈwɔːtə is very different from the Spanish single /r/ in pero ˈpeɾo.

    Not to mention that /t/ and /ɾ/ are in contrastive distribution in present-day RP, with this finding near-minimal pairs such as /'sIti/ city ~ /'prIɾi/ pretty (adverb), which assuming the adjective pretty still rhymes with city (which if it didn't would screw up several of the best songs ever) means that there's a pretty pretty minimal pair out there.

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    1. In my accent it's a bit complicated. There are (at least) three possible realisations for historic /t/ in this context: a stop, a non-sibilant fricative (like the one found more widely in Irish English and Scouse) and a flap/tap. I find words like "pretty" (adv.) can have any of the three (depending on register and maybe other factors) while words like "pretty" (adj.) and "city" can only have the first two.

      The verb and noun spelt "matter" make another potential minimal pair (the verb can be flapped, the noun can't).

      Note that many northern English accents merge the flapped form with /r/, and indeed can use an approximant. So I suspect this phenomenon has been around, at least in northern England, for quite some time.

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    2. So the phoneme /t/ has at least seven major realisations:
      - [tʰ] the "default" realisation
      - [t] the unaspirated form used after s in a syllable onset
      - [ʔ] the famous glottal stop
      - [ɾ] the tapped T discussed above
      - [θ̠] the "slit fricative" found in Dublin and Liverpool
      - [ɹ] the linking form found at the end of a word when followed by a vowel, in some Welsh and Northern English accents
      - [t̪ʰ] the dental form used throughout Ireland when preceded by r or ɚ

      Presumably no accent uses them all but there are some that use three or four (Liverpool, NI, AAVE).

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    3. There are easily some more if you don't confine them to the same accent, eg an affricated t, the whole line from alveolar to dental, pre-aspirated etc. Also partly or fully assimilated palatal and velar sounds, if you like.

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    4. David Cameron pronounces the t apically: [t̺].

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    5. There's also the lateral-release t, [tˡ]. E.g. in bottle.

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    6. @Pete:

      Many have a distinctive allophone of /t/ in the /tr/ cluster.

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    7. @Duchesse: Yes, of course, I left out the lateral release [tˡ], and also the nasal release [tⁿ].

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    8. Yes, the nasal release, of course.

      Many have a distinctive allophone of /t/ in the /tr/ cluster.

      Which one?

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    9. @Duchesse:

      Well, in /tr/, some have an allophone of /t/ that is indistinguishable from their normal realization of /tʃ/. Others have a more retroflexed [ʈ]. No doubt there are yet others.

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    10. Good thing that you said because I was thinking the other day whether some have a [ʈʂ] allophone in tr.

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    11. @Pete: I would add the unreleased [t̚] which is the standard American English realization of /t/ in absolute final position. I use it myself - neither [ʔ] nor [t] sounds natural to me there.

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    12. My "/tr/" has an affricate similar to my usual /tʃ/ but rather less palatalised (and so more [ʈʂ]-like). However, for my own accent it seems to make sense to think of this as an allophone of /tʃ/, not /t/.

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    13. Pete said:
      "Presumably no accent uses them all but there are some that use three or four (Liverpool, NI, AAVE)."

      According to what the Irish linguist Raymond Hickey and Prof. Wells (and others) have said, "local" (or "popular" in Wellsian terminology) Dublin English has all of the possible realizations of /t/ you list there and more. "And more" includes realizations like [h] and [Ø] (i.e. zero). IIRC, these two realizations are also found across the Irish Sea in Liverpool. It's my impression that affricate realizations (apical or laminal) are also a possibility, as they are, once again, in Liverpool.

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    14. Surely, all these allophonic realizations refer to different varieties within Irish English, which can't be that uniform throughout the two Irelands.

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    15. I don't know if that was a reply to me, but according to what I've read, all of those realizations can indeed be found in local Dublin English. I did hear many of them in the speech of a young man I met recently from near Dublin.

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  9. “Only” American English uses alveolar flap in that way? An undergraduate remark, John.

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    1. 1. You are mischaracterizing what our good host said (in, dare I say it, an "undergraduate" fashion).
      2. How likely is it that an EFL learner from Mexico would be learning Australian or Northern Ireland English?

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  10. "In Natalie, battle etc, the tap is unlike anything in Spanish, since it has lateral release. (But some speakers use a glottal stop here rather than a tap. A glottal stop is equally un-Spanish.)"

    Are you sure about this? A glottal stop before the syllabic [l̩] sounds distinctly un-American to this American. If I wasn't to use [ɾ], I might use [t], but never [ʔ] in this position. [ʔ] is usual before [n̩], though.

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    1. I've seen it (that is, intervocalic /t/-glottaling) attested as part of a few local dialects in the US, such as that of New Britain, Connecticut.

