[Ads-l] super-relaxed pronunciations of "pretty"

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Sat Aug 10 00:45:16 UTC 2019

No question is uninformed.  Eli, welcome to ads-l, and as you've

seen, its members are certainly willing to help if they know the


Gerald Cohen

Missouri University of Science & Technology

Message from Eli Bishop <this at ERRORBAR.NET>
Sent: Thursday, August 8, 2019 10:29 PM
Subject: Re: super-relaxed pronunciations of "pretty"

Geoffrey, Mark, and Tom: Thanks very much for answering my uninformed =
question! That's all very helpful.


> Date:    Wed, 7 Aug 2019 09:52:18 +0000
> From:    Geoffrey Nathan <geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU>
> Subject: Re: super-relaxed pronunciations of "pretty"
> The pronunciation that you are referring to, where the sound =
represented by the =E2=80=98tt=E2=80=99 in the spelling is not =
pronounced, is normal American English =E2=80=98casual speech=E2=80=99. =
The fact that the =E2=80=98t=E2=80=99 and =E2=80=98d=E2=80=99 sounds in =
English are pronounced something like a quick =E2=80=98d=E2=80=99 sound =
is covered in all elementary linguistics texts. American English (and =
also Australian and some Irish dialects) have this sound (called a =
=E2=80=98tap=E2=80=99 or a =E2=80=98flap=E2=80=99, depending on your =
linguistic tradition), which occurs when either the =E2=80=98t=E2=80=99 =
sound or the =E2=80=98d=E2=80=99 sound follows an accented vowel and =
precedes an unaccented one:
> =E2=80=98city=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98Betty=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98later=E2=80=99=
, =E2=80=98wider=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98cider=E2=80=99 etc.
> Also
> =E2=80=98potato=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98incubator=E2=80=99 etc.
> What is not mentioned in those texts is that in some very common words =
and phrases the flap can be omitted. The most common word in which this =
happens is =E2=80=98pretty=E2=80=99 used as an adverb (=E2=80=98pretty =
good=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98pretty much=E2=80=99). But you can also hear it =
in =E2=80=98Saturday=E2=80=99, for example.
> It=E2=80=99s also important to emphasize that this pronunciation is =
not caused by =E2=80=98speed=E2=80=99, but rather by a choice to sound =
casual. There are instances where people speak very quickly without =
using this kind of casual speech process, and others where people speak =
slowly and still drop =E2=80=98t=E2=80=99s, omit schwas (=E2=80=98every=E2=
=80=99 pronounced =E2=80=98evry=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98banana=E2=80=99 =
pronounced =E2=80=98bnana=E2=80=99 etc.)
> Finally, I should point out, for completeness sake, that this account, =
where I describe one sound as becoming another, and then yet another, is =
disputed by some linguists who believe that each pronunciation is stored =
separately. The facts being described, however, are not in dispute.
> As you note, this =E2=80=98flapping=E2=80=99 does not occur in most =
British dialects, where the =E2=80=98t=E2=80=99 sound is replaced =
instead with a glottal stop. But that=E2=80=99s a whole =E2=80=98nother =
> Geoff
> PS Feel free to contact me offlist if you=E2=80=99d be interested in =
reading more about these issues, and I can point you towards some basic =
readings on the topic.
> PPS There are a few other environments where flapping occurs that I =
have omitted, such as =E2=80=98capacity=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98positive=E2=80=99=
> Geoffrey S. Nathan
> WSU Information Privacy Officer (Retired)
> Emeritus Professor, Linguistics Program
> http://blogs.wayne.edu/proftech/
> geoffnathan at wayne.edu
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of =
Eli Bishop <this at ERRORBAR.NET>
> Sent: Wednesday, August 7, 2019 1:21:03 AM
> Subject: super-relaxed pronunciations of "pretty"
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header =
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Eli Bishop <this at ERRORBAR.NET>
> Subject:      super-relaxed pronunciations of "pretty"
> =
> Hi! I'm new to the list, and I hope it's the right place for this kind =
> of question.
> I was recently asked to help someone understand some English dialogue =
> that had some phonetic dialect spellings. The phrase that puzzled him =
> was "perwel"... which was this character's way of saying "pretty =
well." =3D
> Now, to me this was obvious: when I read it out loud, it wasn't that =
far =3D
> from how I sometimes catch myself slurring those words if I'm in a =3D
> hurry. But my friend is British and apparently he'd never heard =
anything =3D
> like that. And the writer was an American expatriate in England, =3D
> originally from Pennsylvania (like me).
> So basically I'm wondering=3DE2=3D80=3D94since I've lived in different =
parts =3D
> of the US=3DE2=3D80=3D94what the regional distribution and history of =
this =3D
> pronunciation might be, and also if there's a technical term for it.
> Specifically, what I'm referring to is a kind of slurring together of =
> the word "pretty" where the tongue just vaguely gestures toward making =
a =3D
> T or D sound, but doesn't really do anything of the kind; there isn't =
a =3D
> glottal stop either, just a slight jog where a consonant would be. The =
Y =3D
> gets soft-pedaled as well. So the result is somewhere in between =
"pri'y" =3D
> and "purty" or even "purrih." This would generally be in a not very =3D
> meaningful phrase like "pretty well" or "pretty much" that's being =
said =3D
> quickly, becoming more like "per'well" or "per'much."
> Thanks in advance for any insight.
> best,
> Eli=3D

> Date:    Wed, 7 Aug 2019 09:51:50 -0400
> From:    Mark Mandel <markamandel at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Re: super-relaxed pronunciations of "pretty"
> Geoffrey's explanation here is accurate and appropriately thorough. To
> elaborate slightly on his PPS: In his examples there, as well as in =
> main discussion, the affected sound  also precedes an unaccented =
> And though my expertise is no match for his, I believe that this =
> applies in all those "other environments" as well.

> Date:    Wed, 7 Aug 2019 14:55:09 +0000
> From:    Tom Zurinskas <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Re: super-relaxed pronunciations of "pretty"
> The letter "t" in US English is often spoken as ~d in the middle of =
words or glottalized (~ ' ) at the end of words (not so much in UK)
> The VOA has a public domain Beginner's Dictionary of 1,500 words with =
no pronunciation guide.  I have added one with truespel phonetics which =
also shows these alternative pronunciations for "t" .    I believe no =
other dictionaries recognize this pronunciation fact, which I believe is =
more prevalent than not for "t" in US speech.  Also, the second half of =
the dictionary has the phonetic word first.  So you can look up "knee" =
under the sound ~n  ~nee instead of "k" "knee".  A needed thing I think.
> Learn truespel in a few minutes  https://justpaste.it/truespelsimply   =
Truespel is free.  I believe truespel should be used for phonetics-first =
reading instruction as a far simpler approach than phonics, while it's =
based on phonics.  see https://justpaste.it/truetutorial
> Tom Zurinskas,
> Originally SWConn 20 yrs,  college Tenn 3,  work NJ  33,  now FL 17.
> truespel phonetics free converter and  tutorials - http://truespel.com =

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