190: From 'wait time' to 'snack time'

Linking different stops is a bit harder than linking same and similar stops.


Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 190th episode.

In our last episode, I talked about linking same and similar stops. I'm going to stay on the topic of linking stops today and talk about how to link combinations of stops that is a bit harder. If you don't know what I'm talking about, please go back and listen to episode 189. If you haven't heard that podcast yet, this one might not make a lot of sense to you.

So, it's not terribly difficult to link from a t sound into another t sound, as in the phrase "wait time." My vocal tract doesn't need to move at all to go from one word to the next. Similarly, my tongue also doesn't move if I'm going from a g sound into a k sound, as in the phrase "dog catcher." I'm just transitioning from a voiced g sound into an unvoiced k sound.

However, if I want to link a k sound into a t sound, as in the phrase "snack time," my tongue needs to move quite a bit. Put the phrase "snack time" into your mind and hold it there for a bit while we talk about what happens during this phrase. For the k sound at the end of the word "snack," the back of the tongue is high and the tip is low. Then, for the t sound at the beginning of the word "time," the back of the tongue drops as the front of the tongue lifts. And It needs to be done while making the k sound very small.

How do I make the k sound very small? I make it small by not aspirating it very much. That is, the puff of air that leaves the mouth at the end of the k sound should be minimal. That's because it's at the end of the word. Then my tongue moved into the t sound, stopped the air normally, and released it with a full unvoiced sound aspiration. Why does it get a full aspiration? Because it's the the first sound of the the word. All that movement and careful aspiration needs to happen very quickly.

All links between different stop sounds are created this way: the release of the final sound of the first word is very small and the release of the first sound of the second word is bigger. If the first sound of the second word is an unvoiced stop, it will be biggest of all.

All of this information is available, with a nice graphic, if that's how you learn, on the Pronuncian website. I'll link to that free lesson from this episode's transcript page. Pronuncian subscribers have an additional practice exercise for twice the muscle-memory-building fun.

To get you started, let's practice now. I'm going to say a phrase that links different stops, then I'll give you time to repeat it, then I'll say the phrase in a sentence and then, again, give you time to repeat it.


  1. snack‿time: Snack‿time is at 3:45.
  2. should‿be: Tim should‿be here any minute.
  3. old‿building: It's a beautiful, old‿building.
  4. stop‿crying: The baby won't stop‿crying.
  5. big‿deal: It's not such a big‿deal.
  6. like‿to: I'd like‿to go along, too.
  7. work‿together: It takes time to learn to work‿together.
  8. awake‿during: How do nurses stay awake‿during night shifts?

Those sentences and a couple more are on the free lesson, so if you'd like to practice specific sentences again and again, you can. (And) don't forget, you can help support Pronuncian and get extra practice by signing up for a Pronuncian subscription. Just go to www.pronuncian.com/join.

That's all for today, everyone. This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn. Thanks for listening. Bye-bye.