pronunciation: "tw" sounds like "ch" in AE. [twelve; between]

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kewkiez11219

Senior Member
basic Chinese
Is it true that some Americans might pronounce the tw in "twelve" with a ch sound? Like, it's not often, but I would sometimes hear "be-ch-ween" instead of "be-tw-een". Sometimes, I would hear "ch-welve" instead of "twelve". I'm not sure if this is common, but do some Americans pronounce it this way?
 
  • apricots

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Is it true that some Americans might pronounce the tw in "twelve" with a ch sound? Like, it's not often, but I would sometimes hear "be-ch-ween" instead of "be-tw-een". Sometimes, I would hear "ch-welve" instead of "twelve". I'm not sure if this is common, but do some Americans pronounce it this way?
    We do this in New Jersey. It's also commonly heard in what are you doing? which becomes whachya doin?
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Not in my neck of the woods, either, nor among any folks I know in other parts of the country. Apparently some part of the state of New Jersey, according to Apricots, may be an exception, although none of my New Jersey acquaintances would say "chwelve" for twelve or "bechween" for between.
     

    apricots

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I think this is a case of people not being able to hear their own speech. It has to do with where you place the tip of your tongue to make the t sound. Further back and tw is realized as ch. Most Americans tend to have postalveolar pronunciations for t thus the ch sound when t must be pronounced and can't be switched to a glottal stop, n or d sound.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I could see where it does sound like a "ch", in particular in the case of "between".

    I also would agree with apricots, that when people do get sloppy in alveolar ridge placement, the "t" spot is very close to the "ch". Sometimes what's pronounced and heard constitutes a fine difference.

    For absolute correct pronunciation, they should differ.
     

    kewkiez11219

    Senior Member
    basic Chinese
    I think this is a case of people not being able to hear their own speech. It has to do with where you place the tip of your tongue to make the t sound. Further back and tw is realized as ch. Most Americans tend to have postalveolar pronunciations for t thus the ch sound when t must be pronounced and can't be switched to a glottal stop, n or d sound.
    What do you mean by "post-alveolar"? I searched it up, and it said "back of the alveolar ridge". I find it difficult to pronounce the ch or t sound if I were to put my tip of my tongue way back there. I could only touch it comfortably with the area behind my tip.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    I've heard it rarely from some people, but not from anybody consistently. For example, I still remember the first time I heard it, and it was from my sister when we were kids, but the reason I noticed & remembered it was that it wasn't normal, and I didn't hear it from her again after that.

    I think of it as a bit of over-extension of something else. There are three glide consonants in English, and the other two both cause a "ch"-like effect on "t", in "tr" and "ty". Technically, those would be a retroflex "t" and a palatalized "t", but they end up sounding like "chr" and "chy" to speakers of a language that has "ch" but doesn't count retroflexion/palatalization. So some people could get so accustomed to "t" becoming something like "ch" in those cases that they (momentarily) think of the conversion as applying before any glides, even though the third one, "w", wouldn't cause that by itself.
     

    kewkiez11219

    Senior Member
    basic Chinese
    I've heard it rarely from some people, but not from anybody consistently. For example, I still remember the first time I heard it, and it was from my sister when we were kids, but the reason I noticed & remembered it was that it wasn't normal, and I didn't hear it from her again after that.

    I think of it as a bit of over-extension of something else. There are three glide consonants in English, and the other two both cause a "ch"-like effect on "t", in "tr" and "ty". Technically, those would be a retroflex "t" and a palatalized "t", but they end up sounding like "chr" and "chy" to speakers of a language that has "ch" but doesn't count retroflexion/palatalization. So some people could get so accustomed to "t" becoming something like "ch" in those cases that they (momentarily) think of the conversion as applying before any glides, even though the third one, "w", wouldn't cause that by itself.
    In English, do "retroflex" t or "palatalized" t sound different from let's say a "standard, correct" t? Is there even a difference between retroflex t's and palatalized t's?
     
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    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    In English, do "retroflex" t or "palatalized" t sound different from let's say a "standard, correct" t?
    Yes. The difference is what makes English-speakers think of "ch" instead of "t".

    Is there even a difference between retroflex t's and palatalized t's?
    Yes.

    For a retroflex sound, you would curl the tip of your tongue up and back, touching the roof of your mouth behind the usual place for "t". This is very similar to the position for our "r" (curled up & back, just not quite touching), so it tends to happen when "t" is next to "r", such as in the words "try" and "train". (The same thing also happens to "d".)

    For a palatal sound, you would keep the tip of your tongue pointing forward, not up, and lift the part of your tongue behind the tip, touching (or almost-touching) the part of the roof of your mouth between where you would touch for "t" (alveolar) and "k" (velar). Palatalization is simply putting your tongue closer to a palatal position than it would be otherwise without becoming entirely palatal, or moving from a non-palatal position toward the palatal position during the production of the sound. Because the palatal glide/approximant is "y" in English ("j" in most other European languages and IPA), the effect is similar to adding a "y", so palatalized "ta" and "sa" turn into something like "tya" and "sya".

    Palatalization and retroflexion make a difference that English speakers can hear and must have been aware of as children to learn to do them, but we aren't normally aware of the difference later in life because our language thinks of palatalized and retroflex versions of alveolar sounds as still the same phoneme as the plain alveolars. But these effects make real differences in some other languages. Mongolian, some other members of the Mongolic family, and the Slavic languages distinguish palatalized sounds from non-palatalized, and Indic languages distinguish retroflex from non-retroflex. The Indic languages are an interesting example because most of them use Brahmic alphabets but Urdu uses the Arabic alphabet. Brahmic alphabets use completely separate letters for retroflex sounds and plain alveolar sounds, but the Arabic alphabet doesn't have letters for retroflexes at all, so Urdu indicates retroflexion by adding a diacritical mark above an alveolar letter.

    I am not sure what the "basic Chinese" under your name means, but Wikipedia tells me that retroflexion and palatalization don't make different phonemes in Cantonese, but retroflexion does in Mandarin. So you might already be familiar with some retroflex sounds, and just not have heard before how westerners describe them. I think I've caught some when listening to Mandarin, just based on hearing something that doesn't seem quite like the English sounds I know, something that made me unsure of what sound to call it. For example, there's a word that comes up in answer to yes-no questions, in which context it means "yes", and it sounds a bit like English "sure" or "sir" or "sear" but not quite any of those. I think it's 是. If you know what word I'm thinking of and its sound, then you might be able to say whether it seems to fit what we call a retroflex-S instead of a plain-S. Another possible example is in a word for "teacher" or "master" which I've seen transliterated as "sifu", "shifu", and even "srfu". 师傅?
     
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