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    2. Same reaction here, a glottal stop before the syllabic [l̩] in AmE seems artificial to me as well. For Australian, though, this seems normal (but, I am not sure).

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    3. Since I moved to Boston in 2001, I have been surprised to find that the realization of intervocalic /t/ as a glottal stop is extremely common in the speech of the Northeast of the US. I believe that it occurs not just in eastern New England but in upstate New York as well (and probably in all the areas in between). I've never gathered what the pattern is, but items that I have definitely heard include "wa'er," "Spar'ans," and "pu' it."

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    4. I noticed it in some of the early songs of Janis Ian, who was born in NYC and grew up somewhere more rural nearby. Listen here at 0:54 and 1:46!

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  11. As a bilingual speaker of Korean, which has the tap [ɾ], and of a variety of English which has t-voicing, I have a hard time thinking of these two as the 'same sound' and it feels wrong to see [ɾ] used to transcribe the voiced /t/ in English. I get why the symbol is used on an intellectual level, but the Korean and English sounds have always been separate in my head and I would not confuse the two. One sound used in place of the other immediately sounds wrong, e.g. when I hear Koreans imitating American English by using the Korean [ɾ] for intervocalic /t/.

    In Korean [ɾ] is the intervocalic allophone of the single liquid phoneme /l/ which is a lateral before consonants or a pause, and itself has a range of realizations, including failing to become a full tap and becoming an approximant to being combined with lateral air flow to become a lateral tap. Even a hint of either tendency would sound wrong for the English voiced /t/. I do think that even when the Korean [ɾ] is a straightforward tap, the tongue movement is slightly different from that of the English voiced /t/.

    I'm not familiar enough with the Spanish [ɾ] to judge how it compares with the Korean [ɾ].

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    1. I'm an American who learned Spanish as a second language, and even though I learned how to make the Spanish ɾ by copying the sound from American English, still, I just don't think of them as the same sound. The English language sound is a D/T, the Spanish language sound is an R. Two different phonemes. I really don't think any difference between the two sounds makes a difference for me. Due to a combination of recognizing accents and recognizing words (including when this/these sound(s) appears as an R in English) I hear it either as an R or a D. Those clues are much more important than any pronunciation difference.

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    2. My story is similar to Ellen's - I'm an American who learned Spanish, and although I may have used the American flapped [ɾ] as a phonetic analogy, I've never considered the Spanish [ɾ] to be the same sound. The latter (and the same goes for the [ɾ] that I would use when doing a Scottish accent) has a magical rhotic quality the former lacks - I think this is the result of a subtle phonetic difference (presumably flap versus tap), but I'm not enough of a phonetic expert to have a thorough grasp of the question.

      This "rhotic quality" is a funny thing, which I've often wondered about - it can be conveyed by sounds as diverse as British English [ʋ] or Brazilian Portuguese [χ], but somehow we recognize all these realizations as being part of some essential /r/ phoneme. I suppose it's just a strange, and ultimately arbitrary, inheritance from Greco-Latin /r/ - the "dog consonant".

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    3. In Polish popular perception (too many p's) the American English allegro 't' or 'd' in such words as 'city', 'little' or 'muddle' (but not 'dirty') is heard as (virtually) identical with the Polish [r], which is an alveolar flap/tap. In popular, jocular transcriptions NYC is sometimes 'nu jok syry'.

      btw: 'porridge'<--'pottage', some say, borrowed from a dialect where this shift took place earlier. No Robert Bridges was there, to tell them to say 'pot-tayge'...

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  12. Spartans is kind of a special case, at least when I say it. The /r/ is articulated just behind the alveolar ridge, and the apex then slides forward to the ridge to occlude it — but I have to close the glottis at the same time in order to prevent premature nasal airflow. Then I open the glottis to provide the nasal plosion effect.

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    1. Is your t in Spartans flapped/tapped?

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    2. No, not at all, it's released through the nose.

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  13. I have a lot to say about the not always fully voiced (particularly for those relatively few Americans who consistently distinguish pairs such as shutter and shudder), that Prof. Wells mentions.

    Firstly, this voiceless tap sounds aspirated (or at least followed by [h]) to me, e.g., shutter is shut-her and butter is but-her.
    Secondly, do Americans/Canadians acquire this sound naturally or is it a sound developed to get a formal effect? I mean, all the people I've heard using this sound have either been news presenters or TV show narrators, who are known for modifying their accents to sound not from anywhere and formal.
    Lastly, is this voiceless tap a possibility in Australia or other places that tap the /t/. I've heard a lot of Australians and I can't remember ever having heard this.

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  14. Here's my quick two cents.

    First, the fact that some northern English accents have the t-to-r rule, as mentioned by JHJ above, seems to show that -- at least for those people -- the (presumably) tapped sandhi /t/ was sufficiently similar to tapped /r/ to warrant a neutralisation.

