Dental and alveolar 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 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.

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.

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

Voiced alveolar flap

Voiced alveolar flap
IPA number 124
Entity (decimal) ɾ
Unicode (hex) U+027E
Kirshenbaum *
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Features of the alveolar tap:

  • 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.


Dental or denti-alveolar

Russian[3]рьяный [ˈɾ̪ʲjän̪ɨ̞j] 'zealous'Apical; palatalized. More common than a dental trill.[3] It contrasts with a post-alveolar trill. See Russian phonology


AfrikaansStandard[5]rooi[ɾoːi̯]'red'May be a trill [r] instead.[5] See Afrikaans phonology
ArabicEgyptian[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
ArmenianEastern[7]րոպե [ɾopɛ] 'minute'Contrasts with /r/ in all positions.
Basquebegiratu[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
EnglishCockney[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/ for some Australians. Used more often in Australia than in New Zealand. See Australian English phonology and Flapping
New Zealand[13][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[14]
West Country
Irishthree[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
Esperantoesperanto[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
Hindustaniअर्थ/ارتھ[əɾt̪ʰ]'meaning'See Hindustani phonology
Japanese /こころ kokoro [ko̞ko̞ɾo̞] 'heart'Apical.[18] See Japanese phonology
Korean여름 / yeoreum[jʌɾɯm]'summer'Allophone of /l/ between vowels or between a vowel and an /h/
LimburgishHasselt dialect[19]weuren[ˈβ̞øːɾən]'(they) were'Possible intervocalic allophone of /r/; may be uvular [ʀ̆] instead.[19]
Persian روز [ɾuz] 'day'
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 Gaelicr[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 [ˈkaɾo̞] 'expensive'Contrasts with /r/. See Spanish phonology
Tagalogbarya[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
YiddishStandard[27]בריק[bɾɪk]'bridge'Less commonly a trill [r]; can be uvular [ʀ̆ ~ ʀ] instead.[27] See Yiddish phonology
ZapotecTilquiapan[28]ran[ɾaŋ]'to see'


GermanStandard[29]Rübe[ˈɾÿːbə]'beet'Varies between apical dental and apical alveolar; may be a trill instead.[29] See Standard German phonology

Alveolar nasal flap

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 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.


English[30]Estuarytwenty [ˈtw̥ɛ̃ɾ̃i] 'twenty'Allophone of unstressed intervocalic /nt/ for some speakers. See English phonology,
North American English regional phonology and Flapping
North American[31]

See also



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