Dental, alveolar and postalveolar flaps

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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 and contradicted 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, 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."[2] However, he later no longer felt that it was a useful distinction to make and preferred to use the word flap in all cases.[citation needed]

For linguists who make the distinction, the coronal tap is transcribed as [ɾ], and the flap is transcribed as [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 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).

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

Voiced alveolar flap[edit]

Voiced alveolar flap
IPA number 124
Entity (decimal) ɾ
Unicode (hex) U+027E
Kirshenbaum *
Braille ⠖ (braille pattern dots-235) ⠗ (braille pattern dots-1235)


Features of the alveolar tap:


Dental or denti-alveolar[edit]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Russian[3] рьяный About this sound [ˈɾ̪ʲjän̪ɨ̞j]  'zealous' Apical; palatalized. More common than a dental trill,[3] it contrasts with a post-alveolar trill. See Russian phonology
Uzbek[4] ёмғир /''yomg‘ir'' [ʝɒ̜mˈʁ̟ɨɾ̪] 'rain' Denti-alveolar.[4]


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Standard[5] rooi [ɾoːi̯] 'red' May be a trill [r] instead.[5] See Afrikaans phonology
Arabic Egyptian[6] رجل [ɾeɡl] 'foot' Contrasts with emphatic form. See Egyptian Arabic phonology
Lebanese إجر [ʔəʒəɾ] 'foot'
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic [ɑɾɑː] 'ground' Used predominantly. /ɹ/, however, is used in some dialects
Armenian Eastern[7] րոպե About this sound [ɾopɛ]  'minute' Contrasts with /r/ in all positions.
Basque begiratu [beˈɣiɾaˌtu] 'look' Contrasts with /r/. See Basque phonology
Catalan[8] mira [ˈmiɾə] 'look' Contrasts with /r/. See Catalan phonology
Danish[9][10] Vil du med? [ʋe̝ ɾu ˈme] 'Are you coming too?' Possible realization of intervocalic /d/ when it occurs between two unstressed vowels.[9][10] See Danish phonology
English Cockney[11] better [ˈbe̞ɾə] 'better' Intervocalic allophone of /t/. In free variation with [ʔ ~ ~ ]. See Flapping
Australian[12] [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[13] [ˈbeɾɘ]
Dublin About this sound [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[14]
West Country
Irish three [θɾiː] 'three' Conservative accents. Corresponds to [ɹ ~ ɻ ~ ʁ] in other accents.
Scottish[15] Most speakers. Others use [ɹ ~ r].
Older Received Pronunciation[16] Allophone of /ɹ/
South African[15] Broad speakers. Can be [ɹ ~ r] instead
Esperanto esperanto [espeˈɾanto] 'person who hopes' Allophone of /r/. See Esperanto phonology
Greek[17] μηρός/mirós [miˈɾ̠o̞s] 'thigh' Somewhat retracted. Most common realization of /r/. See Modern Greek phonology
Hindustani अर्थ/ارتھ [əɾt̪ʰ] 'meaning' See Hindustani phonology
Japanese /kokoro About this sound [ko̞ko̞ɾo̞]  'heart' Apical.[18] See Japanese phonology
Korean 바람 [pɐɾɐm] 'wind' Allophone of /l/ between vowels or between a vowel and an /h/
Limburgish Hasselt dialect[19] weuren [ˈβ̞ø̠ːɾən] '(they) were' Possible intervocalic allophone of /r/; may be uvular [ʀ̆] instead.[19]
Portuguese[20] prato [ˈpɾatu] 'dish' Dental to retroflex allophones, varying by dialect. Contrasts with /ʁ/, with its guttural allophones and, in all positions, with its archaic form [r]. See Portuguese phonology
Scottish Gaelic r [moːɾ] 'big' Both the lenited and non-initial broad form of r. Often transcribed simply as /r/, the initial unlenited broad form is /rˠ/ (also transcribed as /ᵲ/ or /R/) while the slender form is /ɾʲ/ ([ð] in some dialects). See Scottish Gaelic phonology.
Slovene[21] amarant [amaˈɾaːn̪t̪] 'amaranth' Also described as trill [r],[22] and variable between trill [r] and tap [ɾ].[23] See Slovene phonology
Spanish[24] caro About this sound [ˈkaɾo̞]  'expensive' Contrasts with /r/. See Spanish phonology
Tagalog barya [bɐɾˈja] 'coin' Once allophones with /d/. May also be pronounced as a trill /r/[25] or an approximant /ɹ/. See Tagalog phonology
Turkish[26] ara [ˈäɾä] 'interval' Intervocalic realization of /ɾ/.[26] See Turkish phonology
Yiddish Standard[27] בריק [bɾɪk] 'bridge' Less commonly a trill [r]; can be uvular [ʀ̆ ~ ʀ] instead.[27] See Yiddish phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[28] ran [ɾaŋ] 'to see'


