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The American Heritage Dictionary says 'KIT-n' but speakers in my locale (west coast US) say 'Ki with short i, glottal stop, n.' There is no 't' sound. Do we speak slang, a dialect, or are we pronouncing it correctly?

The only reference I found here was from last May: "Intervocalic /t/ almost always reduces to a single flap [ɾ] there. That’s why ladder and latter are homophonic, although kitten and kiddin’ are not. Indeed, kitten may become just [ˈkʰɪʔn̩] (sometimes written [ˈkʰɪʔən]) , often enough."

I don't understand IPA code. Thank you!

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Hmmm, I thought I pronounced the "tt" - turns out, like you, I don't. (US Midwest native) –  Kristina Lopez Feb 23 '13 at 2:46
    
When concerned with 'correctness', it's necessary to understand IPA or one of the other pronunciation systems. –  Kris Feb 23 '13 at 5:53
    
The IPA means glottal stop, followed by a syllabic 'n'. You are pronouncing it the way most Americans pronounce it (certainly a large fraction of them). But I suspect this pronunciation would be considered non-standard in the U.K. –  Peter Shor Feb 23 '13 at 12:54
    
@Peter Shor: I've always had the impression glottal stops are more prevalent in British than American speech (even some of our newsreaders have started using them in recent years). Americans often avoid the extra effort of enunciating t by switching it to d, but that's quite unusual in BrE, so our standard "lazy speech" patterns include more opportunities for gloʔəl stops. –  FumbleFingers Feb 23 '13 at 14:03
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@Wet You hear both t’s? That is an absolute impossibility. There is no native English speaker alive who pronounces kitten with two separate t’s. Phonetically double t’s can occur in extra-careful speech in words such as hat trick, but even there, they're nearly always merged into one, geminate, t sound. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet 2 days ago
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Just to clarify, slang describes a certain kind of vocabulary, and has nothing to do with pronunciation. Differences in pronunciation can be described in terms of accent. Dialect may describe differences in accent, but it is predominantly concerned with differences in vocabulary and grammatical structures.

In British English, the formal pronunciation of kitten is /ˈkɪt(ə)n/. It rhymes with Britain, and probably does so in American English as well, because, if both are pronounced differently from the British way, I imagine they do so consistently. Some regional accents replace the ‘t’ sound, both in kitten and elsewhere, with a glottal stop. In fact, most speakers will do so in certain phonetic environments. There’s nothing ‘incorrect’ about doing so.

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Most Americans pronounce all words ending with a Vtən (V being any vowel) in this way, but I believe it only happens with Vtən and not with any other final consonant. –  Peter Shor Feb 23 '13 at 12:58
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Though the difference is slight, most Americans use the dental flap rather than the glottal stop for what is historically an intermedial 't'. 'rhotic', 'votive', 'writer', 'bottle', 'rotten', 'cutting' (note the more common words with syllabic nasals and liquids). –  Mitch Feb 23 '13 at 14:53
    
@Mitch: many Americans (I'll take back "most" after listening to forvo—it was somewhere around half of them) use the dental flap for all these words except when a 't' is followed by an 'n', in which case they use glottal stop. So for kitten, rotten, button, eaten, and so forth. –  Peter Shor Mar 1 '13 at 15:50
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I grew up in the tri-state area (NJ/NY/CT), CT specifically, and never realized I pronounced kitten differently until someone pointed it out. Also, mitten, smitten, etc. Primarily, we drop the tt's so it is ki'en, mi'en, etc.

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