American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

In non-standard accents, initial /ð/, as in them, there, those, is frequently realized as a voiced dental stop, [d̪]. the tip forms a complete closure with the inside of the upper front teeth, behind which the air is compressed so that it explodes outward when the closure is released. Alternatively, the closure may be released so that a narrowing is created through which the pent-up air can escape with friction. If the air escapes with friction, a dental affricate is produced: [d̪͜ð]. The symbols for the corresponding voiceless dental stop and voiceless dental affricate are [t̪] and [t̪͜θ].

TH-stopping is common in the local speech of New York City. In fact, /θ/ and /ð/ are classic examples of what have come to be known as social markers in speech. In New York City, the realization of these phonemes varies with the formality of the speech style as well as the socioeconomic background of the speaker. Fricative realizations are more frequent when the speech style is more formal, and in the speech of speakers in the higher socioeconomic groups. Also, fricative realizations are more common in the speech of women than of men.

Outside New York City, stop realizations of initial /ð/ are common in popular Black English. In medial and final positions, /t/ may occur for /θ/ in uneducated Black and Southern English, as in nothing, with, which may be pronounced [nʌʔn̩], [wɪt].