Postalveolar flap
Unicode (hex) U+027E U+0320
Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Gokana[29] bele [bēɾ̠ē] 'we' Allophone of /l/, medially between vowels within the morpheme, and finally in the morpheme before a following vowel in the same word. It can be a post-alveolar trill or simply [l] instead.[29]
Shipibo[30]  ? [ˈɾ̠o̽ɾ̠o̽] 'to break into pieces' Possible realization of /r/.[30]


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
German Standard[31] Rübe [ˈɾÿːbə] 'beet' Varies between apical dental and apical alveolar; may be a trill instead.[31] See Standard German phonology

Voiced alveolar tapped fricative[edit]

Voiced alveolar tapped fricative
IPA number 124 430

A tapped fricative is in effect a very brief fricative, with the tongue making the gesture for a tapped stop but not making full contact, this can be indicated in the IPA with the lowering diacritic to show full occlusion did not occur. Flapped fricatives are theoretically possible but are not attested.[32]


Features of the voiced alveolar tapped fricative:


Reported from Turkish in a single source;[26] in Tacana per UPSID.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Aragonese Pyrenean[33] aire [ˈäi̯ɾ̞e̞] 'air' Common realization of /ɾ/.[33]
Spanish[34] aire [ˈäi̯ɾ̞e̞] 'air' Possible realization of /ɾ/.[34] See Spanish phonology
Tacana[35] [example needed]
Turkish[26] rüya [ˈɾ̞ÿjä] 'dream' Word-initial allophone of /ɾ/.[26] See Turkish phonology

Alveolar nasal flap[edit]

Alveolar nasal flap
IPA number 124 424


Features of the alveolar nasal flap:

  • Its manner of articulation is flap, which means it is produced with a single contraction of the muscles so that the tongue makes very brief contact.
  • Its place of articulation is alveolar, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue at the alveolar ridge, termed respectively apical and laminal.
  • 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.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
English[36] Estuary twenty About this sound [ˈtw̥ɛ̃ɾ̃i]  'twenty' Allophone of unstressed intervocalic /nt/ for some speakers. See English phonology,
North American English regional phonology and Flapping
North American[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:230–231)
  2. ^ Valentin-Marquez (2015)
  3. ^ a b Skalozub (1963:?); cited in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:221)
  4. ^ a b Sjoberg (1963:13)
  5. ^ a b Lass (1987), p. 117.
  6. ^ Watson (2002:16)
  7. ^ Dum-Tragut (2009:19)
  8. ^ Carbonell & Llisterri (1992:53)
  9. ^ a b Grønnum (2005:157)
  10. ^ a b Basbøll (2005:126)
  11. ^ Wells (1982:324–325)
  12. ^ Cox & Palethorpe (2007:343)
  13. ^ Trudgill & Hannah (2002:24)
  14. ^ Ogden (2009:114)
  15. ^ a b c Ogden (2009:92)
  16. ^ Wise (1957:?)
  17. ^ Arvaniti (2007:15–18)
  18. ^ Labrune (2012), p. 92.
  19. ^ a b Peters (2006), p. 118.
  20. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995:91)
  21. ^ Šuštaršič, Komar & Petek (1999:135)
  22. ^ Pretnar & Tokarz (1980:21)
  23. ^ Greenberg (2006:17 and 20)
  24. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:255)
  25. ^ Schachter and Reid (2008)
  26. ^ a b c d e Yavuz & Balcı (2011:25)
  27. ^ a b Kleine (2003:263)
  28. ^ Merrill (2008:108)
  29. ^ a b L.F. Brosnahan. "Outlines of the phonology of the Gokana dialect of Ogoni" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-04-03. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  30. ^ a b Valenzuela, Márquez Pinedo & Maddieson (2001:282)
  31. ^ a b Mangold (2005:53)
  32. ^ Laver (1994) Principles of Phonetics, p. 263.
  33. ^ a b Mott (2007:104, 112)
  34. ^ a b Mott (2007:112)
  35. ^ "UPSID r[F". Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  36. ^ Kwan-Young Oh. "Reanalysis of Flapping on Level Approach". Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  37. ^ Tomasz P. Szynalski. "Flap t FAQ". Retrieved 2013-11-24.