The American /t/ sound between vowels

darthnick

Member
Russia(Moscow) - Russian
Hi everybody!

I can't understand how is 't' pronounced in words such as 'better', 'matter', etc and also in cases like this one:

"He asked me to shu[t u]p"

When a word is ended with 't' and the next one is a vowel( I hope you've got what I mean )
To me, it sounds like 'd' sound or russian 'p'.
Can you explain me how to pronounce it in the right way?

Thank you
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    There is no single US pronunciation, any more than there is a single UK pronunciation. Depending on where the speaker is from, the pronunciation can vary widely -- for example, there are some American accents that do not pronounce the double "t" in such words as "bottle" at all, but instead change it into a glottal stop in the same way that some British accents do.
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    And others do turn it into the d sound -- bedder, madder, shuddup. But as far as pronunciation, we have many regional differences, enough so that it's often a little difficult to understand people from other parts of the country. There is no general American pronunciation, really.
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I just followed Panjandrum's suggestion and entered the word "twenty" and heard both the US and UK pronunciations--which are different from mine--native New Yorker. In this word we "neglect" to pronounce the "t" completely, saying "twenny."
    The word "kitten" is pronounced with a very soft glottal stop. Using the voiceless alveolar plosive--which we normally think of as the sound represented by "t," would be considered an overcorrection. dobes' comment is right on.
    I would suggest that you listen carefully to English radio and try to work it out for yourself.
     

    Voxy

    Senior Member
    Deutschland, deutsch
    ...
    I would suggest that you listen carefully to English radio and try to work it out for yourself.
    Also there are some great Podcasts available on the net.
    My favorite is ESLPOD written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuilln.
    It is almost ever a pleasure to follow his efforts to teach us
    Non-native speakers.;)

    Voxy
     

    tom_in_bahia

    Senior Member
    South Florida/Phoenix-Tucson/the Adirondacks. Native of North American English
    The VntV cluster seems to be more outside of NY, though, because though I grew up in Florida to parents from upstate NY, I noticed it occured in Florida and AZ (both states with heavy migrant populations from the Northeast/New England).

    Word initial T is aspirated:
    Tom, ten, tar
    Vowel medial T is a Tap/Flap:
    better, got to ("gotta"), muted
    Vowel medial with n (VntV) is not pronounced:
    winter (sounds like winner), counter, twenty
    Vowel medial with followed by a weak vowel plus n becomes glottal:
    button, cotton, mitten
    In the "tr" combination, the t turns into something like /tS/ (like in cheese):
    tree, buttress, entry
    Word final T after vowel becomes unreleased or even glottal (depending):
    but, it, parrot*
    Word final T after other consonants may be deleted or weakened:
    next, rest, fast**
    Word final -nt may cause the vowel to be more tense*** and nasal and the T to be unreleased or glottal:
    can't, rent, won't

    Afterthoughts:
    * - keep in mind that if the word that follows begins with a vowel, the tap/flap rule will apply
    ** - I can't remember the linguistic term for this, so I just said tense

    I would like to hear someone's thoughts on this who is more involved in the linguistics field than I am. I know that my family, being from the Adirondacks area of New York misses three big dialect groups: New England, New York/New Jersey, and Great Lakes. I don't know whether this would lead to an adoption of various phenomena from these other dialects, or because of isolation, and proximity to Canada, a rather Canadianesque dialect. As far as vocab goes, it's not very Canadian English, but then again, that area borders Quebec...thoughts? (Keep in mind I didn't grow up there).
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Hi everybody!

    I can't understand how is 't' pronounced in words such as 'better', 'matter', etc and also in cases like this one:

    "He asked me to shu[t u]p"

    When a word is ended with 't' and the next one is a vowel( I hope you've got what I mean )
    To me, it sounds like 'd' sound or russian 'p'.
    Can you explain me how to pronounce it in the right way?

    Thank you
    Others have suggested listening to examples of the sound, but that no more tells you how to pronounce the sound than listening to a French person say tu tells you how to say the "French u." To learn to pronounce it, you need to find discussions of the phonetics of the matter, and a good place to start is with the Wikipedia article "Intervocalic alveolar flapping."
     

    Hotu Matua

    Senior Member
    México, español
    As a Spanish speaker Mexican, I find easier to pronounce a middle "t" between vowel sounds as a full /t/, just as in many other languages.

