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Alveolar tap: Wikis


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IPA – number 124
IPA – text ɾ
IPA – image {{{imagesize}}}
Entity ɾ
Kirshenbaum *
About this sound Sound sample

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, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is 4.



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. The last proposed distinction was that a tap strikes its point of contact directly, as a very brief plosive, 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." 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 is not a true phoneme, an alveolar tap is often an allophone of either an alveolar stop (/t/ or /d/) or an 'R-sound' i.e. an alveolar trill or alveolar approximant.


Features of the alveolar flap/tap:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Albanian emër [ɛməɾ] 'name'
Arabic Egyptian[1] رأس [ɾaʔs] 'head' Contrasts with emphatic form. See Arabic phonology
Austro-Bavarian Rose [ɾo:zə] 'rose'
Basque lorea [loˈɾea] 'the flower'
Catalan[2] innecessari [innəsəˈsaɾi] 'unnecessary' See Catalan phonology
Chechen рагI/r [ɾɑɣ] 'mountain range'
English General American better [ˈbɛɾɚ] 'better' Intervocalic allophone of /t/ and /d/. See English phonology and flapping
Australian[3] [ˈbe̞ɾə] See Australian English phonology
New Zealand [ˈbeɾə]
Older Received Pronunciation free [fɾiː] 'free' Rhotic consonant
Ilokano tumakder [tʊmak'deɾ] 'to stand up'
Japanese /こころ/kokoro [ko̥koɾo] '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[5] contra [ˈkõtɾɐ] 'against' See Portuguese phonology
Spanish[6] caro [ˈkaɾo̞] 'expensive' See Spanish phonology
Tagalog bihira [bɪˈhiɾa] 'rare' See Tagalog phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[7] ran [ɾaŋ] 'to see'



  • Carbonell, Joan F.; Llisterri, Joaquim (1992), "Catalan", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 22 (1-2): 53–56  
  • Cox, Felicity; Palethorpe, Sallyanne (2007), "Australian English", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 37 (3): 341–349  
  • Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (1995), "European Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 25 (2): 90–94  
  • Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana Ma.; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 33 (2): 255–259  
  • Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquipan Zapotec", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38 (1): 107–114  
  • Watson, Janet (2002). The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic. New York: Oxford University Press.  
  • Watson, Kevin (2007), "Liverpool English", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 37 (3): 351–360  

See also



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