With all this in mind, the aim of this blog entry is to introduce another facet of the subject: different accents. Thanks to different accents found throughout the English-speaking world, the pronunciation of certain words changes radically. For example, let’s look at the practice of intervocalic alveolar flapping, or simply, ‘flapping.’ It’s a phonological process found in several dialects of English, but is most prominently displayed in North American and Australian English. In this process, the ‘t’ in certain words is pronounced like a ‘d’ before unstressed vowels and the syllabic ‘l.’ Examples like ‘butter,’ ‘water,’ ‘city,’ ‘bottle’ and ‘throttle’ come to mind. By this rule, word pairs like ‘metal’/’medal’ and ‘latter’/’ladder’ are pronounced the same.

However, when we turn to the next aspect of this topic, things become more complicated. Have you ever heard one of your teachers mention the words ‘glottal stop?’ Perhaps you have, and you already know what it is: a consonantal sound made by stopping airflow in the vocal tract. The glottal stop occurs in every dialect of English, but depending on the accent, the word in question can be pronounced differently. For example, in Cockney English, the words ‘butter’ and ‘water’ utilize a glottal stop, and the sound produced suggests a complete lack of the letter ‘t,’ and in its place, a break in the word.

The word ‘button’ presents a unique example, as it is pronounced with a glottal stop in almost every dialect of English (defying the guidelines of the flapping process in American English). As another example, ‘city’ is the complete opposite: in some dialects it’s pronounced with a glottal stop, in others the ‘t’ is pronounced as a ‘t,’ and in American English, as a ‘d.’

This piece has only briefly touched on the different phonetic and phonological phenomena at play in the English language, but hopefully it’s helped!    

A. Edstrom