Intervocalic Voicing in English

Rick Mc Callister rmccalli at sunmuw1.MUW.Edu
Fri Apr 13 09:03:47 UTC 2001

	Intervocalic <-t-, -tt-> in US English is not just voiced,
something else is happening as well that gives it a tap /-r-/ quality
	I can't quite put my finger on it, but it seems that there may be
some sort of hiatus before the second syllable of <writer>, <rider> in
English pronunciation that's not present in the US pronunciation
	Regarding the different vowel quality of <writer> and <rider> cited
in descriptions of US pronunication. Is this possibly a conscious reaction
to the spelling? In rapid speech the difference is either minimized or
	Other minimal pairs such as <bitter> and <bidder> are pronounced
exactly alike in US English--at least to my ear.
	Does this phenomenon exist anywhere in English outside of North
America and Northern Ireland?

>        But the answer is ... maybe, depending on what you mean.  The idea
>that American English /t/ between vowels (the first one being stressed) is
>pronounced as [d] is to some extent a British mis-hearing.  In speech that
>is not too rushed, there is a difference in preceding vowel length between
>things like "writer" and "rider" that helps (not always enough) to signal
>the intended difference in (phonemic) voicing.  In any event, it is always
>possible to slow down and say "I meant [whatver it was]", so that to regard
>this as a case of neutralization, comparable to final devoicing (but in the
>other direction) is not appropriate.  (As far as I know, no amount of
>"citation speech" pronunciation will enable a German to say "tag" with [g]
>instead of [k].)  Technically or phonetically, the sound is voiced, but in
>terms of the phonemic signalling, it patterns like a voiceless sound, which
>indicates that speakers are thinking of it as a voiceless sound and that the
>voicing is, in a sense, accidental, the result of it being rather
>inconvenient to stop voicing for such a very small interval.

>Dr. David L. White

Rick Mc Callister
Mississippi University for Women
Columbus MS 39701

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