pronunciation: "scare" sounds like "sgare"; "school" sounds like "sgool"

drinkwater

Senior Member
Taiwanese Mandarin
I have a long-time question: when native English speakers say "scare", it always sounds to me like "sgare"; and so does "school" to "sgool".

Why is that? Can anyone explain it to me? Thanks for the help.
 
  • JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    Well, those words don't sound like that to me. My guess is that what I hear as a "k" sound (skare, skool), you hear as a "g" sound. No doubt there are sounds in Mandarin that would sound different to me than they do to you. Just as you have to teach your mind and tongue to speak a new language, you also have to teach your ear to hear the language the way natives do, and that's hard.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have a long-time question: when native English speakers say "scare", it always sounds to me like "sgare"; and so does "school" to "sgool".

    Why is that? Can anyone explain it to me? Thanks for the help.
    When I was learning to pronounce European Spanish I became aware of this aspect of English pronunciation. I had to avoid it by speaking much more distinctly.

    In many languages there is a much clearer distinction between voiced and unvoiced consonants than in English. We tend to overlap the voicing where others don't.

    Yes, you are hearing it and yes that is the way we speak!
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    The sounds represented by "c" and "g" are both "velar stops," "g" being voiced, "c" unvoiced. When an unvoiced consonant is followed by a vowel, it can acquire a bit of the vowel's voicing thus making a "c" sound like a "g.'
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I have a long-time question: when native English speakers say "scare", it always sounds to me like "sgare"; and so does "school" to "sgool".

    Why is that? Can anyone explain it to me? Thanks for the help.
    You're absolutely right, drinkwater! When I was a small child, I always wondered why we spelt words like "stop" with a "t": it sounded exactly like a "d" to me.

    I'm sure there are previous threads - I'll see if I can find them...:)

    EDIT - Here's one: p pronounced as b in "speech" and "stupid" I see I made the same point in that thread about my confusion as a child, only there I was talking about my confusion over why "speech" should be written with a "p" rather than a "b". It's exactly the same issue:D
     
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    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    In English the phoneme /k/ in initial position is aspirated, like Chinese k, phonetically [kh]. After /s/ it loses its aspiration and is more like Chinese g, phonetically [k].
     

    Rival

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    If the words "sgare" and "sgool" existed, the 's' would naturally be voiced, ahead of the voiced 'g' -- so they would sound like zg- not like sk-.

    Initial sg-, whether voiced or unvoiced, is a very unusual combination in English -- I won't go so far as to claim that it doesn't exist, but the Concise Oxford on my bookshelf jumps straight from sfumato to shabby.
    .
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Initial sg-, whether voiced or unvoiced, is a very unusual combination in English -- I won't go so far as to claim that it doesn't exist, but the Concise Oxford on my bookshelf jumps straight from sfumato to shabby.
    .
    In pronunciation terms, it certainly exists, to my mind: it's just a convention that we write "Scot" rather than "Sgot".

    EDIT: the thread I linked to before goes into a lot more detail about the pronunciation issue:).
     
    Last edited:

    Rival

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    In pronunciation terms, it certainly exists, to my mind: it's just a convention that we write "Scot" rather than "Sgot".
    In another language I speak, initial 'sg-' is relatively common, so I am quite accustomed to saying it. However, the muscles in my throat do different things and go into different positions depending on whether I'm saying sc- or sg-.

    I asked the person who is here with me to listen to my pronunciation and see if there is an audible difference, but she is trying to go to sleep, and refused. :eek: :rolleyes: I'll ask again tomorrow.
    I'll read the other thread now.
    .
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    If the words "sgare" and "sgool" existed, the 's' would naturally be voiced, ahead of the voiced 'g' -- so they would sound like zg- not like sk-.

    Initial sg-, whether voiced or unvoiced, is a very unusual combination in English -- I won't go so far as to claim that it doesn't exist, but the Concise Oxford on my bookshelf jumps straight from sfumato to shabby.
    .
    The Oxford English Dictionary itself has s'gad, marked as obsolete with no pronunciation shown, and sgraffiato and sgraffito, with pronunciation beginning with /sg/. The previous version (Second Edition, 1989), also available online, showed them as being not yet naturalized--preceding the word with the symbol ||--but the current version does not use that symbol for those words. (I wonder if it uses that symbol for any current entries.)
     

    MarcB

    Senior Member
    US English
    I have to say in my version of English the g sound does not exist. I tried to pronounce it and I had two friends do it also.
     

    Thelb4

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I can certainly hear a difference between "scare" and "sgare" when I say it aloud. When I say "sgare", it sounds like I have a bunged-up nose (because this makes me transform all voiceless stops into voiced stops, so 'k' becomes 'g' and 't' becomes 'd').
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo, Rive.

    ... the muscles in my throat do different things and go into different positions depending on whether I'm saying sc- or sg-.

    The the muscles in your throat are the vocal cords (or bands). When you say "scare" /skɛə/ the cords do not vibrate for the pronunciation of "sc" and start vibrating only when you say "a". When you say "sgare" I suspect you'll actually tend to say "zgare" /zgɛə/ due to the influence of the voiced sound "g" on the initial sound "s", which becomes voiced by assimilation. If this is the case, then your vocal cords will start — and continue — to vibrate throughout the whole word.

    All the best.

    GS
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I can certainly hear a difference between "scare" and "sgare" when I say it aloud. When I say "sgare", it sounds like I have a bunged-up nose (because this makes me transform all voiceless stops into voiced stops, so 'k' becomes 'g' and 't' becomes 'd').
    I still maintain there is a difference. We don't really pronounce 'scare' with a full 'g' sound. It is intermediate between 'c' and 'g'.
     

    hihao

    New Member
    Chinese
    Good to learn!!!
    For Chinese speakers, because they learned Pin-yin first. In Pin-yin, [g][d] are voiceless -- for example, Gege, "Brother" in Chinese.
    School -- fo Chinese speakers, the [k] sounds like a voiceless [g]. It is the reason. However, for English-speakers, they won't think it sounds like [g] because without a vibration.
     
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