Date: Sun, 8 Sep 1996 12:10:56 -0400
From: "M. Lynne Murphy" 104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA
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?