    For example, better, butter, what a night (the "t" between "what" and "a"), etc.

    I understand that British people and other English-speaking people around the world do that, but Americans just utter the t to sound like a special kind of "Romanic r". Their "better" sound very similar to the way Spanish, Italian or Portuguese people would say berer.

    My question is, why in either American English Dictionaries or American/British Dicitionaries that depict both American and British pronunciations I consistently fail to find any reference at all concerning this American version of the "t" sound?

    I find both the British and American versions of all words, such as the "o" in "rope", of "a" in "dance", of the final "r" in "fair", etc. etc.

    By the same token, I would expect the American "t" between vowel sounds to proudly appear as an accepted variation. But indeed, the dictionaries ALWAYS represent this /t/ sound as though British and Americans would pronounce it the same way, which is obviously not true. In fact, that difference strikes every learner of the English language much more than slighter differences between vowel sounds (like the "o " in "hot").

    Why do Americans do not seem to accept their own version of "t" between vowel sounds?
     

    Hotu Matua

    Senior Member
    México, español
    I am an Spanish speaker, and I find it strange that dictionaries that depict both British and American pronunciation versions of a word, seem not to distinguish between the /t/ sound pronunced between vowel sounds at each side of the ocean.

    For English learners, this /t/ sound is one of the most striking differences between British and American pronunciations. Just consider common words and sentences as
    water
    better
    What a life!

    Why is this sound not represented properly in the phonetic translation of words that convey this sound?

    As per the dictionaries, it seems that "pretty" would be pronunced the same in Britain that in the USA, when this is obviously not true.
     

    TheAmzngTwinWndr

    Senior Member
    United States
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you mean that in AE the t's in these words are pronounced more like d's? If so, all I can say is that they should be pronounced with a 't' but for whatever reason in everyday speech this is not always the case.

    As for 'pretty' I think you mean that in AE it's pronounced more like "pritty" or "priddy". The pronunciation of the 't' is for the same reason as above. As for the 'e' I don't know why we pronounce it as an 'i'. I've actually wondered that myself, but that's just the way it is.

    n.b. I'm from Southern California so maybe this is just how we say it here, if you're from another part of the US feel free to correct me.
     

    Hotu Matua

    Senior Member
    México, español
    Well, the "tt" of pretty sounds radically different in Britain than in USA.
    The same with "butter", "better", "Betty" "What a day!" etc.

    Since I have not found any phonetic transcription of the American "t", I find no way to explain the sound, other than saying that "pretty" in USA sounds to a Spanish, Italian or European Portuguese-speaker as /priri/ while in the UK version is sound like a full /priti/.

    The American water sounds like /warer/ while the British sounds like /wate/ (of course, I am not considering here the final -er difference, or the somewhat different value of the "a": I am phocusing only in the "t" between vowel sounds).

    A similar case of a different "t" occurs in words like "party" or "Atlanta"(where the t is silenced completely in America to sound something like /pari/ and /Atlana/ for a Spanish ear, but fully /parti/ and /Atlanta/ when pronounced by a Brit)
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    I understand that British people and other English-speaking people around the world do that
    I think it's common for British and others to replace that t as a glottal stop, but I think this may be a non-prestigious pronunciation, so this will have to be confirmed by someone who knows.

    My question is, why in either American English Dictionaries or American/British Dicitionaries that depict both American and British pronunciations I consistently fail to find any reference at all concerning this American version of the "t" sound?
    I think the reason is that the pronunciation is automatic (or to use the technical term, allophonic) and speakers aren't necessarily aware of it, and so it's the "same sound" for those English speakers. It's similar to why dictionaries don't indicate the difference between the t in tall and the t in stall, which are also different. In a sense, it would be redundant to indicate that pronunciation here because that's how t is pronounced colloquially when it's in that position. That may be the reason.
     

    Hotu Matua

    Senior Member
    México, español
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you mean that in AE the t's in these words are pronounced more like d's? If so, all I can say is that they should be pronounced with a 't' but for whatever reason in everyday speech this is not always the case.

