Linking the voiceless "th" sound with the voiced "th" sound

Vibrato

Banned
Greek
Hello. When we link the voiceless "th" sound to the voiced "th" sound or vice versa, we don't change the position of our tongue before making the second "th" sound, right?

For example when I say "Start with the first one", after making the "th" sound in the word "with", I should immediately make the "th" sound in the word "the" without changing the position of my tongue, right? I mean I should keep my tongue between my teeth when there is a voiceless "th" sound and there is a voiced "th" sound after it or vice versa, am I right? After making the first "th" sound, without any change in the position of the tongue between the sounds or without any pause at all, I should immediately make the second "th" sound, shouldn't I? So I should first put my tongue between my teeth for the first "th" sound and blow the air for making the voiceless sound, and then without any pause at all, by keeping my tongue between my teeth, I should make the voiced "th" sound right away shouldn't I?

Another example: "Smooth three by LeBron James". When you pronounce the "th" sound in "smooth", you put your tongue between your teeth and vibrate your vocal cords, then right away, without any pause - any change in the position of the tongue, you blow the air for making the voiceless "th" sound in "three", right?
I was just not sure, so I wanted to open this thread.
 
Last edited:
  • much_rice

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Don't worry, Vibrato, it's not that complicated in actual speech. I don't think anyone's vocal cords are fast enough to make the change, so the voicing of the first "th" sound will carry through to the second, or the first sound will be distorted in anticipation of the second. By the way, unvoiced "th" is sometimes called thorn by English philologists, and the voiced "th" called edh (pronounced with its own sound). These are the names of Old English letters.

    In Start with the first one, I'd pronounce both with the unvoiced "th." Even though "the" is normally voiced, I just can't make the transition fast enough. Often it doesn't even sound like there's a consonant there: /Start with 'e first one./

    In Smooth three by LeBron James, I'd pronounce both as unvoiced, as if anticipating the "th" in "three." In this case, it sounds like /Smoo' three by LeBron James./

    I do not know the actual "rule" for this, if there is one. My guess is that it won't sound weird either way. You could probably voice both or leave both unvoiced when they go together like this.

    I'd only make the distinction if I were speaking very slowly and clearly, or if there were some kind of pause: "Start with... the first one."

    (NB: Some dialects of English pronounce "with" as if it ended in an edh and not a thorn.)
     

    Bongone

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    I would also pronounce both as unvoiced.

    I wonder, though, whether it might be more like:...start wi’ the first one.
     

    Vibrato

    Banned
    Greek
    I didn't know that there was any difference in tongue placement between the voiced and unvoiced interdentals (the "th" sounds). I think the only difference is vocal cord vibration?
    Yes, there is no difference between the placements of your tongue. What I mean is, right after making the first "th" sound, should my tongue leave its place and then go back to its place again for making the second "th" sound? I think that, my tongue should stay between my teeth.
     

    Bongone

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    I didn't know that there was any difference in tongue placement between the voiced and unvoiced interdentals (the "th" sounds). I think the only difference is vocal cord vibration?
    I feel there is quite definitely a difference in tongue placement. Saying with the at normal conversational speed the tongue doesn’t take the interdental position it would if I were just saying with. It somehow anticipates the more palatal placement of the.
     

    much_rice

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Yes, there is no difference between the placements of your tongue. What I mean is, right after making the first "th" sound, should my tongue leave its place and then go back to its place again for making the second "th" sound? I think that, my tongue should stay between my teeth.
    Ah, now I see what you mean. No, you don't have to retract your tongue.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I pronounce with with a voiced consonant normally anyway. And so with the is voiced for me.

    If I had to say both the, I do switch from the voiceless to the voiced consonant. No change in the tongue or any other position.
     
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