Skip to main content Accessibility help

Individual variation in English flaps and taps: A case of categorical phonetics

  • Donald Derrick (a1) and Bryan Gick (a2)


This article questions the view that phonetics governs exclusively gradient phenomena. Experimental data from an ultrasound study of English flap allophones show unconditioned categorical variation in the production of everyday words. Individual variation is discussed as an essential area of empirical investigation in uncovering emergent categorical properties of language.


Cet article remet en question l'idée selon laquelle la phonétique gouverne des phénomènes exclusivement gradients. Des données expérimentales d'une étude ultrasonique d'allophones à consonnes vibrantes en anglais montrent une variation catégorique inconditionnée dans la production de mots courants. La variation individuelle est présentée comme un domaine d'investigation empirique essentiel pour découvrir les propriétés catégoriques émergentes du langage.



Hide All
Browman, C. and Goldstein, L.. 1992. Articulatory phonology: An overview. Phonetica 49: 150180.
Chitoran, I. and Cohn, A.. 2009. Complexity in phonetics: Phonology, gradience, categoriality, and naturalness. In Approaches to phonological complexity, phonology and phonetics series, ed. Pellegrino, F., Marsico, E., Chitoran, I. and Coupé, C., 2146. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyer.
Cohn, A. 2006. Is there gradient phonology? In Gradience in grammar: Generative perspectives, ed. Faneslow, G., Fery, C., Vogel, R., and Schlesewsky, M., 2544. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Derrick, D. 2011. Kinematic patterning of flaps, taps and rhotics in English. Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia.
Delattre, P. and Freeman, D.. 1968. A dialect study of American R’s by x-ray motion picture. Linguistics 44:2968.
De Jong, K. 1998. Stress-related variation in the articulation of coda alveolar stops: Flapping revisited. Journal of Phonetics 26:283310.
Flemming, E. 2001. Scalar and categorical phenomena in a unified model of phonetics and phonology. Phonology 1:714.
Folkins, J.W. and Abbs, J.H.. 1975. Lips and jaw motor control during speech: Responses to resistive loading of the jaw. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 18:207220.
Gick, B. and Wilson, I.. 2006. Excrescent schwa and vowel laxing: Cross-linguistic responses to conflicting articulatory targets. In Laboratory phonology 8, ed. Goldstein, L.D., Whalen, H., and Best, C.T., 635659. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Hagiwara, R. 1995. Acoustic Realizations of American R as produced by women and men. Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.
Hockett, C. 1955. A manual of phonology, Vol. 11. Baltimore: Indiana University Publications in Anthropology and Linguistics.
Ingram, J. and Laughren, M.. 2000. The stop-flap contrast in Western Warlpiri. In Proceedings of the 1999 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society, ed. Henderson, J., 123. Perth: Australian Linguistic Society.
Kelkar, A.R. 1968. Studies in Hindi-Urdu, vol. 1: Introduction and word phonology. Poona: Postgraduate and Research Institute, Deccan College.
Kristofferson, G. 2007. The phonology of Norwegian. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Ladefoged, P. 1968. A phonetic study of West African languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ladefoged, P. and Maddieson, I.. 1996. The sounds of the world’s languages. Oxford: Blackwell.
Maddieson, I. 1984. Patterns of sounds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mastica, C. 1991. The Indo-Aryan languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. 2004. Evaluation Report MHRA 03107.
Mielke, J., Baker, A., and Archangeli, D.. 2010. Variability and homogeneity in American English /I/ allophony and /s/ retraction. In Laboratory phonology 10 (Phonology and phonetics 4-4), ed. Fougeron, C., Kühnert, B., d’Imperio, M., and Vallée, N., 699730. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Mithun, M. 2001. Who shapes the record: The speaker and the linguist. In Linguisticfieldwork: Essays on the practice of empirical linguistic research, ed. Newman, P. and Ratliff, M., 3454. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Miyawaki, K., Strange, W., Verbrugge, R., Liberman, A.M., and Jenkins, J.J.. 1975. An effect of linguistic experience: The discrimination of [r] and [1] by native speakers of Japanese and English. Perception and Psychophysics 18:331340.
Monnot, M. and Freeman, M.. 1972. A comparison of Spanish single-tap R with American /t/ and /d/ in post-stress intervocalic position. In Papers in linguistics to the memory of Pierre Delattre, ed. Valdman, A., 409416. The Hague: Mouton.
Pierrehumbert, J. 2001. Exemplar dynamics: Word frequency, lenition and contrast. In Frequency effects and emergent grammar, ed. Bybee, J. and Hopper, P., 137157. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Shakle, C. 2003. Panjabi. In The Indo-Aryan languages, ed. Cardona, G. and Dhanesh, J.. 581621. Oston, UK: Routledge.
Twist, A., Baker, A., Mielke, J., and Archangeli, D.. 2007. Are ‘covert’ M allophones really indistinguishable? Selected Papers from NWAV 35, University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 13:207216.
Umeda, N. 1976. Consonant duration in American English. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 61:846858.
Westbury, J.R., Hashi, M., and Lindstrom, J.M.. 1999. Differences among speakers in lingual articulation for American English /I/. Speech Communication 26:203226.
Wood, S.A.J. 1996. Assimilation or coarticulation? Evidence from the temporal coordination of tongue gestures for the palatalization of Bulgarian alveolar stops. Journal of Phonetics 24:139164.
Zhou, X., Espy-Wilson, Y.C., Boyce, S., Tiede, M., Holland, C., and Choe, A.. 2008. A magnetic resonance imaging-based articulatory and acoustic study of “retroflex” and “bunched” American English /r/. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 123:44664481
Zue, V.W. and Laferriere, M.. 1979. Acoustic study of medial /t, d/ in American English. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 66:10391050.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed