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I'm interested in so called "tap" in american English. I've read a tap occurs in a word "twenty". I've heard this word in the internet and I've noticed a t is not pronounced or is pronounced simply as a t. Can you explain me? Besides, does a tap occur in words: "ended", "regarded", "internet", "interview" and why?

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  • Not all Americans speak the same. Some Americans say twenty, some say twenny, and some use an alveolar nasal flap, which sounds more like twenny than a regular alveolar flap, which would sound like tweddy. Feb 7, 2015 at 23:13

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I'm not sure whether it's a tap or a flap, but I'll call it a flap. "twenty" has a nasal flap (same as in "penny"), and the theory I learned from David Stampe is that the phonological derivation is approximately /twɛnti/ -> (aspiration, regressive vowel nasalization, syllabication) [tʰwɛ̃nt.i] -> (delay alveolar articulation) [tʰwɛ̃t.i] -> (flapping) [tʰwɛ̃ɾ.i] -> (progressive sonorant nasalization) [tʰwɛ̃ɾ̃.i].

Does a flap occur in "ended"? No. The first d is preceded by a consonant, n, which prevents flapping. That n is not lost, as it is in "twenty", because the following d is voiced.

Does a flap occur in "regarded"? Yes. d flaps after a vowel or vowel-like non-syllabic like r, w, y (not l, though).

Does a flap occur in "internet"? Yes, the first t becomes nasal flap, but the second n doesn't flap, since it's before a stressed vowel and hence in syllable onset.

Does a flap occur in "interview"? Yes. This case is like "twenty".

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    Hmm … I think penny is a slightly different kettle of fish. I (usually) have a flap in both twenty and regarded, but not in penny. At least not in significantly more rapid and slurred speech than is required for the others—the same stage of rapidness and slurriness where ended also gets a flap. I’m sure there’s a scale of ‘penny flappiness variation’ between speakers, but I don’t think it’s quite parallel to the twenty scale. Feb 8, 2015 at 0:05
  • Stampe has pointed out that for some midwestern speech, there is a level of casualness where "candor" and "canner" differ just in having [n] in the first and nasal flap in the second. The [n] in "candor" comes by an assimilation of the [d] to preceding [n], giving [nn], then a simplification of the geminate. This works for me, but it doesn't surprise me in the least if your speech differs.
    – Greg Lee
    Feb 8, 2015 at 0:18
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    Well, that particular example doesn’t work for me at all, because both words are too uncommon and high-register for me to ever assimilate at all, I think. If I got to the level of casualness where I’d assimilate one, I’d assimilate them both equally. But I definitely have levels of casualness where inner and inter(net) differ only in the former having [n] and the latter [ɾ̃], and my gut feeling is that that’s a fairly common level, cross-country, to have, viz., that /nt/ is flapped before /n/. Feb 8, 2015 at 0:24

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