Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 13:37:50 -0400
From: Jules Levin jflevin[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UCRAC1.UCR.EDU
Subject: Re: hypercorrect intervocalic /t/

At 01:11 PM 4/16/97 -0400, you wrote:
I watched a fourth grade play yesterday in which the teacher had taught the
children to enunciate clearly, which often means they're supposed to aspirate
words spelled t wherever they occur (a practice I abhor because it doesn't
sound like Am. Eng. anymore). So words like letter, better, getting all had
aspirated t. I felt a certain sense of triumph when one girl also used one
in "shadow."

This reminds me of a friend who pronounced Beethoven with a voiced flap, and
as I think about it, it seems that in that word the normal (for me) aspirated
t is really quite unique when not after a morpheme boundary (pretext,
pretense). Are there any other intervocalic aspirate Ts?

I think that stresses play a critical role. For some speakers/dialects (?)
/t/ is flapped only before an unstressed syllable. ('atom') At the other
end, everyone aspirates between unstressed and fully stressed: ('attend')
Compare the two t's in 'attitude'. In between there are variations. With
two unreduced vowels I generally do not have a flap, e.g., in 'atoll' I
venture a guess that your friend also reduces the 'o' in Beethoven to a
schwa. I once had a student in a ling class transcribe 'hotdog' as [h'ad[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]g]
When I checked, sure enuf that's how she pronounced it. By the way, similar
variation exists when /t/ is followed by an /n/: In my original Chicago
dialect I had a full aspirated [t] in 'enter' etc., but here is SoCal one
hardly ever hears it. I sometimes think there is a vestigial flap after the
/n/, but it is hard to hear. The minimal pair for most speakers would be
'enter' and 'inner' and they seem to have merged.

Jules Levin