LINGUIST List 4.324

Wed 28 Apr 1993

Sum: /t/ and /d/ in British English

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  1. Joe Stemberger, summary: taps

Message 1: summary: taps

Date: 27 Apr 1993 17:05:11 -0500summary: taps
From: Joe Stemberger <>
Subject: summary: taps

Thanks to everyone why sent me an e-mail message in answer to my query
about taps as realizations of /t/ and /d/ in British English, who were,
as of this posting:

 Laurie Bauer, John Coleman, Diane Ringer Duber, Alice Faber,
 Caroline Haycock, John Kingston, Thor Nilsen, Harold Schiffman,
 Andy Spencer, Roly Sussex, Michael Toolan, Larry Trask

Apparently, taps for /t/ and /d/ are far more widespread than I'd thought.
They're also found regularly in Australia and New Zealand, as well as
Ireland, which several people suggested as the possible historical source
of the tap in North American English. (Ah, my Irish ancestors would be
proud that their descendants have managed to preserve SOME cultural
heritage, along with St. Patrick's Day.) It is apparently found in some
regional dialects in England, as well.

The {GERRIM} spelling for 'GET HIM' that I found in James Herriot's book
was probably NOT a tap, but was a good approximant 'r', much like the /r/
in word-initial position in most dialects of English. That comes
from a number of people, including some from Yorkshire, where Herriot
lives. This is apparently limited to /t/'s after short vowels, possibly
just in word-final position when the next word starts with a vowel.
This may not have any connection to tapping (though the occurrence of two
different 'r'-like phones as a realization of /t/ in similar phonological
environments is intriguing).

The following two references were given to me:

Joe Wright (1905), English Dialect Grammar.

John Wells (1982), Accents of English, CUP.

Again, thanks to all who responded.

---joe stemberger
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