T between two vowels in Gen American English (in stressed? or unstressed syllable?) is commonly pronounced as alveolar flap /ɾ/. Example words include better, water, butter, matter etc.

The /r/ in Gen American English is usually /ɹ/ as far as I know. So in words like word, bird, earth etc, it is /ɹ/.

I recently heard some words that end in rt+vowel whose pronunciation bewildered me. Words like party transcription in the dictionary: /ˈpɑːr.t̬i/, the dictionary has given /t̬/ and /r/ in the transcription but when I listen to the pronunciation, it is only /t̬/ (aka flap: /ɾ/). And sometimes it sounds as if it has no flap at all and has only /ɹ/.

Another example is flirty, whose transcription is: /ˈflɝː.t̬i/ but there is no /ɹ/ at all in the pronunciation (although these are dictionary pronunciation, they may not clearly demonstrate the how native speakers pronounce them).

It mostly happens (as I have noticed) when a words ends in /r/+/t/+vowel.

So what's really happening here? Is the /ɹ/ usually dropped? Or is it the flap that is dropped?


1 Answer 1


Your ears have become too accustomed to British English, and you aren't hearing the "r" in party in the dictionary pronunciation, which is obvious to me, an American.

Possibly you don't hear the /r/ in party because it's been absorbed into the /ɑ/ ... it's not an /ɑr/ but an /ɑ˞/, an /r/-colored /ɑ/, where you pronounce the /ɑ/ and the /ɹ/ kind of simultaneously. These are allophones in American English.

The same thing is happening in flirty – there's an r-colored /ɜ/. And here, in fact, there's no /r/ in the IPA transcription /ˈflɝː.t̬i/ because they use the symbol /ɝ/, which stands for an r-colored /ɜ/. Since most Americans use an r-colored vowel in flirty and pertain, but not in party, you generally only see two r-colored phoneme symbols in dictionary transcriptions, /ɝ/ and /ɚ/ (and most dictionaries use /ɜr/ and /ər/, which is less confusing and thus probably a better decision).

Let me say that I use the r-colored vowels /ɝ/, /ɚ/, /ɔ˞/, /ɑ˞/, and /ʊ˞/, but say /ɪr/ and /ɛr/. However, which vowels are r-colored, and which have an /r/ after them varies depending on the speaker.

  • 1
    I must admire your ears! (Of course you're a native speaker of American English)
    – user387044
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 12:03
  • 1
    @Sphinx: My ears are certainly not that good for other languages. For example, I can't hear any difference between the correct pronunciation of Dvořák /dvor̝aːk/ and the. incorrect pronunciation /dvorʒaːk/, despite having a Czech try to tutor me for a few minutes. Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 16:18

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