Intervocalic Voicing in English

Eduard Selleslagh edsel at
Wed Apr 18 02:47:35 UTC 2001

At 16:18 10/04/01 -0500, you wrote:
>>> I cannot off the top of my head think of any examples from English

>>   Would an example from English be the voicing of intervocalic /t/, in the
>> speech of many in the US, in words such as "butter"; as against the
>> voiceless /t/ in the speech of many in the UK?

>        I meant examples of dialect mixture, not intervocalic voicing.
>        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

[Ed Selleslagh]
It may be another case of mis-hearing, but I (a non-native English speaker
very familiar with spoken Boston English) hear a difference between the t
(pseudo-d) of 'writer' and the d of 'rider': the d sounds more emphatic,
heavier to me. I don't hear the difference in vowel length.
I just submit this for what it's worth (1/2 cent?)

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