Pronunciation of 'to' and 'two'.

Ben Jamin

Senior Member
Polish
Listening to spoken English I notoced that both native English speakers, and second language speakers use a pronunciation sounding like "tyuu" or "tjyuu". It seems to me that this pronunciation is taking over the ground.
What is the origin of this pronunciation? What English dialect it comes from? Where is it dominant, and where not used?
Can anyone answer?
 
  • shawnee

    Senior Member
    English - Australian
    I suppose in some corner of the world someone might sound like that, but I aint erd em; let alone all native English and second language speakers.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    At least in Britain, "tune" is /tju:n/ and "tube" is /tju:b/, but "to" and "two" are definitely /tu:/, with no palatalisation.
     

    Sprache

    Senior Member
    English/inglés
    Practically every Brazilian I've ever met pronounces two as choo. Could this be because the sound /u/ in most major English dialects is more fronted than the cardinal /u/ that is found in many other languages, including Portuguese and I suspect Polish? I've always assumed that the more central position of English /u/ sounds different to Brazilian Portuguese speakers from their own back vowel /u/, and in an attempt to say it, they produce something that sounds like /tʃɪʊ/.
     

    pollohispanizado

    Senior Member
    Inglés canadiense
    At least in Britain, "tune" is /tju:n/ and "tube" is /tju:b/, but "to" and "two" are definitely /tu:/, with no palatalisation
    Agree. Here, in Canada, word initial /tu/ can be palatized or not, it depends on the word and the speaker (it could be that the palatized pronounciation is viewed as more proper by some). I always say Tuesday /'tu:zdeɪ/, but I have known people (also born in my city) that say /'tʃu:zdeɪ/ (almost never /'tju:zdeɪ/).

    To is always /tu/ or, waaay more commonly in informal speech, /tə/; and two is /tu:/ or /tuʊ/, but never /tju/ or /tʃu/.
     
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    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hello! Listen to this on Forvo: "Two" Pronunciation by mmdills22 (Female from United States).
    There are many recordings with similar pronunciation from American speakers.
     

    pollohispanizado

    Senior Member
    Inglés canadiense
    Hello! Listen to this on Forvo: "Two" Pronunciation by mmdills22 (Female from United States).
    There are many recordings with similar pronunciation from American speakers.
    She says /tʰuʊ/ with heavy aspiration. The /tʰ/ is very alveolar --almost postalveolar or slightly retroflexed--, but not palatized.
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    That vowel is actually very far from [tʰuʊ]: [uʊ] sounds something like this (Danish). This is the phenomenon known as 'oo-fronting' or 'fronting of the goose vowel' etc. It's typically described for British English (rampant in London) but seems to be at least equally as common in American English, and way more standard. The first vowel is in the environs of [ʉ] (Swedish) and [ɯ] (Japanese), then closing towards an [w].

    This phonetic study excerpt finds that this fronting is especially strong after coronal consonants (t, d, n). There's a map on the third page showing areas where it's most extreme in purple. To the non-natives who are unaccustomed to it, the result will sound like either an /iw/ or a /ju/ depending on their native tongue. The natives note this pronunciation using ew, as in kewl = cool.

    This coupled with aspiration (even not that heavy) is what makes it sound extremely close to [t͡ɕ] as in Polish ciu and BR-PT tiu. This is evidently what's happening with Ben Jamin and all those innumerable Brazilian Portuguese speakers.

    I want to stress that the "non-fronted" pronunciation of /uw/ is already miles away from the cardinal u of Italian, Polish or German and starts in a lax and centralised vowel [ʊ].
     
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    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    If I am speaking emphatically, as in "I saw him going to the beach, not coming from the beach" or "I asked for two shots of tequila, not one" I pronounce both words the same way: /tu/.
    In "let's go to the beach" and when counting quickly, 'to' and 'two' both become /tə/.
    'Schwa-ized' 'two' and emphatic 'to' are unusual, though.
     

    Ellis91

    Member
    Welsh & English
    I think tə might be the phonetic realization in quick speech, even if the speaker thinks they're going for tu. Incidentally, I think a lot of native English speakers tend to underestimate how often they're reducing unstressed vowels to a schwa.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    She says /tʰuʊ/ with heavy aspiration. The /tʰ/ is very alveolar --almost postalveolar or slightly retroflexed--, but not palatized.
    I did not say that the T has to be palatalized. I wrote bout 2 possible realizations: as "tyuu", very long with a "y" consonant after /t/, and as "tjuu", with a "ch" sound instead of /t/.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    This is the phenomenon known as 'oo-fronting' or 'fronting of the goose vowel' etc. It's typically described for British English (rampant in London) but seems to be at least equally as common in American English, and way more standard.
    I associate this phenomenon with the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, most common around the Great Lakes.
    I want to stress that the "non-fronted" pronunciation of /uw/ is already miles away from the cardinal u of Italian, Polish or German and starts in a lax and centralised vowel [ʊ].
    Where I live, the "long oo" sound is [ʊu̯] except before an unstressed syllable, where it is [u].
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I did not say that the T has to be palatalized. I wrote bout 2 possible realizations: as "tyuu", very long with a "y" consonant after /t/, and as "tjuu", with a "ch" sound instead of /t/.
    What you described is palatalisation. I agree with what others said before: neither to nor two is ever palatalised. I also agree with @Sobakus that the aspiration of /t/ can be perceived as palatalisation, depending on the native language of the listener.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    I think @Ben Jamin means that they don't mean that the consonant needs to be palatalised either as a co-articulation [tʰʲ] or as a full-on [t͡ʃ] sound. What they're wondering about is a separate segment /j/ that they hear regardless of how the initial /t/ is articulated. My explanation is that what they hear is diphthongisation of the vowel + fronting of the first element. They interpret the fronted first element of it as /j/, and they hear two segments because they expect a single monophthong [uː] or at least a smaller articulation swing between the two parts of the diphthong.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    What they're wondering about is a separate segment /j/ that they hear regardless of how the initial /t/ is articulated.
    Whom do you mean by "they"? I don't quite understand. Who hears /j/?