    As for 'pretty' I think you mean that in AE it's pronounced more like "pritty" or "priddy". The pronunciation of the 't' is for the same reason as above. As for the 'e' I don't know why we pronounce it as an 'i'. I've actually wondered that myself, but that's just the way it is.

    n.b. I'm from Southern California so maybe this is just how we say it here, if you're from another part of the US feel free to correct me.
    Thank you very much, you got my point.
    For you Americans sound like a d (for us, Spanish speakers, like our middle r). But the point is the same.
    Why American English Dictionaries or British/American English do not show this difference? They show the different version at every possible word.
    They show how the "o" in "hot" is different, or the "a" in "dance", or the final "-er" in so many words, etc.
    However, none of them points out the difference between this t sound.
    As a result, a reader of this otherwise excellent dictionaries would not have a clue to know that there is indeed a striking difference.

    And it is striking, since if I say "matter" with a full "t", in California, you will know inmediately that I'm not speaking an American version of your language.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Thank you very much, you got my point.
    For you Americans sound like a d (for us, Spanish speakers, like our middle r). But the point is the same.
    Why American English Dictionaries or British/American English do not show this difference? They show the different version at every possible word.
    They show how the "o" in "hot" is different, or the "a" in "dance", or the final "-er" in so many words, etc.
    However, none of them points out the difference between this t sound.
    As a result, a reader of this otherwise excellent dictionaries would not have a clue to know that there is indeed a striking difference.

    And it is striking, since if I say "matter" with a full "t", in California, you will know inmediately that I'm not speaking an American version of your language.
    I am quite puzzled by your conviction, HM. Many, many of my American friends pronounce these words with the "t" sound (and not the "d" sound mentioned by TATW nor the "r" sound mentioned by you). I agree that I have often heard these words pronounced with the "d" sound but I've probably been known to do that as well, when speaking quickly. It takes more effort and time to pronounce the "t" in "better" than it does to pronounce it "bedder".

    I've travelled extensively in the U.S., Britain and Canada and have honestly never had these differences leap out at me except in the sense that the vowels have as many pronunciations as you can imagine. If you ever visit the province of Newfoundland, Canada, be prepared to not understand anything you hear... "better" could be "bitter", "batter", "bidder", "badder", you name it.:)

    To sum up, I think that the AE pronunciation of the words you mention is a result of the speed with which the words are said and the regional accents. I also have a pet theory that enunciation is not really taught in school anymore (at least not here in Canada and, I suspect, the U.S.) and children are not corrected when speaking "lazily".
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    The t in tall is aspirated, i.e. accompanied by a puff of air, while the t in stall is not. You can actually feel the difference if you hold your hand in front of your mouth while you say the two words.
     

    tomandjerryfan

    Senior Member
    English (Canada)
    To sum up, I think that the AE pronunciation of the words you mention is a result of the speed with which the words are said and the regional accents. I also have a pet theory that enunciation is not really taught in school anymore (at least not here in Canada and, I suspect, the U.S.) and children are not corrected when speaking "lazily".
    I'm not sure, Dimcl. Even when speaking slowly, I still can't imagine myself stressing the "tt" in "better" so that it becomes a hard "t."

    If you click on the speaker icon in the wordreference, you can clearly hear the difference between the AmE pronunciation and the BrE pronunciation. According to the dictionary, BrE maintains the hard "t" sound in words such as better, letter, water, etc., whereas in North American pronunciation these words take on more of a "d" sound.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If I heard someone pronounce these words (better and matter in particular) with a voiced "d" rather than unvoiced "t", it would be one factor suggesting a US native. I don't think I would rely on it as a key indicator.
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    I'm not sure, Dimcl. Even when speaking slowly, I still can't imagine myself stressing the "tt" in "better" so that it becomes a hard "t."

    If you click on the speaker icon in the wordreference, you can clearly hear the difference between the AmE pronunciation and the BrE pronunciation. According to the dictionary, BrE maintains the hard "t" sound in words such as better, letter, water, etc., whereas in North American pronunciation these words take on more of a "d" sound.
    Agreed. We used to joke about that all the time.

    When my friends and me went to see "Harry Porter", we laughed everytime when the characters said something like water, matter, better, later.......

    And if we are trying to mimic the British accent, that's exactly what we do, stressing the "t" sound.
     

