American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

In GA, the glottal stop is used in three situations. First, it occurs as the realization of GA /t/ in the coda, as in sit [sɪʔ], right [raɪʔ], went [wɛ᷈ʔ], and when /t/ precedes syllabic /n/ as in sentence [sɛ᷈ʔn̩s]. This, as you know, is t-glottaling or glottal stopping.



The second use of the glottal stop is that in the realization of GA /p,k/, and to a lesser extent /t/, in the coda, as in lip(s), lick(s) and wit(s). Here the glottal stop reinforces the oral closure for /p,k/ or /t/, and is therefore only a part of the realization of the phoneme rather than its sole realization. The auditory effect of glottalization (or glottal reinforcement)  in [p͜ʔ, t͜ʔ, k͜ʔ] is similar to that of a single glottal stop, but the final portion of the preceding voiced sound is affected by the distinct closing movement of each of the oral stops.




The third use of the glottal stop is that in the clear beginning of vowels. This happens when liaison is suspended in order to create an emphatic effect. In such speech styles, word-initial vowels will be preceded by a glottal stop, as in ouch [ʔaʊt͡ʃ], (not just) any! [ʔɛni].


Recall that because Dutch does not have a general liaison rule like GA, word-initial vowels in Dutch are often preceded by a glottal stop, even in non-emphatic styles. An utterance like (ʔ) Als je (ʔ) Erik ʔ even (ʔ) uit het ʔ oog verliest may have as many as five glottal stops.

In GA, clear beginnings are on the whole less common in non-emphatic styles, but by no means unusual. A sentence like She’s (ʔ) always (ʔ) ordering (ʔ) others around may be pronounced with or without clear beginnings and sound quite natural either way. This is because liaison is not applied by all speakers all of the time. GA occupies a position midway between Standard French and British English on the one hand, and Standard Dutch and Standard German, on the other. Not surprisingly, Dutch and particularly German speakers of French and English will generally have too many clear beginnings in their pronunciation of these foreign languages. One way to avoid this is to pronounce the final consonant of each word in an utterance as if it were the first consonant of the next word if that word starts with a vowel, i.e. to say /ʃi ˈzɔːlweɪ ˈzɔrdərɪ ˈŋʌðər zəˈraʊnd/, making sure that there are no pauses where there are spaces in the transcription.

She’s always ordering others around

Since liaison tends to occur more frequently in GA than in Standard Dutch, its effect may sometimes be somewhat unusual for Dutch listeners. An ambisyllabic /s/ in this evening, this aftemoon may strike the Dutch listener as ifmthe speaker says /ðɪ ˈsiːvnɪŋ, ðɪ ˈsæftərnuːn/.

this evening

this afternoon

This may be due to the fact that in Dutch an ambisyllabic /s/ or /f/ arising from liaison will frequently be voiced in intervocalic positions, as in pas op /pɑz ɔp/, hoefijzer /ˈhuvɛizər/, mensaap /ˈmɛnzaˑp/, so that any prevocalic /s/ or /f/ tends to be interpreted as syllable-initial rather than ambisyllabic.