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I'm having a hard time figuring out the right placement and motions of the tongue when making this consonant. I watched a few videos on this topic. People say that in order to make the sound you don't want to be touching the roof of your mouth too much but you have to lightly bounce the tip of your tongue against the roof of the mouth. I have no idea how to do this. I tried doing it and I either touch the roof of the mouth too hardly and it sounds heavy and unclear or in effort to touch lightly, I end up accidentally pulling my tongue away and it doesn't even reach the place that it should. I would be really grateful for an explanation of what is that that tongue is doing when you make this sound. Thank you for the answers in advance!

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    Would it help to think of replacing it with a "d" sound? The difference between "ladder" and "latter" in American English is almost imperceptible even to native speakers, so if you can make that "d" sound you've basically got it made.
    – TypeIA
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 20:12
  • The way I hear it, the "t" in "letter", "city", "pretty", etc. (mid-word) is the same as the initial "t" ("temporary", "towel",...) but in the middle of the word, the "t" doesn't get such a powerful puff of air with it, so it sounds a lot more like a "d" (but not strongly voiced either, as an initial "d" would be ["dying", "dummy",...]). Try experimenting with speaking a "d" (like "ledder" or "ciddy"), but speak the words quickly without dwelling too long on that consonant, ... and see what it sounds like.
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 20:18

1 Answer 1

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The mouth motion in "better" or [ˈbeɾɐ] is called an "Alveolar tap" or an "Alveolar flap", as there are two different ways of producing the same sound.

The "Alveolar tap" approach involves briefly tapping the tongue against the gums just behind the upper front teeth, combined with a slight outward puff of air.

The tongue position in the middle of pronouncing a t

This diagram helps visualize the position of the tongue during the tap, if you are pressing your tongue and then releasing it, you are doing two motions instead of the single desired tapping motion.

The end result should be a sound that in many foreign languages is easily confused with the foreign language's 'r' sound.

The "d" sound is similar but generally doesn't tap the gums, the tongue often touches the upper teeth and is held until longer instead of being a single tapping motion.

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    Is this really right? The way I (native speaker) make those sounds ("d" and "t"), the tongue is in exactly the same position for both, and it is the puff of air that is different, explosively forcing the tip of the tongue away from its resting place in a "t", but gently pushing/squeezing it away in the (voiced) "d". No one has ever told me I am speaking incorrectly, or sent me into speech therapy during elementary school.
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 19:11
  • This tongue placement is not correct of English /t/, /d/ or /ɾ/ . The tongue touches only the alveolar ridge. It does not touch the teeth for these sounds, as it does, say, in French and Spanish. Also, this question is about the alveolar flap sound /ɾ/, not /t/ or /d/.
    – gotube
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 22:32
  • @gotube If you can find some sort of equivalent instruction, please provide a link and I'll gladly update the answer.
    – Edwin Buck
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 14:35
  • @EdwinBuck This page has enough info: alveolar flap
    – gotube
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 15:01

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