Aspiration of p,t,k

Discussion in 'Nederlands (Dutch)' started by Sevensky, Jan 24, 2011.

  1. Sevensky Member

    I've read that in Dutch the /p, t, k/ sounds are without aspiration.
    I have no idea if 'a p sound without aspiration' = 'an unaspirated p sound'

    You know they say that in Mandarin there's both aspirated and unaspirated p, t, k sound.
    But when I hear that Dutch words like 'piet' 'kat' , they were more like a aspirated p k t sound
    than unaspirated in Mandarin. Or they are like that p t k sound usually in English.

    So what's wrong? Just my ears not sensitive enough or there's anything wrong with my understanding?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 24, 2011
  2. killerbees Senior Member

    Philadelphia, PA
    English [US]
    I think your ears are actually more sensitive to it than you think.

    The simple answer: p, t, k are unaspirated, meaning that very little air to no air is released from your mouth when producing them. In English these consonants are always aspirated when they begin a syllable, i.e. when you say the word 'potato' while holding your hand over your mouth you will feel a puff of air hit your hand.

    The slightly more complicated answer: It depends a lot on the speaker and the language. I've definitely heard Dutch speakers who release more air than others when pronouncing those consonants, especially initially. But I've also heard just as many (if not more) who don't. Also, I would add that I hear more aspiration in the voiceless plosives (which is what p, t, and k are) in Dutch and French speakers than Latin American Spanish speakers. In any case, to give you some sort of "bottom line" I would say that I've never heard a Dutch speaker produce as much air as an English speaker when making those sounds.
  3. Joannes Senior Member

    Belgian Dutch
    I agree with everything killerbees said.

    Note by the way that speakers of Dutch aren't trained to hear the difference either since to them there is no phonemic difference between aspirated/unaspirated. In that sense, speaking with aspirated plosives may only be noticed as a "strange feature of someone's speech" rather than a wrong sound. And I'm sure most learners of Dutch have some "strange features in their speech" :D so if you're a beginner, it's not really something to lie awake worrying about at night. ;)

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