I use the symbol for the D [d] in my videos for the Flap T. Is that really accurate?
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to take a look at the question: is the Flap T really a D sound?It’s not unusual for people to ask my why I say the flap T is a D sound. They will say it’s not the same as a D sound in, for example, day. My answer to them: you’re right. But, the Flap T, or T between vowels, is the same as the D between vowels. So basically what I’m saying, is that a D between vowels is not the same sound as the D in other cases, though they both use the same IPA symbol. Let’s take a look at an example word: dad.
For that beginning D, there is a stop: dd, dd. D is a stop consonant, so I let air build up a little bit in my throat — dd, dd, dd — and then release it. It’s the same with a D at the end of the word, though a little more subtle. Dd, dd, Dad-d-d-d, but you can still hear, dad-d-d, there is a stop. Well, let’s take a slightly different word, Daddy. Now we have a D sound between two vowels. Daddy, Daddy. I’m going to stretch out the vowel sound before and after to make that D more noticeable. Daaaaaadyyyy. Did you hear a stop? There wasn’t one. Daaaaaadyyyy. Between vowels, or after an R and before a vowel, it’s a different sound, because there isn’t a stop. If I pronounced both D’s with a stop it would sound like this: dad-dy. But it doesn’t. It sounds like daddy, uhh, no stop in the airflow. This is true of the Flap T as well.
As I said before, if you look up the word ‘daddy’ in a dictionary, both of the D sounds, though different, will have the same symbol.
This is why I have chosen to say the that Flap T is just like the D sound — it is like one kind of D sound, the D between vowels. So, matter = madder. Pronounced the same way. When we pronounce a T or D this way, it smooths out speech. It takes out a stop, which is why you’ll hear so many Americans flap their T’s. We love to smooth out the line.
So, this was a long explanation about why I use the [d] symbol for a Flap T. The most important thing to take from this video, though, is that both T and D between vowels, or after an R and before a vowel, don’t have a stop component. They do not interrupt the flow of the line, they smooth out the speech.
One last comment. Sometimes, regarding the Flap T, I’ll get a comment from a student: that sounds like an R sound to me. It is an R sound? Well, depending on your native language, yes, it is. The al-VEE-uh-ler flap is in many languages, usually represented by the letter R. For example, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, to name a few. So you may ask, why don’t I use that IPA symbol? Two reasons: you won’t see that symbol in dictionary of American English. And, I’m not fluent enough in any of those languages, to say: yes, definitely, I know it is absolutely the exact same movement of the tongue, touching exactly the same spot at the roof of the mouth. So whether it is exactly the same sound or just very close, it may be very useful for you to think of the Flap T or D between vowels as the R sound from your native language. But, just keep in mind that it is not at all related to the R sound in American English. RRRR, where you can hold out that sound, and the front part of the tongue must not touch the roof of the mouth.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.