In the previous post, I introduced the Flap T with the help of Jennifer’s video channel and I also mentioned Rachel’s and Mandy’s materials. It means that sound T can be pronounced as a soft D sound in specific situations (between vowels – or sound L and R, when it’s not stressed). T can be interesting in other occasions as well. You can hear something interesting when an American says these words: button, written, Clinton, mountain, fountain, sentence. In the dictionaries, you can see the “official” pronunciation of the “-ton”, “-ten” or “-tain” is /- tən/ or /-tən/ or /-tn/, but you can hear something else. This is called a glottal stop.
Glottal stop is a kind of noise that you also can produce. Let’s see how Mandy explains the glottal stop:
“Welcome to the glottal stop. The glottal stop is the sound in the middle of the word uh-uh. It is kind of a non-sound sound. I can't create a glottal stop by itself; it needs sounds around it or it doesn't sound like anything at all. Listen to uh-oh. Uh-oh. Do you hear that stop in the middle? Uh-oh.
A glottal stop occurs when the vocal folds are briefly closed. This can be a very difficult action to force because the vocal folds are way down in our throats. It is also really difficult to feel a glottal stop when it happens. When I teach the glottal stop in class, I work up to creating words.
Say the word oh-oh. Can you do it? Uh-oh.
Now try replacing the oh with an n sound. It will sound like uh-n. Can you do that? uh-n.
Now add a b sound to the beginning of the word. Button. Can you do that? Button.
That is how we say the word button, b-u-t-t-o-n. Now, I want to also note that I am not adding any vowel between the glottal stop and the n sound, even though there is an o spelled there.”
You can listen this lesson and also you can read the transcript here.
“The letter t is pronounced as a glottal stop /ʔ/ (the sound in the middle of the word uh-oh) when it follows a vowel, n sound, or r sound (including all r-controlled vowels) and is followed by an n sound, schwa+n sound, m sound, or non-syllablic l sound.
The glottal stop is transcribed as /ʔ/.”
I have to tell you again that the glottal stop is not mandatory, but it’s important to recognize. I have to add that even British people also produce glottal stop but rules are different. This is the very first British English video that I have referred to. Pay attention how the British English sounds. It’s also nice, but I still prefer American English.
How is it symbolized? Generally even the dictionaries don’t show glottal stop. The IPA symbol is /ʔ/ so the word button can be pronounced as /ˈbʌʔn/. The Longman Dictionary of American English uses another symbol. Let’s see the word button: /ˈbʌt˺n/. In my opinion, in order to symbolize glottal stop is better with /t˺/ rather than with /ʔ/. Why? The symbol /ʔ/ can be confusing if someone is not very familiar with IPA symbols. Considering /t˺/ symbol, what can happen? If someone is not familiar with this, he or she probably will say a 'T' sound. As I told you earlier, saying the “True” T sound rather than the Glottal stop is totally acceptable.
I also recommend Jennifer’s
and Rachel’s videos on this topic.
Well, we have one additional part about tricks of American T sound, but beforehand I hope I can post the interview with Kate.
Kate was very kind to review this blog post. She’s still searching for new students on her Italki profile.