    Secondly, I think those people who say that they feel the English tapped /t/ as different from tapped /r/ in some other language because they feel them as instances of different phonemes may simply be victims of cross-linguistically disjunct phonemic perception ;)

    The best test for whether each pair is really physically different would be to test your perceptions on an unknown language where you don't know what phoneme the tap maps onto.

    With that in mind, here's a little anecdote: Before I started learning English, my main source of contact with the language was music. And there was this song by Bananarama, Venus, with that catchy chorus. I already knew what she's was, and I knew yeah baby, too, naturally. But what the heck was that [gɑɾət] in the middle? Let's check in a dictionary, I thought. What word did I check? Well, I listened through Polish ears, so it was garret, of course. Hmmm. She's garret? Didn't make any sense at all. So I was puzzled ;)

    Have a listen, if you want.

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    1. 'what the heck was that [gɑɾət] in the middle? Let's check in a dictionary, I thought. What word did I check? Well, I listened through Polish ears, so it was garret, of course.'

      countless similar experiences I made myself and observed in my fellow schoolboys when I was one, 40 years ago.

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  15. As regards Irish English, isn't the "[t̪ʰ] before r or ɚ" just a merger of /t/ with /θ/, usually transcribed just [t̪]? [h] is more obviously a merger with /h/.

    The epithets "Prod" and "Proddy" reflect the voicing (but not the flapping) of the first t in "Protestant". The second and thirds t's will have different realisations.

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  16. For some reason I'm unable to add a reply to a comment.

    Lazar Taxon says that he thinks that the "magical rhotic quality" (I like that term) which a Spanish language or Scottish R has, but which a flapped t/d doesn't is because of a subtle phonetic difference. I disagree. I think it's mental. There's also a magic rhotic quality to schwas or long vowels when listening to rhotic speakers say words where I have an R and they don't. Which I think is because I recognize the word, and to me, it has an R. I mentally hear the R even if it's not said. My brain gives it an R-ness that's not necessarily there phonetically.

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    1. I agree that there's a big mental aspect. Continuing from my example above, the phonetic difference between the Korean [ɾ] and the English flap/tap is probably small, but because my mind immediately maps them to entirely different categories (Korean /l/, English /t/) based on those small cues I have a hard time noticing the phonetic similarity unless it is pointed out to me.

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    2. While I don't speak either Spanish or Korean, I do speak Hindi (which also has a tapped rhotic) and I feel the American tapped t/d is significantly different than this. While I don't discourage the mental barrier thing, I feel rhotic taps do have that "magical rhotic quality" Taxon describes. The Hindi rhotic, at least for us standard dialect speakers is definitely not a trill (except when geminated) and though it may carry a slight frication (probably like Spanish), I don't think that's significant or necessary.

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    3. @ Ellen Kozisek:
      As a native speaker of American English and learner of Spanish, I think there is a phonetic difference between the single r of Spanish and the tapped t of American English. It may be slight, but I think it's there. If the American English tapped t and the single r of Spanish were identical, you wouldn't (or at least I wouldn't) expect to see so many Americans like me who have trouble with the alveolar trill. It is, after all, just a lengthened version of the alveolar tap of Spanish, right?

      However, like you and Jongseong, I think there is a big mental aspect to this. I think that even if the tapped t of American English and the single r of Spanish were truly phonetically identical, many people would still insist that they were different. These people wouldn't be able to accept that two sounds that are spelled differently could be the same.

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  17. Thank you so much for the thorough response!
    If I may ask, how would one go about making an alveolar tap voiceless as opposed to voiced?

    Any tips on how to articulate the sound this way?

    Thanks.

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    2. Listen to American news presenters and you'll get the sound (as a tapped allophone of /t/, not /d/). It's not a very difficult sound to utter, but for people like us (you Spanish speakers included) who struggle to make anything other than plosives and fricatives voiceless), it might just be unique. The sound in question almost sounds like a t-h consonant cluster (as I've mentioned earlier).

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    3. I don't know how to do it in regular speech, but if you are just wanting to experiment, whispering works for making any sound voiceless.

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    4. Yeah, the problem comes when actually using the sound in words because of the surrounding voiced sounds.

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    1. Also, something that really made me think about this whole issue, is that sometimes when native english speakers pronounce words that are supposed to be pronounced with a tapped t, the t or d (depending on the word they pronounce) ends up sounding like nothing remotely close the spanish r as in 'pero'.

      In this video, listen to how the two persons pronounce the tapped t's differently. The older one seems to pronunce them in such a way that seems like a soft d, you can really hear the d sound. Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iljbZdELmE&feature=player_detailpage#t=108s
      Whereas when Justin says "There's a lotta people that..." and many other things, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iljbZdELmE&feature=player_detailpage#t=113s.
      The t in lotta sound super soft and I'm not completely sure what he's doing right there. You can hear him doing very similar soft sounds for his tapped t's throughout the interview.

