American English, flapping, Stress, syllabification


The phonetic context in which word-medial flaps occur (in contrast to [th]) in American English is explored. The analysis focuses on stress placement, following phone, and syllabification. In Experiment 1, subjects provided their preference for [th] or [ɾ] in bisyllabic nonce words. Consistent with previous studies, flaps were preferred before stressless syllables and [th] before stressed syllables, but the following phone also exerted a small degree of influence. Experiments 2 and 3 tested whether [th] or [ɾ] are associated with a particular syllable position in bisyllabic words. They demonstrate that [th] is favored in onsets, while [ɾ] is not consistently placed in either the onset or coda, nor is it generally ambisyllabic. These findings contradict analyses that posit syllable division as a conditioning factor in the appearance of [th] versus [ɾ]. Experiment 4 examined the pronunciation of 480 multisyllabic words from the TIMIT corpus. VCV was seen to favor [ɾ], while VCV favored [th]. In addition, flaps tend to be followed by syllabic sonorants and [th] by tense vowels. Because the following phones that influenced [th] and [ɾ] in Experiment 4 differ from those that were significant in Experiment 1, more research is necessary into the effect that following phones have on the appearance of [th] and [ɾ].

Original Publication Citation

2008.“The Phonetic Context of American English Flapping: Quantitative Evidence.” (with David Eddington).Language and Speech 51.3, pp 245-266.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



SAGE Publications







University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor

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Linguistics Commons