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What is it called when a person pronounces the letter t in the word "metal" as something more similar to a d sound? And what is it called when a person stresses the t in the word "metal" to be more clearly like a regular t than like a d (like the difference between how an American says "metal" and how an Englishman might say that word)?

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The phenomenon is known as "flapping", and the result, transcribed as [ɾ], is a "flap". It also applies to /d/, but people notice it most when applied to /t/ since the result is more different compared to /d/. You might call is a "fast d".

If an American were to say [mɛtʰəl] very carefully, that could be called hyperarticulation, that is, aiming to stop a rule of the language from applying by slowing your speech down. I have learned to suppress flapping when I am eliciting linguistic data from people who don't speak American English, they get confused if I pronounce "metal" or "medal" ordinarily. It is generally difficult for Americans to suppress flapping. If you're asking what it's called when British English speaker don't flap, that's just "talking", there's no term for not applying a rule that is not in your dialect.

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Flapping applies to intervocalic syllable offset alveolar stops. This formulation assumes some things that are less than obvious. For one thing, it assumes that syllabic and glide r count as vowels, to account for flapping in such words as "dirty" "barter" ?"cortical". And that the off-glides of diphthongs also count as vowels: "routing" "boating" "goiter".

Another assumption: syllabic resonants r, l, m, n are derived from phonemic forms with preceding vowels, which have been lost: "border", "little", "bottle", "bottom", "button" (this last only in dialects where the t does not become glottal stop).

It's also assumed that intervocalic consonants before unstressed vowels belong to the syllable of the preceding vowel. The t of your example "metallic" is in the wrong syllable to be flapped, since t is in the syllable of the following stressed vowel.

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    I like your explanation since you've explained the pronunciations of words like 'party' and 'dirty', they also have flap t. My impression is that; the 't' becomes weak and is influenced by the preceding 'r' sound so it sounds like flap t. But now it's clear. I've heard that American 'r' is more like a vowel. Is that true? – Joyful Sadness Apr 8 at 10:07
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    @DecapitatedSoul Yes, I agree that flapping is a weakening process. It is one of several weakening processes which affect syllable offset consonants. It is also assimilatory, since it changes t d from obstruents, which are naturally voiceless, into sonorants, which are naturally voiced, The surrounding vowels that are required for flapping are also sonorants. – Greg Lee Apr 8 at 11:58
  • Thank you for your explanation. – Joyful Sadness Apr 8 at 13:28
  • Some people think that the 't' in 'party' disappears and becomes r sound (in AmE) but I disagree with that because I can hear the stop sound in 'party'. If the 't' disappears it becomes 'parry' which is very different than 'party' (having the stop sound). – Joyful Sadness Apr 8 at 13:31
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    @DecapitatedSoul So you don't like "pahrry of the first part", but how about "durry ol' man"? Deletion of the flap resulting from t is possible for some of us, but it requires a whole new level of sloppiness. It might happen only in drunk speech, and is less likely for erudite words, like "vitamin", "barter". – Greg Lee Apr 10 at 7:01
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The phenomenon you're talking about is called T-flapping (and its opposite is, I suppose, the absence of T-flapping).

Many Americans pronounce the /t/ and /d/ sounds ("alveolar stops") as something linguists write as [ɾ] (an "alveolar flap") when they come between two vowels. Most Brits don't do this.

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  • "T-flapping" is not a great name, since all three alveolar stops flap in the relevant dialects, t, d, n. Not just t. – Greg Lee Apr 7 at 23:41
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    @GregLee True, but OP was asking specifically about /t/. – Draconis Apr 7 at 23:54
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Yes the comments above have summarized this perfectly. It is a type of flapping..

'water'

=

wader in some American dialect. This is a flap also.

wa'er in Cockney dialects with a glottal stop.

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