pronunciation: "th" -- the, that, those [AE, American]

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Niko Bellic

Member
Polish - Poland
Hi, guys. I'm from Poland and I've been arguing with my brother (who has been living in Ireland for a few years now and he got used to the Irish accent) how to pronounce the words with this "th" sound, such as "the", "that" and "those". I have more like an American accent and all the Americans that I've heard pronounce this sound almost like /d/. My brother says it's not correct and that he clearly hears the "θ" sound like in British English.

So, my question is - can I pronounce words such as "that" as /dat/? Is it correct or not really? No one at my university complained about my pronunciation. Do all the Americans really pronounce it this way or I just have a really bad hearing? I know there are different accents of English, but regardless of the accent, I always hear /d/ when Americans say it.

Thanks for your replies!
 
  • JustKate

    Senior Member
    It's correct in some dialects, but it's not correct in mine and it's not correct in lots of others either. I think you're safer to stick to the same th-sound you hear in British English.
     

    Seusomon

    Member
    English - US
    It's a voiced dental spriant in most AE dialects: /ð/. Neither a stop /d/, nor voiceless /θ/. (I don't think you'll hear θ in British English either, in most contexts.) The words "this" and "thistle" begin with different sounds. Pronouncing it /d/ will definitely stand out. I hear that in some Native American accents here in the southwest, some southern dialects, some urban dialects. The TV show _Saturday Night Live_ many years ago had a recurring skit with Chicago guys talking sports at a bar, where a big part of the joke was that they called their teams "DUH Bears", "DUH bulls". So stick with /ð/ unless you are sure that the accent you are trying to fit in with does something different.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    It is worth noting that the /ð/ and /θ/ sounds in Irish English are not the same as in British English, but neither are they the same as in AE.
    In Irish English the /ð/ tends to /d/ and /θ/ tends to /t/.
     

    Gargamelle

    Senior Member
    It's a voiced dental spriant in most AE dialects: /ð/. Neither a stop /d/, nor voiceless /θ/. (I don't think you'll hear θ in British English either, in most contexts.) The words "this" and "thistle" begin with different sounds. Pronouncing it /d/ will definitely stand out. I hear that in some Native American accents here in the southwest, some southern dialects, some urban dialects. The TV show _Saturday Night Live_ many years ago had a recurring skit with Chicago guys talking sports at a bar, where a big part of the joke was that they called their teams "DUH Bears", "DUH bulls". So stick with /ð/ unless you are sure that the accent you are trying to fit in with does something different.




    "d" or "t" for "th" is definitely a non-standard dialectical variation in AE. It's common in African-American dialects, and yes, in Chicago dialects, and others I'm not familiar with. It's also a feature of foreign accents. If you want to sound more native in the US, it's best to pronounce the "th" as "th" and not "d" or "t."
     
    Last edited:

    Seusomon

    Member
    English - US
    I was referring to the specific examples given in the original post. All of those are voiced. Because those examples were selected, I assumed the OP knew that there are both voiced and voiceless "th".
     
    "d" or "t" for "th" is definitely a non-standard dialectical variation in AE.:thumbsup: It's common in African-American dialects, and yes, in Chicago dialects, and others I'm not familiar with. It's also a feature of foreign accents. If you want to sound more native in the US, it's best to pronounce the "th" as "th" and not "d" or "t."
    I agree, and will go a bit further and say that many if not most Americans regard this trait as something comical to the ear, even if they in some instances regard it with a certain affection because it is so non-standard. Brooklyn comes to my mind, also.:)
     
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