Aspiration

This is a video tutorial on aspiration (and the lack of aspiration) in various languages and accents of English.


5 replies
  1. Ivetta
    Ivetta says:

    Hi Geoff, your videos are excellent and very clear. I am still coming to terms with pronouncing a stressed “t” as the Russian “ц”. I do have to say that “back in the day” my teachers did get across the message that the English “t” was not dental. I also decided to check out what Nabokov sounded liked in English, and here is what I found, this right up the way of this video: he reads the first lines of “Lolita” which describe how the tongue moves pronouncing the name, and the “t” is dental, which makes sense given that protagonist is an immigrant in the U.S.A. from some European country. https://youtu.be/p3fsSL4Bw9w?t=40s Thought you would like this literary passage on phonetics.

    Reply
    • Geoff Lindsey
      Geoff Lindsey says:

      Hi Ivetta. Thanks for the link to the clip, which I’ve never seen. After listening to Nabokov, I think your ‘immigrant’ interpretation is probably right. But when I read the passage decades ago, I thought it might just be artistic license. Note that American linguistics had a tradition of referring to t and d in English ‘broadly’ as dental. Eg Bloomfield in his classic Language (1933) wrote about stops/plosives:

      English distinguishes three types as to position: labial (more exactly, bilabial)… dental (more exactly, alveolar, or better gingival)… and velar

      I’ve never heard anyone else call English t and d ‘gingival’!

      Reply
  2. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    I’m non-native, and I’ve got a few questions. When the [t] is in a stressed syllable, is it aspirated and, at the same time, affricated? I’ve learnt long ago that the [s] sound cancels the aspiration of [t], in words like “stop”, “stone”, “station”, etc, and does the same to [p] and [k], but does it cancel the affrication as well? Is the [t] always affricated when unstressed? Is there any environment that cancels both the aspiration and affrication of [t]? Does the [d] have any sort of affrication as well, in words like audience and audio?
    I also noticed that there’s two ways of pronouncing words like “trap”, “drama”, “trick”, etc, you may pronounce as /ˈtɹap/ or /ˈtʃɹap/, and /ˈdɹɑːmə/ or /ˈdʒɹɑːmə/, is that right? Does it have anything to do with regional accents, or is it just a matter of one of the pronunciations being more formal and the other more relaxed?

    Reply
    • Geoff Lindsey
      Geoff Lindsey says:

      Thank you for these excellent questions.
      1. Yes, I’d say that affrication can be seen as an addition to aspiration. Aspiration involves the activity of the larynx: the persistence of voicelessness (an open glottis) into a following vowel. Affrication of /t/ involves the activity of the tongue: release from closure into a fricative. These two things can and do occur together. From a practical point of view, I often get learners to focus on the added [s]-type sound, and aspiration comes ‘for free’.
      2. Yes, I’d say that in /s/-clusters the affrication is generally cancelled or reduced. Yes, some affrication can be heard in /d/ as in ‘dale’ as well as in /t/ as in ‘tale’. I would expect the plosive in ‘dale’ to have more affrication than the plosive in ‘stale’ (which nonetheless is more like the /d/ in ‘dale’ than the /t/ in ‘tale’). I don’t know if anyone has done measurements of affrication in all these contexts.
      3. Yes, you’re right that many speakers (in both BrE and AmE) have /tʃr/ and /dʒr/ rather than /tr/ and /dr/, thus bringing these into line with /ʃr/ as in ‘shrink’ (English lacks /sr/ clusters, which is why English speakers tend to say ‘Shri Lanka’). I think it’s more generational than regional or stylistic, with /tʃr/ and /dʒr/ being the newer/younger pronunciations. Dictionaries generally don’t show this yet, but they’ll have to acknowledge it soon. We intend to include it as a variant form in CUBE when we have time!

      Reply
      • Thomas
        Thomas says:

        Thank you for your answers, Geoff.

        I have just a few more questions, if you don’t mind:

        I’ve been listening to the lady voice in the Google Translate UK, and it seems to me that when the English ‘t’ is preceeded by an ‘s’, it becomes dental. I still don’t believe it becomes a ‘d’, as in ‘Sdation’ or ‘Sdand’, but it seems to sound more like the ‘t’ in my native language, where it is dental. That might be the reason why it cancels the affrication and aspiration. And that happens perhaps because when the tongue is in the ‘s’ position it becomes difficult to pronounce a non-dental ‘t’, since the ‘s’ is an alveolar fricative (though the tongue doesn’t touch the alveolar ridge), staying in that position to pronounce a non-dental ‘t’, with a type of ‘s’ sound on it seems awkward. It’s like pronouncing two ‘s’ sounds one after the other. What do you think?

        Now, when I pronounce words such as ‘audio’ or ‘audience’ with my native dental ‘d’, which produces a very clean ‘d’ sound, I dunno why, but I tend to sound foreigner. If there is a bit of affrication on the English ‘d’ sound, does it mean you would have an added ‘z’ kind of sound? Is the English ‘d’ perfectly dental?

        Now about the ‘FOOT’ vowel, is it just a schwa pronounced with the lips rounded? Is it really standard for all SSB speakers? I’m asking this because the British Library says it’s a female thing. So just to make sure.

        Reply
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