    Everbody (including me) says it is plain /tu/ (British /tu:/) without /j/, without jodation, without palatalisation or anything of the sort.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Ah, OK. I still think what he hears is just the aspiration of the /t/. A very forcefully pronounced aspiration can sound a bit like [ç].
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    The sound Ben Jamin is talking about, e.g. Forvo: "Two" Pronunciation by mmdills22 (Female from United States), is a diphthong beginning somewhere around [ɪ] and ending somewhere around [u]. Ben Jamin hears it as a rising diphthong (second element more prominent), but it is actually a falling diphthong (first element more prominent). Were it a rising diphthong, the onglide would be interpreted in English as a /j/, but since it is a falling diphthong, we English speakers recognize the diphthong as a variety of "long oo". In my particular dialect, "long oo", when not realized as a simple [u], begins near [ʊ], not [ɪ], but I hear the other variety a lot on the radio and from my Michigan relatives.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Thank yuo Forero, that's what I was pointing out when I said:
    To the non-natives who are unaccustomed to it, the result will sound like either an /iw/ or a /ju/ depending on their native tongue. The natives note this pronunciation using ew, as in kewl = cool.
    Since in Polish and Portuguese there are only rising high+high vowel diphthongs, they naturally hear this as rising. Early Modern English similarly merged /ew~iw/, /ju:/ and /u:/, prototypically into /juw/ but the outcomes differ not just by region but even by word (cf. Toosday, nooclear, due = do etc). Though seeing as the latter phenomenon appears to be restricted to the coronals also (t, d, n), it could be secondary to and resulting from the fronting that we're discussing.
     
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    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    1. It seems that this kind of pronunciation is not frequent in British English, at least in accents similar to RP.
    2. I have been used to British pronunciation of Tuesday as /tjusdɘj/, and New Yorkish "toosday" (/tusdɘj/)
    3. The pronunciation is often copied by non natives, who realize the 'two/to' word with a clear palatalization of the 't'.
    4. The pronunciation of 't' in Tuesday is palatal in many native English accents, and the speakers use the same pronunciation for two as the beginning of Tuesday.
     
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    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank yuo Forero, that's what I was pointing out when I said:

    Since in Polish and Portuguese there are only rising high+high vowel diphthongs, they naturally hear this as rising. Early Modern English similarly merged /ew~iw/, /ju:/ and /u:/, prototypically into /juw/ but the outcomes differ not just by region but even by word (cf. Toosday, nooclear, due = do etc). Though seeing as the latter phenomenon appears to be restricted to the coronals also (t, d, n), it could be secondary to and resulting from the fronting that we're discussing.
    So, it is correct that in American accents there is a diphtong after 't'?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    So, it is correct that in American accents there is a diphthong after 't'?
    That depends on the context. In particular, it depends on how fast the person is talking, whether the vowel in question is stressed, and whether the next syllable is stressed.

    It also depends on what the vowel phoneme is, but I assume you are still asking about the vowel of "two", "food", and "soon", which I know by the traditional name "long double o".

    When "long double o" is a diphthong, the first element predominates, and exactly what that first element is varies from place to place within the U. S. and may also depend on the age and sex of the speaker, among other things.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    That depends on the context. In particular, it depends on how fast the person is talking, whether the vowel in question is stressed, and whether the next syllable is stressed.

    It also depends on what the vowel phoneme is, but I assume you are still asking about the vowel of "two", "food", and "soon", which I know by the traditional name "long double o".

    When "long double o" is a diphthong, the first element predominates, and exactly what that first element is varies from place to place within the U. S. and may also depend on the age and sex of the speaker, among other things.
    Thank you! This was the answer that at least partly corroborates my observations.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    So, it is correct that in American accents there is a diphtong after 't'?
    Without a doubt, the goose/who vowel is not a monophthong in any typical English accent, but the degree of fronting of the first element varies. Contrast Hungarian and Icelandic; Faroese has a very fronted diphthong, but unlike English the first element is peripheral/tense. The fronting is found in some of the more trendy accents in both the US and Britain, though; and I don't share your impression that many non-natives confuse two and tue-. As others mentioned, this is primarily a peculiarity of Brasilian Portguese speakers.
     
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