    Hakro

    Senior Member
    Finnish - Finland
    A bit more than a year ago we had a WR discussion about the American pronunciation of "t" or "tt" between vowels. I couldn't find the thread right now but I think it was on the English only forum.

    In my ears it sounds more like "d" than "r", but it's obvious that in American ears it sounds like "t". They (at least many of them) pronounce "better" and "bedder" (if there is such word) exactly the same way.
     
    I am an Spanish speaker, and I find it strange that dictionaries that depict both British and American pronunciation versions of a word, seem not to distinguish between the /t/ sound pronunced between vowel sounds at each side of the ocean.

    For English learners, this /t/ sound is one of the most striking differences between British and American pronunciations. Just consider common words and sentences as
    water
    better
    What a life!

    Why is this sound not represented properly in the phonetic translation of words that convey this sound?

    As per the dictionaries, it seems that "pretty" would be pronunced the same in Britain that in the USA, when this is obviously not true.
    Hey Matua,

    I "think", in America, it is still considered to pronounce those words (water, better etc...) with a "t" is correct therefore, pronouncing them with a "d" is seen , somehow, a regionalism or Americanism.

    But I do think you are right, I have never heard an American saying "water" with a "t", they all go "waaderr".

    But when they sing, if they have to divide the word into syllables, they pronounce the "t"s i.e. "little drops of waa..ter" because the second syllable begins with a "t".
     

    TheAmzngTwinWndr

    Senior Member
    United States
    Thank you very much, you got my point.
    For you Americans sound like a d (for us, Spanish speakers, like our middle r). But the point is the same.
    Why American English Dictionaries or British/American English do not show this difference? They show the different version at every possible word.
    They show how the "o" in "hot" is different, or the "a" in "dance", or the final "-er" in so many words, etc.
    However, none of them points out the difference between this t sound.
    As a result, a reader of this otherwise excellent dictionaries would not have a clue to know that there is indeed a striking difference.

    And it is striking, since if I say "matter" with a full "t", in California, you will know inmediately that I'm not speaking an American version of your language.
    I think the reason this difference isn't in the dictionaries is because it isn't supposed to be like that. "Water" should be pronounced as "water" not "wader", yet with an American accent, and I'm sure other factors, it comes out with a 'd' sound.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I think it's common for British and others to replace that t as a glottal stop, but I think this may be a non-prestigious pronunciation, so this will have to be confirmed by someone who knows.
    It's a regional or sociolectal pronunciation (cockney, and a couple of other accents). It don't think it's used by the majority of speakers.

    I have to say, Hotu, that sometimes when I hear Spanish speakers pronounce the intervocalic -t-/-d- the American way it doesn't sound quite right -- more like the Spanish "r" than it should be. Perhaps it's the elusive difference between a flap and a tap.
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    I can confirm that it's common in BE to replace "t" in words such as "butter" with a glottal stop. It is "non-prestigious", and I do it all the time!

    Edit: My post crossed with Outsider's. I would say that it is more widespread than "cockney" and a couple of other accents.
     

    TheAmzngTwinWndr

    Senior Member
    United States
    Well, the "tt" of pretty sounds radically different in Britain than in USA.
    The same with "butter", "better", "Betty" "What a day!" etc.

    Since I have not found any phonetic transcription of the American "t", I find no way to explain the sound, other than saying that "pretty" in USA sounds to a Spanish, Italian or European Portuguese-speaker as /priri/ while in the UK version is sound like a full /priti/.

    The American water sounds like /warer/ while the British sounds like /wate/ (of course, I am not considering here the final -er difference, or the somewhat different value of the "a": I am phocusing only in the "t" between vowel sounds).

    A similar case of a different "t" occurs in words like "party" or "Atlanta"(where the t is silenced completely in America to sound something like /pari/ and /Atlana/ for a Spanish ear, but fully /parti/ and /Atlanta/ when pronounced by a Brit)
    I'm not sure what you mean by saying 'pretty' sounds like 'priri' or 'water' sounds like 'warer' or 'party' sounds like 'pari'. I've never heard someone pronounce it like that, maybe it's a regional dialect? (though I doubt it).

