Date: Sun, 8 Sep 1996 12:10:56 -0400


Subject: Re: American accent: nasal

well, we have a tendency to glottalise our 't's at the ends of words,

so "not" comes out [na?], a fact that amazes and confuses south


It's not just final consonants. I had a Russian professor once (a

Russian) who said that Americans were very difficult to understand

because of the way many sounds are dropped or just fall. For example,

instead of saying 20 is twenty, we say it's "twunne". The t loses all

cohesiveness and becomes unintelligible. Both vowels drop to a form

requiring less articulation...

well, i was just responding to the example you've given, but [t] acts

funny in many contexts in american english. as you note, it gets

assimilated to [n] in some contexts, dropped altogether in others

(e.g., _next_ -- nex in some dialects and registers), gets flapped

in words like _butter_ and _water_, and replaced with a glottal stop

in mitten and britain (for many people).

i'll bet anything (well, anything cheap) that similar things happen

in russian--sounds dropping out or changing in fast or casual speech.

(think of french, e.g., where _je te_ becomes "sht".) what differs

from language to language and dialect to dialect is what can drop

from where, and so when moving into a language/dialect you're less

familiar with, you're unable to predict where things will drop and

therefore less able to recognize words when casually said by a native


again, i think a lot of the continental stereotypes of american

speech come from contrast with british speech, but it's not the case

that the americans are dropping sounds all over the place while the

british aren't--they just drop different sounds (e.g., [r] and lots of

vowels as in diction'ry).

perhaps someone out there could recommend a book that summarizes the

key idiosyncrasies of american pronunciation?