Tom:Urgent Request (Regional Accents)

Ameer   Sunday, August 17, 2003, 12:31 GMT
According to your experience, is there any problem to follow any of the 'American Regional Accents'?
In my case, I have started to learn English pronunciation since I read your article at 'Antimoon' on "How to learn English pronunciation".
In that article, you mentioned that I have a choice between British English and American English, and I have chosen to follow the American Accent because I like it very much. But as you know, that in many areas in the USA, the American ‘t’, when not the initial consonant in a word, is pronounced closer to a ‘d’, and in some cases can disappear altogether. Thus latter and butter sounds more like ladder and budder, and words like twenty and dentist can sound like twenny and Dennis. The question is: Can I learn to follow the Standard American Pronunciation with the exception of the standard sound of 'T' (I can move the 'T' sound towards 'd' in an excellent way)? Or, I should follow the exact standard one (with the standard 'T' only? I want to take your advice because I trust your experience very much! Given that I'm just an intermediate learner of English and I think that you noticed that because of my bad writing! And what about your accent Tom? Is it regional or a standard one? Thank you very much.
Ryan   Sunday, August 17, 2003, 21:27 GMT
Do not say "twenny" and "dennis" for "twenty" and "dentist." I'm an American and I'm telling you that you will sound uneducated if you pronounce those words that way. An apology to any Americans who talk that way, but from my general experience most Americans with a university education pronounce the second t's in those words.

I would try to pronounce the "t" if I were you. If you try to pronounce it as a "d" you are most likely to overdo it and people will think your accent sounds strange. The American t is a cross between a t and a d and is tricky for foreigners to do. No one will think you are strange if you pronounce the t sound in "bottle" exactly like a normal t. It is just a more formal way of speaking.

mjd   Sunday, August 17, 2003, 21:35 GMT
I agree completely with Ryan. While these t's may sound like d's to foreigners (and I have to admit, when I listen to my accent, they can be rather close at times), Americans can hear the distinction. It's best to just imitate an accent as it sounds and not try to dwell on t's turning to d's etc. If you pronounce them clearly, everyone will understand you and you don't run the risk of overdoing it.
wingyellow   Monday, August 18, 2003, 05:54 GMT
In soap opera Friends, all five friends except Ross pronounce dentist, santa as denist and sana. Ross is an educated character. So I think Ryan is very correct.
Ryan   Monday, August 18, 2003, 07:50 GMT
Yeah, try and sound as educated as possible and people in English-speaking countries will think more highly of you when you speak English.

Kiwi   Monday, August 18, 2003, 09:14 GMT
The d vs t thing depends on who you're talking to, what word you're saying, which word is next to it and how fast you're talking. I would just not worry about it, it comes naturally.
Ameer   Monday, August 18, 2003, 12:36 GMT
Hi guys, According to your point of views that all people who pronounce the 'nt' as 'n' are not educated, but I have heard to the VOANews (Voice of America) for one year and I have noticed that the majority of the correspondents, journalists, and presenters who introduce a television or radio programmes pronounce the 'nt' as 'n' in many words such as 'international' and 'pentagon' and so on, and I think that all of them must be educated! Or what is your definition to the word 'EDUCATED'?
Ameer   Monday, August 18, 2003, 14:09 GMT
I forgot to say that many senior officials in the American Adminstration pronounce the 'nt' as 'n' too!!
Tom   Monday, August 18, 2003, 16:15 GMT
The "flap t" is a standard feature of American Pronunciation. Nothing regional about it. If you pronounce a regular "t" instead of the flap T, you will sound different from most Americans.

"Twenny" is also perfectly normal and VERY frequent among educated speakers.

Mjd said: "it's best to just imitate an accent as it sounds and not try to dwell on t's turning to d's etc.".
But that's what it sounds like -- American normally use the flap T in words like "writer" or "letter".
Ryan   Monday, August 18, 2003, 20:46 GMT
At least you are calling it what it is, "flap t" and not a "d" sound. I don't care how you want to pronounce "twenty" but I think it's pronounced with a "flap t" generally in the educated midwestern accent. I would say those on the east coast speaking New York or Boston accents might be more likely to drop the "t" altogether.

mjd   Monday, August 18, 2003, 20:58 GMT

It definitely does sound that way, and if someone wishes to imitate my accent, they should by all means use the "d" sound. However, they should focus on imitation and not dwell on it too much. Pronouncing those t's too hard could also sound awkward; as I've said, there is a difference between the pure "d" sound and the "tt."
Julian   Monday, August 18, 2003, 22:37 GMT
Ameer and wingyellow:

For most of us Americans, the "t" in the "nt" in words like dentist, twenty, santa, international, and all the other examples given in this discussion *are* pronounced, albeit softly and with a slight glottal stop so that, to the non-American ear, it sounds like we're skipping this consonant entirely.

How strong or weak the "t" is enunciated isn't so much a consequence of education, but of regional accents and colloquialism. In the South, Southwest, and Southern California, where we have more of a casual, laid-back speech pattern, you will hear '"den'ist," "twen'y,"" and "in'erational." This is not a product of poor education. Many of our presidents, politicians, and literary greats hail from the South and pronounce these words in the manner described. In the Northeast, where the Yankee-British influence is stronger, there are much more rigid rules of etiquette and formality, including "proper" elocution standards. Hence, the stronger "t's" and crisper diction.

Personally, I tend to "drop" my "t's" when I'm among friends and acquaintances because that's how we speak in a casual environment. But when I'm teaching a class or speaking before a committee or reading a passage out loud, I pronounce my "t's" more clearly so that everyone can understand what I'm saying.

So whether you pronounce your "t's" or not depends on your preference. I doubt people are going to make fun of you or question your educational background because of the way you say "dentist" or "twenty." Unless you are a speaking before a group of East Coast snobs, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

(Damn, I need to learn to keep things brief!)
Julian   Wednesday, August 20, 2003, 17:41 GMT
To wingyellow:

Just thought I'd point out that "Friends" isn't a soap opera. It's a situation comedy (or sitcom).
mjd   Wednesday, August 20, 2003, 19:22 GMT
I agree completely with Julian on dropping t's. I also tend to do it among friends and in informal situations. If I were at a job interview, I'd try to enunciate much more clearly and avoid things like goin', lookin', etc.
A.C.S.M.   Thursday, August 21, 2003, 00:41 GMT
I drop my t's when I'm angry. I sound rather like a Cockney when I do that. I'd say "look 'ere, old chap, if yer not goin' to make up yer mind about trav'lin to the ci'y, etc."