203: When /t/ sounds like /d/ during linking: alveolar stop

/'aʊ t̬əv/: Most learners recognize the /t̬/ in the pronunciation of 'little' but how about in "out‿of"?


Happy new year, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 203rd episode.

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Let's get on to today's topic.

Many of our students at Seattle Learning Academy are already aware of the quick d sound Americans often use in place of the t sound in words like 'little,' and 'water,' and 'meeting.' However, many of those same people don't realize that the same changing of sounds can occur when linking from one word into another in English. An example of this is linking the word 'out' into the word 'of.' Listen closely as I say these words together: out‿of, out‿of.

If I had said those words with a regular t sound, it would have sounded like 'out‿of, out‿of.'

Listen to the difference. First, here's the normal American way of saying it, using the quick d sound: out‿of. And now here's a slightly more awkward pronunciation with a fully aspirated t sound: out‿of.

Another example is 'start' linking into 'over': start‿over, start‿over.

If I said it with a fully aspirated t sound, it would sound like 'start‿over.' Because the rest of my English accent is American, if I went around saying 'start‿over,' people might think I'm acting rather pretentious or even snobby.

This weird d-like sound in place of the regular t sound has a number of names in the world of pronunciation. The linguistic term we use on Pronuncian.com is alveolar stop.

Just like when the t sound is pronounced as an alveolar stop within words, there are rules for when to pronounce a t sound as the d-like alveolar stop when linking from it into another word. First, the final sound of the word you're linking from has to normally be a t sound. I mean, if you looked the word up in a dictionary, it would show it as being pronounced as a /t/.

Then, it depends on the sounds before and after the /t/ when deciding how that /t/ will be pronounced. If the sound before the /t/ is a vowel sound or an r-controlled vowel, and the first sound of the next word is a vowel sound, the /t/ will be pronounced more like a d sound.

The two examples I used above follow these circumstances. In the 'out‿of' example, the sound before the /t/ was the vowel sound 'ow' and the first sound of the word 'of' is also a vowel sound. Just like within words, a /t/ between vowel sounds will be pronounced as an alveolar stop when linking.

In the example of 'start‿over,' there was the r sound of the r-controlled vowel before the /t/, and the /t/ was followed by the long o sound of 'over.' Because of this combination, the link is pronounced more d-like than t-like: start‿over.

Some more examples from the Pronuncian lesson on this topic are the following. I'll say the example, then give time for you to repeat after me:


The free linking lesson, which I'll like to from this episode's transcript page, also has an example sentence with each phrase. You can find the transcript for this episode by going to pronuncian.com, that's p-r-o-n-u-n-c-i-a-n.com and clicking the podcast image on the homepage. Then click episode 203.

If you want more linking practice, you can subscribe to Pronuncian.com and you'll get an entire additional exercise of alveolar stop practice, plus all the other linking exercises we have. If you prefer to practice with a PDF ebook and MP3 audio, you can buy the Linking eboo. You can find details about that on Pronuncian's products page.

Now, remember that special I mentioned at the beginning of this episode? If you'd like to purchase a copy of our Linking ebook or any other ebook from Pronuncian.com or if you'd like to sign up for one-on-one pronunciation lessons with one of Seattle Learning Academy's specially trained pronunciation teachers, you can get 15% off your purchase or tuition for the month of January. Just use the coupon code "Happy2015" on Pronuncian.com or Seattlelearning.com. That's "Happy2015." You will get 15% off your entire purchase of books, ebooks, or classes.

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