    As for 'Atlanta' being pronounced 'Atlana', I think that just happens because it is easier to say 'Atlana' when speaking fast than it is to say 'Atlanta' and pronounce the 't'. The 't' dissappears because without it the syllables flow together easier and one doesn't have to slow down their talking speed to pronounce the 't'.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I'm not sure what you mean by saying 'pretty' sounds like 'priri' or 'water' sounds like 'warer' or 'party' sounds like 'pari'. I've never heard someone pronounce it like that, maybe it's a regional dialect? (though I doubt it).
    The person to whom you were replying said it sounded like "priri" and "warer" "to a Spanish ear." A Spanish r in such a position would be quite different from an English r. It's a tap (also known as a flap) and the symbol used for this sound in the International Phonetic Alphabet looks similar to a small r and may well have been derived from it. To see the IPA symbol, take a look at the Wikipedia article Alveolar tap. The Spanish word pero, for existence, has this sound, and it contrasts with the middle consonant in perro.

    I know of two dictionaries which show the contrast between British and American English on this subject. One is the Oxford English Dictionary, which in its more recent entries gives both a British and an American pronunciation. For example, the third noun entry for meter in the online OED, listed as "DRAFT REVISION Dec. 2001," shows /t/ for the British pronunciation, /d/ for the American. (I don't have a subscription to the OED, but I have a free subscription to the OED Word of the Day, and this sense of meter was a recent WOTD.)

    The other dictionary is the online Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. In a word such as butter it shows a /t/ in the British pronunciation, while the American has for the alveolar flap a /t/ with a mark underneath it which looks like an upside-down circumflex. I think it's odd that the OED didn't go for some such symbol, instead of using /d/.
     

    JeffJo

    Senior Member
    USA
    USA, English
    ... Why is this sound not represented properly in the phonetic translation of words that convey this sound?
    It probably is. You're probably looking in the wrong kind of reference book, for what you want. ;)

    What region of the U.S. are you referring to? That's important information you haven't mentioned yet.

    If you go to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, look up "water," and click the little speaker for the sound, what sound do you hear? That sound is factually a 't'. Do you hear it as a 'd'?
     

    cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    Nothing, but there is a difference between the t in tall and and water in American/Australian/Cockney speech.
    I'd be wary of saying that. I'm Australian and, depending on the position of the word within a phrase, I have often said the "t" sound in tall and water in an identical fashion. There are many Australians who actually speak quite precisely! I do, sometimes, say "warder", or something similar, but not all the time.
     
    If I heard someone pronounce these words (better and matter in particular) with a voiced "d" rather than unvoiced "t", it would be one factor suggesting a US native. I don't think I would rely on it as a key indicator.
    But in Northern Ireland, you are more likely to pronounce these words with "d" unlike many English and Southern Ireland natives.

    To sum up, I think that the AE pronunciation of the words you mention is a result of the speed with which the words are said and the regional accents. I also have a pet theory that enunciation is not really taught in school anymore (at least not here in Canada and, I suspect, the U.S.) and children are not corrected when speaking "lazily".
    I guess, some Canadians tend to pronounce these words with "t". Thus, they prefer Toronto over American Toronno

    I can confirm that it's common in BE to replace "t" in words such as "butter" with a glottal stop. It is "non-prestigious", and I do it all the time!

    Edit: My post crossed with Outsider's. I would say that it is more widespread than "cockney" and a couple of other accents.
    I also think the glottal stops are more widespread in England thanks to Estuary English. But replacing "t" in such words with a "d" also occurs in England. E.g. "Tony Blair : the Bridish people" . Ohhh, the new prime minister, Mr. Brown, is even worse (in terms of replacing t with a d, but...he is Scottish so that's not taken into account)
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    It's a regional or sociolectal pronunciation (cockney, and a couple of other accents). It don't think it's used by the majority of speakers.
    Thanks.

    I can confirm that it's common in BE to replace "t" in words such as "butter" with a glottal stop. It is "non-prestigious", and I do it all the time!
    I wasn't really happy with "non-prestigious" but I didn't know what to use. My only semi-regular exposure to British accents is BBC news and Coronation Street, so you can imagine how little I know of British English :D.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    It probably is. You're probably looking in the wrong kind of reference book, for what you want. ;)

    What region of the U.S. are you referring to? That's important information you haven't mentioned yet.