      In this other video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmL1bT5deCk&feature=player_detailpage#t=146s when the interviewer says "it's very hard to focus right now" when she connects "hard to" I'm not sure what she's doing. I think she might be doing the kind of tap you do when saying things like "part of" "artist" "party" and the like. In which you use "a ballistic movement" maybe? But I'm not sure because of her english accent. She might be doing something different.


      And on a side note. Something else I've always wondered about, is that sometimes when native english speakers pronounce words with voiceless th sounds like "thanks", "thing" and others, like here when he says "thank you" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmL1bT5deCk&feature=player_detailpage#t=143s
      the th sometimes sounds very hard in similar to the t found in spanish. I think they might be pronouncing it like a spanish t but softer. Maybe they press their upper and lower teeth harder against the tongue, not allowing air to flow like it does when not pressing hard and leaving some space between the tongue and teeth. Have you ever noticed this? if you have, am I correct on my assumption?

      Thanks.

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    2. the th sometimes sounds very hard in similar to the t found in spanish. I think they might be pronouncing it like a spanish t but softer.

      Contreras, you are absolutely right on this one. But of course it's not a feature exclusively confined to the th sound /θ/, but most fricatives in English (and probably, other languages as well). The voiced th /ð/ is effected even more; unless severely stressed, it's almost always a laminal-dental (but not interdental as with the fricative) plosive. /f/ is effected as well: you must have heard pist (labiodental not bilabial p) sometime for fist. Add to this the inability of some some people to pronounce /ʒ/ at word endings, as in camouflage, who end up with camouflaadj and fusilaadj, &c. The only English fricatives to be completely immune to such fortition, to the best of my knowledge, are the alveolar fricatives: /s/ and /z/.

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  19. The Scottish pronunciation of ''berry'' (with the Spanish alveolar R) does not sound like the American pronunciation of Betty. The American pronunciation has a D-like quality to a sound (maybe because of more tongue contact involved) than the Scottish ''berry''. I wouldn't call the American intervocalic T/D a rhotic consonant. The American intervocalic T sounds closer to Brazilian Portuguese D in ''abaDá'' than to the Brazilian Portuguese R ''abaRá''.

    Speakers of American English and Spanish can say the American English and the Spanish sound is the same because both languages lack the [d] ~ [ɾ] opposition.

    But, in Brazilian Portuguese, abadá and abará are two different words:

    [aba'da] carnival costume used in Salvador da Bahia
    [aba'ɾa] a famous dish from Salvador da Bahia, known to most Brazilians

    American 'TT in ''a bottom'' sounds more like a [d] (1) to me, than to a [ɾ] (2), if I were to compare

    a bottom (0)
    abadá (1)
    abará (2)

    acoustically only.


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    1. And what is the difference in articulation when producing both sounds?

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  20. Oxford English Dictionary is using [d] for the flap/tap t in US English, and not [ɾ]. See their PROTOZOA entry.

    Furthermore.. Merriam Webster's Learner's dictionary (The only US-made dictionary which uses IPA symbols) does not bother with T/D tapping/flapping at all; to the authors of the dictionary
    the ADAM/ATOM merger is not as important as the POL/PAUL COLLAR/CALLER COT/CAUGHT merger (which they advocate as if they were accent coaches from Hollywood).

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  22. An update for anyone who reads this,

    I think I finally found out why my Spanish r sounded so different from the English tap.

    I think it has to do with expulsion of air. When I do my Spanish r's I tend to expel a lot of air, which in turns makes for a very distinct sound. I tried doing the sound and getting getting rid of so much air by putting my hand in front of my mouth and aiming for not feeling air when making the sound.

    I got the idea from Susanna Zaraysky, creator of the site http://createyourworldbook.com/

    I posted a comment on one of her Youtube videos, asking her if she noticed any difference between the two sounds. She said that, although she's not an expert in phonology, she noticed more air coming out of her mouth when saying the word 'autora' than when saying the word 'butter'. This was 10 days ago, mind you.

    I heard something from a movie, which used a word that I could clearly hear as being very similar to the 'd' sound. I practiced saying the word until I finally got it. I noticed that when I said the word, my tongue was somewhat retracted, which made it possible to produce the sound very lightly without touching much of the alveolar ridge. This was also a big realization, as this makes it possible to produce sound qualities I mentioned above in some of my other rather long posts. Although it should be noted that I'm not so sure if this retraction of the tongue occurs at all times or not, as Mr. John Wells also wrote in the article.

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  23. R dropping in BrE. Have you noticed the pronunciation b(r)oadcasting? It was noticeable today on R4, even in British B(r)oadcasting Corporation's 90th anniversary. Is this a trend? I haven't noticed it with the word board itself or with bread, or with the surname Broad, as in Chris, the cricketer.

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