The /tr/ sound in english

IntensiveEnglishStudent   Sat Nov 28, 2009 12:01 pm GMT

I was baffled by the pronunciation of the |tr| sound in english. Can it be safely pronounced |chr| or is there more to it?
pedro   Sun Nov 29, 2009 8:17 am GMT
train, drain, etc are heard as chrain and djrain. That's the case in california.
St. Louisan   Sun Dec 27, 2009 4:54 am GMT
I say train with a |tr| and drain with a |dr|.
Another Guest   Mon Dec 28, 2009 6:54 pm GMT
I'm not clear on what you mean by "are heard as", pedro. Do you mean "When Californians say the words, this is how I hear them"? I'm in California, and that's not how I hear them.
pedro   Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:55 pm GMT
Many people produce it chr, djr. In fact, it is discussed in journals and in some accent reduction books such as "Mastering the American Accent with Audio CDs by Lisa Mojsin". You can read that page on Amazon preview section.

There is another thought as to why it is heard: tr is a cluster of retroflex t and retroflex r, leading to the sound chr. Well, it is not universal in California, but it is more than acceptable.
another guy in CA   Mon Dec 28, 2009 8:21 pm GMT
hearing train and drain with chr and djr sound dated to me, that is to say ive never heard a young person say it that way, only more elder folk
Uriel   Wed Dec 30, 2009 4:32 am GMT
I don't know where you've all heard your English, but "tr-" is definitely pronounced as "chr-", and "dr-" is often "jr-". Even in California. It may not seem like it to you on first glance, because that's not how we tend to visualize it, but it is rare for anyone to actually make a clear T and then a clear R together -- "train" would then sound much more like a quick version of "terrain". Which it doesn't.
pedro   Thu Dec 31, 2009 6:11 am GMT
St. Louisan   Thu Dec 31, 2009 2:06 pm GMT
Uriel, a quick version of "terrain" is exactly what "train" sounds like in my area, or at least among the people I know. The only time I put a |ch| sound at the front of "train" is when I tell my nephew to pick up his choo choo trains.
guy in CA   Thu Dec 31, 2009 5:37 pm GMT
im in the same position as st.louisan
train sounds like a quick terrain, for me and where I encounter it here, old folk not withstanding
Caspian   Thu Dec 31, 2009 8:47 pm GMT
I agree with St. Louisan too.
Entbark   Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:23 am GMT
I pronounce it as tr and dr, not chr and djr. I have heard people pronounce it like chr/djr, but most people I know in Wisconsin use tr/dr.

The reason they sound similar is because plosives (t/d) followed by a liquid (r) sound like affricates (ch/dj), stops followed by a slow release of air.
julian   Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:50 am GMT
I don't think it's a regional thing to pronounce "tr" and "dr" sounds like "chr" and "djr". Popular music, like "These dreeams go on when I close my eyes" and "and I try, oh my god do I try!" definitely have the chr/djr sound. Really listen to how it's pronounced. Ask any woman named Tracy to say her name, or listen to someone say Travis Tritt, and you will hear a ch sound in place of the t. I personally have never heard anyone clearly enunciate the tr or dr while speaking. It would sound weird to the ear.
Jluke Italy   Sat Jan 16, 2010 7:55 am GMT
this is a very old discussion I started back in 2005 on the topic...
Pedro   Sat Jan 16, 2010 9:26 pm GMT
Here is from Arnold Zwicky, a linguist, on this:

"start with the realization of /t/ in initial /tr/ (in _tree_ etc.) as
a retroflex affricate. this is anticipatory retroflexion of the /t/,
plus a retroflex fricative version of the aspiration on the /t/. this
realization of /t/ is very common in english, certainly in american
english; i have it myself, and it shows up in the spellings of
children who have devised their spellings on the basis of the names of
the letters in english (so that _tree_ is spelled CRE).

i believe that anticipatory retroflexion can also affect /pr/ and /
kr/, but there the retroflexion would be just a gesture accompanying
labial p and velar k; the gesture could be detected by phonetic
studies, but it would be hard to detect just by listening. for /tr/,
however, retroflexion is not just an accompanying gesture, but a shift
in point of articulation. then the aspiration on the t is itself
realized as retroflex -- that is, as a retroflex fricative, and we get
a retroflex affricate for the whole business (something very close to
the palato-alveolar affricate C).

for me, the retroflex affricate appears for /t/ in /tr/ only in
contexts where the /t/ would be aspirated. so, it's there in _tree_,
but not in _street_ .

but it's open for others to take the _tree_ realization of /t/ as
evidence for a retroflex affricate as the allophone of /t/ before /r/
in general, including in _street_. then, i think, the /s/ would be
necessarily retroflex as well. so the retroflexion spreads to /s/
through the /t/, rather than the reverse (which is what geoff seems to
be suggesting).

retroflexion could also spread to /s/ through /k/ and/or /p/. (it
might well be that spread through /k/ is more likely than spread
through /p/. in any case, there's room for lots of variation here.)

one more step: some speakers might have interpreted (some or all of)
these retroflex obstruents as palato-alveolars, on the basis of their
acoustic similarity. but i simply don't know what the facts are.

a side point: wilson writes: "the act of retroflexion appears to
require special
effort". well, you make the effort for the /r/; the only question is
whether you make the effort *only* for the /r/ or make it for some
larger stretch.