    If you go to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, look up "water," and click the little speaker for the sound, what sound do you hear? That sound is factually a 't'. Do you hear it as a 'd'?
    I listened to both pronunciation examples given. Neither has /t/. Both have a flap. In contrast, the British prestige pronunciation (Received Pronunciation) of water clearly has a /t/ sound.
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    I guess, some Canadians tend to pronounce these words with "t". Thus, they prefer Toronto over American Toronno
    Although Torontonians say "Traw-no" or a variation thereof :). Actually, dropping the t after n is very common in Canadian English, e.g. winter and winner are basically homophones for me in casual speech.

    But about the t in water, it's not just that it becomes voiced, it becomes a different kind of sound, a flap as has been said. I can understand saying it becomes a d only because a d also becomes a flap in those positions. Using the site the JeffJo mentioned, here are the pronunciations of

    metal
    medal
    tall
    medallion

    and I have pretty similar pronunciation but you can hear that the t of metal and the d of medal are the same sound which is quite different from the t of tall or the d of medallion.
     

    tomandjerryfan

    Senior Member
    English (Canada)
    I guess, some Canadians tend to pronounce these words with "t". Thus, they prefer Toronto over American Toronno
    I and many Ontarians would actually say "Turonno/Tronno." You rarely hear the second "t." The same happens with "Atlanta": we usually say "At-lanna."

    Water is generally pronounced "war-der" in Canadian English, though I'm not quite sure why we add an "r" besides the fact it's a bit easier to pronounce.
     

    HistofEng

    Senior Member
    USA Eng, Haitian-Creole
    I think it's amusing that they're are some Americans who really believe that they're pronouncing an actual "t" when they say words like "water"

    If anyone were to pronounce the "t(t)" in "utter" or "Minnesota" as anything but a flap (a "d") it would seem very peculiar to me, except perhaps when a word is being emphasized.

    Minnesota rymes with soda.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    <<Originally Posted by panjandrum
    If I heard someone pronounce these words (better and matter in particular) with a voiced "d" rather than unvoiced "t", it would be one factor suggesting a US native. I don't think I would rely on it as a key indicator.>>
    But in Northern Ireland, you are more likely to pronounce these words with "d" unlike many English and Southern Ireland natives.
    [...]
    You surprise me!
    This does not sound familiar to me, and the few sources I checked suggest that the softening of t to d is a North American, Australian, Scottish and Indian characteristic. However, I think they are all quoting an original Wiki entry HERE.
     

    Acrolect

    Senior Member
    German, Austria
    I think it's amusing that they're are some Americans who really believe that they're pronouncing an actual "t" when they say words like "water"
    It does not surprise me that much because it goes to show that mentally, the allophones (aspirated, semi-aspirated, unaspirated [t], flap, etc.) are indeed (to a certain extent at least) perceived as the same. IMHO, this is also the reason why it makes perfect sense to have a phonemic (rather than a narrow phonetic) transcription in dictionaries (even though some dictionaries semi-indicate variation with diacritics). EFL learners aiming for a specific accent will learn about the concrete realization differences elsewhere, esp. about the consistent and systematic ones (e.g. about the flapping of intervocalic /t/, or also about the different /r/ realizations).
     
    You surprise me!
    This does not sound familiar to me, and the few sources I checked suggest that the softening of t to d is a North American, Australian, Scottish and Indian characteristic. However, I think they are all quoting an original Wiki entry HERE.
    Hey,

    I have always thought that this is the case for the Scottish-Irish community in Northern Ireland.

    If you want to listen to this softening in Northern Irish speech, click here and choose "Find out about Kenny's mural". The text is here. He softens his t's into d in words like "selected, title, capacity, started" and he occasionally replaces his t's with glottal stops ( Musical Society, settled ).

    But the American softening is much more like so-called Spanish r
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    I was surprised by a Spanish student who often deals with Americans as part of his job. He insisted on pronouncing numbers in the American way because apparently the people he dealt with couldn't understand him when he clearly pronounced "twenty-three" or "thirty-four"! He had to say "twenny-three" and "thirdy-four" (the "d" sound is quite soft). Similarly, he would say "warder" (water) and "pardy" (party).
    Both American and British dictionaries give the "correct" pronunciation (the "t" sound is the "correct" one in both Britain and America). What the dictionaries can't do is reflect the many regional variations in pronunciation.
     

