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This is the IPA for "better": /ˈbet̬.ɚ/

What's the little arrow mark under the "t"?

Is it emphasis? Or something else?

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It's a diacritic sign which indicates that the sound is voiced.

You might have noticed that in American English, a t is pronounced something like a d (voiced) when it's flanked by vowels in an unstressed syllable. So better sounds like bedder. However, that is not exactly a d, but something called an alveolar flap, represented by [ɾ] in the IPA.

Dictionaries don't often use IPA and writing a d in transcriptions can be confusing at times, therefore they write a small caron diacritic under the symbol to indicate that it's voiced.

  • better → [ˈbɛɾɚ] or [ˈbɛt̬.ɚ]
  • water → [ˈwɑːɾɚ] [ˈwɑːt̬ɚ]

I think it's partly because the voiced sound is an allophone of /t/ and is not exactly a /d/.

We also have a voiceless diacritic, a small circle. For instance, '... shoes for...' could be transcribed as [...ʃuːz̥fə...], the z gets devoiced in anticipation of the following voiceless sound (f).

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  • Although it's not identical to /d/, my understanding is that most Americans also flap their "d"s in the same position. – rjpond Dec 9 '20 at 6:35
  • @rjpond: Yes. Most flap their r's too. It's really a single sound [ɾ], but I guess Dictionaries use [t̬] for convenience. CED uses /d/ for 'reader'... they're inconsistent too. – Void Dec 9 '20 at 6:37

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