Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tapped t’s in American English Pronunciation

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Author: Ryan Denzer King

Article to help English Speaking and English Pronunciation by PronouncePro American English Pronunciation Writing Staff.

One of the features that distinguish American English pronunciation from some other types of English pronunciation is the use of the so-called “tapped” t or d. This English sound is called an alveolar tap (also alveolar flap) by linguists, and corresponds to an r sound in many languages, such as the non-trilled r in Spanish and Italian, or the standard r sound in Arabic or Finnish. The general rule in American English pronunciation for whether a t or d is tapped says that these sounds should be tapped when they come after a stressed syllable, such as in ‘butter’ or ‘lady’. In both of the words, the first syllable is stressed, and so the t or d becomes tapped. Note that because both of these sounds become the same when tapped, it is not always possible to tell whether something is a t or a d if you don’t already know the word. Thus, in standard American English pronunciation, ‘ladder’ and ‘latter’ sound exactly the same, even though in very careful speech one has a d and one has a t; in everyday speech both of these words have a tapped t in the middle.

In a word like ‘table’, on the other hand, the t is not tapped because it is in the stressed syllable. This general rule within pronunciation, that t’s and d’s are tapped after a stressed syllable, usually only applies if they come before and after a vowel, as in ‘ladder’, ‘latter’, ‘butter’, and ‘lady’. In a word like ‘antler’ or ‘bandage’ they are not tapped, because they are not between two vowels.


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