American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

Sequences consisting of alveolar /t,n,s/ + /j/ are realized as pre-palatal [c,ɲ,ʃ] respectively.

/tj/ becomes [c]                       liedje, weet je

/nj/ becomes [ɲ]          franje, kun je

/sj/ becomes [ʃ]                       pasje, was je

This coalescent assimilation also occurs in sequences like /ns + j/, /nt + j/, /st/ + /j/ and /nst/ + /j/, as in dansje, handje, kistje, kunstje, which are pronounced [ˈdɑɲʃə, ˈhɑɲcə, ˈkɪʃə, ˈkʏɲʃə], with elision of /t/ in the last two words. Palatalization of /t,n,s/ does not occur in the pronunciation of speakers from Limburg and Flanders.

Advice for Dutch learners

Note that GA /j/ is normally only coalesced to /t͡ʃ,d͡ʒ/ when it occurs initially in a weak syllable, as in get you, did you, situation, education. In sequences like those in not young, that year, /t/ may be glottalized, glottaled or voiced, but /j/ remains fully voiced in all cases. The change of /s/ to /ʃ/ before /j/, as in this year, is somewhat more common, but by no means as regular as in Dutch. In words like menu, onion, a palatal [ɲ] may frequently be heard in rapid and casual speech, but not in more deliberate styles. Note that here again palatalization is the rule in Dutch, where pronunciations like [ˈspɑnjə] for Spanje do not occur even in formal styles. To avoid undesirable palatalization, make a firm alveolar contact for /n/ and /s/, and glottalize, glottal, or voice /t/, making sure that the following /i/ is a fully voiced approximant. For /s/ before /j/, practice the unassimilated form. Here are some examples for you.

not yet             ten years         Is this you?

courtyard         Spaniard          misuse (n)

last year          in Europe         misuse (v)

not yet

ten years