    Hotu Matua

    Senior Member
    México, español
    The person to whom you were replying said it sounded like "priri" and "warer" "to a Spanish ear." A Spanish r in such a position would be quite different from an English r. It's a tap (also known as a flap) and the symbol used for this sound in the International Phonetic Alphabet looks similar to a small r and may well have been derived from it. To see the IPA symbol, take a look at the Wikipedia article Alveolar tap. The Spanish word pero, for existence, has this sound, and it contrasts with the middle consonant in perro.

    I know of two dictionaries which show the contrast between British and American English on this subject. One is the Oxford English Dictionary, which in its more recent entries gives both a British and an American pronunciation. For example, the third noun entry for meter in the online OED, listed as "DRAFT REVISION Dec. 2001," shows /t/ for the British pronunciation, /d/ for the American. (I don't have a subscription to the OED, but I have a free subscription to the OED Word of the Day, and this sense of meter was a recent WOTD.)

    The other dictionary is the online Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. In a word such as butter it shows a /t/ in the British pronunciation, while the American has for the alveolar flap a /t/ with a mark underneath it which looks like an upside-down circumflex. I think it's odd that the OED didn't go for some such symbol, instead of using /d/.
    Thank you very much. This is what I needed.
    I needed to know whether there is a Dictionary that explicitly shows these differences. My references were the Oxford and the Longman Advanced Learner's dictionaries, in which no difference is shown.

    I am surprised that many American people do not realize that they are not, in fact, pronouncing a /t/, but an entirely different sound, claiming that "speed" is the cause of the phonetic phenomenon.
    Yet an educated person from Southern England talking at the same speed of an educated American would nevertheless pronounce the full /t/ sound. Speed is not the explanation. There is a different phonetic value going on here.

    I believe that editors compiling American English Dictionaries should assume this pronunciation with pride and sense of identity, and convey it in their books for learners of this beautiful language, just as they do for other phonetic variations.
    .
     

    ernest_

    Senior Member
    Catalan, Spain
    I have always thought that this is the case for the Scottish-Irish community in Northern Ireland.

    If you want to listen to this softening in Northern Irish speech, click here and choose "Find out about Kenny's mural". The text is here. He softens his t's into d in words like "selected, title, capacity, started" and he occasionally replaces his t's with glottal stops ( Musical Society, settled ).

    But the American softening is much more like so-called Spanish r
    It seems so. But in Scotland they tend to use full-fledged thrilled r's and alveolar flaps. Listen to these old chaps from Leith here, in voice clip 1. They clearly say "barry" the way a typical American would say "batty" in my opinion.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Thank you very much. This is what I needed.
    I needed to know whether there is a Dictionary that explicitly shows these differences. My references were the Oxford and the Longman Advanced Learner's dictionaries, in which no difference is shown.

    I am surprised that many American people do not realize that they are not, in fact, pronouncing a /t/, but an entirely different sound, claiming that "speed" is the cause of the phonetic phenomenon.
    Yet an educated person from Southern England talking at the same speed of an educated American would nevertheless pronounce the full /t/ sound. Speed is not the explanation. There is a different phonetic value going on here.

    I believe that editors compiling American English Dictionaries should assume this pronunciation with pride and sense of identity, and convey it in their books for learners of this beautiful language, just as they do for other phonetic variations.
    .
    I think American dictionaries don't show this as anything other than /t/ because from a phonemic standpoint, it is a /t/: It's a third allophone of /t/, the other two being the /t/ in top and the /t/ in pot. When representing pronunciations phonemically, which dictionaries aimed at native speakers do, there is no point in using three symbols for one phoneme.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hey,

    I have always thought that this is the case for the Scottish-Irish community in Northern Ireland.

    If you want to listen to this softening in Northern Irish speech, click here and choose "Find out about Kenny's mural". The text is here. He softens his t's into d in words like "selected, title, capacity, started" and he occasionally replaces his t's with glottal stops ( Musical Society, settled ).

    But the American softening is much more like so-called Spanish r
    Perhaps it is because I am a member of the Scots-Irish community in Northern Ireland that I don't hear the distinction in normal everyday speech here (I can't access the links through my firewall). On the other hand, I can very definitely identify the t->d softening in US speakers, which makes this rather a puzzle for me.
     
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