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. 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 ([t] or [d]) or a rhotic consonant like the alveolar trill or alveolar approximant.
Features of the alveolar tap:
- Its manner of articulation is tap, 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 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.
- The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.
|Albanian||emër||[ɛməɾ]||'name'||Contrasts with /r/ in all positions.|
|Arabic||Egyptian||رجل||[ɾeɡl]||'foot'||Contrasts with emphatic form. See Arabic phonology|
|Armenian||Eastern||րոպե||[ɾopɛ] (help·info)||'minute'||Contrasts with /r/ in all positions.|
|Asturian||yera||[ˈʝe̞ɾa]||'I/it was'||Contrasts with /r/.|
|Basque||lore||[lo̞ɾe̞]||'flower'||Contrasts with /r/.|
|Catalan||mira||[ˈmiɾə]||'look'||Contrasts with /r/. See Catalan phonology|
|Chechen||рагI / raġ||[ɾɑɣ]||'mountain range'|
|Dutch||Many dialects||Peru||[peˈɾu] (help·info)||'Peru'||In free variation with [r]. Pronunciation of /r/ varies regionally. See Dutch phonology|
|English||RP||better||[ˈbe̞ɾə]||'better'||Intervocalic allophone of /t/ for some speakers. See English phonology and flapping|
|Australian||[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|
|Cockney||[ˈbɛɾə]||Intervocalic allophone of /t/. In free variation with [ʔ ~ tʰ ~ tˢ]. See flapping|
|Dublin||[ˈbɛɾɚ] (help·info)||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|
|Irish||three||[θɾiː]||'three'||Conservative accents. Corresponds to [ɹ ~ ɻ ~ ʁ] in other accents.|
|Scottish||Most speakers. Others use [ɹ ~ r].|
|Older RP||Allophone of /ɹ/.|
|South African||Broad speakers. Can be [ɹ ~ r] instead.|
|Galician||cordeiro||[koɾˈðejɾo]||'lamb'||Contrasts with /r/ in all positions.|
|Greek||μηρός mirós||[miˈɾo̞s]||'thigh'||Most common realization of /r/. See Modern Greek phonology|
|Hebrew||Mizrahi||רבע||['ɾevaʕ]||'quarter'||See Modern Hebrew phonology|
|Ilokano||tumakder||[tʊmakˈdeɾ]||'to stand up'|
|Exists in velarised ("broad") and palatalised ("slender") forms. See Irish phonology|
|Japanese||心 kokoro||[ko̥koɾo] (help·info)||'heart'||May instead be an alveolar lateral flap. See Japanese phonology|
|Korean||바람 baram||[paɾam]||'wind'||See Korean phonology|
|Norwegian||Norge||[ˈnɔɾɡə]||'Norway'||See Norwegian phonology|
|Persian||كشور||[keʃvæɾ]||'country'||See Persian phonology|
|Portuguese||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|
|Spanish||caro||[ˈkaɾo̞]||'expensive'||Contrasts with /r/. See Spanish phonology|
|Tagalog||bihira||[bɪˈhiɾɐ]||'rare'||See Tagalog phonology|
|Turkish||Türkiye||[ˈt̪yɾcijɛ]||'Turkey'||See Turkish phonology|
See also 
- Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:230–231)
- Watson (2002:16)
- Dum-Tragut (2009:19)
- Carbonell & Llisterri (1992:53)
- Cox & Palethorpe (2007:343)
- Trudgill & Hannah (2002:24)
- Wells (1982:324–325)
- Ogden (2009:114)
- Ogden (2009:92)
- Wise (1957:?)
- Ogden (2009:92)
- Ogden (2009:92)
- Arvaniti (2007:15–18)
- Cruz-Ferreira (1995:91)
- Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:255)
- Merrill (2008:108)
- Arvaniti, Amalia (2007), "Greek Phonetics: The State of the Art", Journal of Greek Linguistics 8: 97–208
- Carbonell, Joan F.; Llisterri, Joaquim (1992), "Catalan", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 22 (1–2): 53–56, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004618
- Cox, Felicity; Palethorpe, Sallyanne (2007), "Australian English", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 37 (3): 341–349, doi:10.1017/S0025100307003192
- Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (1995), "European Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 25 (2): 90–94, doi:10.1017/S0025100300005223
- Dum-Tragut, Jasmine (2009), Armenian: Modern Eastern Armenian, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company
- Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996), The Sounds of the World's Languages, Oxford: Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-19814-8
- Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana Ma.; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 33 (2): 255–259, doi:10.1017/S0025100303001373
- Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquiapan Zapotec", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38 (1): 107–114, doi:10.1017/S0025100308003344
- Ogden, Richard (2009), An Introduction to English Phonetics, Edinburgh University Press
- Trudgill, Peter; Hannah, Jean (2002), International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English, 4th ed., p. 24
- 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
- Wells, John (1982), Accents of English 2: The British Isles, pp. 324–325, ISBN 978-0521285407
- Wise, Claude Merton (1957), Introduction to Phonetics, Englewood Cliffs