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I know that pronouncing "t" as "d" is called a flap t, but is there a name for pronouncing "nt" as "n" in some words, as is common in American English?

Examples:

  • "Internet" is pronounced as "inner net".
  • "interesting" is pronounced as "inner resting".

Is there an scientific name for this?

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19  
The T isn't being pronounced as an N, per se; it's being elided (and just so happens to be next to an N, whose sound you're hearing). –  onomatomaniak Apr 7 '13 at 19:09
    
@onomatomaniak Thanks. What about tchrist's answer? If you disagree, do not hesitate to argue your case in a full-blown answer. –  Jubobs Apr 7 '13 at 21:46
2  
@Jubobs: I would be inclined to call it elision (or possibly syncope), because the /t/ sound doesn't so much change into something else, as it just disappears: the /n/ sound stays the same, after all. –  Cerberus Apr 8 '13 at 1:15
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@tchrist: We are talking about the first t, aren't we? It sounds like innerne[t/ʔ] to me, no glottal stop after the n. It doesn't sound like inn err net. –  Cerberus Apr 8 '13 at 4:57
5  
I think the term you're looking for is "mispronunciation." –  gmcgath Apr 8 '13 at 11:36

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The Wikipedia article on intervocalic alveolar flapping addresses this directly:

The cluster [nt] can also be flapped/tapped; the IPA symbol for a nasal tap is [ɾ̃]. As a result, in quick speech, words like winner and winter can become homophonous. Flapping/tapping does not occur for most speakers in words like carpenter and ninety, which instead surface with [d].

The name for the phenomenon would be “intervocalic alveolar flapping of [nt] clusters”

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If what you are hearing is [ˌɪnɚˈnæʃənɫ̩], where /nt/ becomes [n], then that one is called assimilation, and it is by no means restricted to the United States alone. Specifically, this is a case of progressive assimilation (left-to-right), in which a later sound becomes more like an earlier one.

It is possible that you should also take into account that a /t/ may often be expressed as a glottal [ʔ] in the syllable coda, and so may appear to you to have been altogether deleted here — especially if the stop is incomplete, as in rapid speech it may well be.

In fact, it is not uncommon to hear “international” pronounced as [ˌɪ̃ʔɚˈnæʃənɫ̩]. Here the /n/ nasalizes the preceding vowel in regressive assimilation (right-to-left), but is itself deleted.

This might even be a case of reciprocal assimilation where the bleed-over goes both ways.

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1  
Nice to learn this @tchrist. Can you suggest a few resources to support your statement? –  Fr0zenFyr Apr 7 '13 at 20:55
    
@Fr0zenFyr Which one, that this is an instance of assimilation in consonant clusters, or that /t/ can be realized as [ʔ]? –  tchrist Apr 7 '13 at 20:57
    
I'm sorry @tchrist, I want clear earlier. I'm interested in "a syllable-final /t/ may often be expressed as a glottal [ʔ]". I couldn't get how this is a glottal, I mean I can think of Scottish, but that's not exactly the same, or is it? –  Fr0zenFyr Apr 7 '13 at 21:03
    
@Fr0zenFyr Yes, Scottish English also has glottalization; most accents do: ʔ] is present phonetically in nearly all dialects of English as an allophone of /t/ in the syllable coda. See here for more on how things come out in various Scots accents. Most often it is [hw] or [r] that people talk about in Scots, though, not the glottalization that occurs everywhere. –  tchrist Apr 7 '13 at 21:11
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What about @onomatomaniak's suggestion (elision)? Which is it: elision or assimilation? –  Jubobs Apr 7 '13 at 21:44

The T isn't being pronounced as an N in those words. Rather, it's being elided entirely, and the neighboring N-sound is what we hear in its place.

To my ear, the T-sound isn't being transformed to match neighboring sounds, in the way of an assimilation. Additionally, the loss of the T-sound occurs even when speaking slowly, in contrast to the explanation of how the intervocalic alveolar flapping phenomenon occurs.

There are other instances in English where the T is transformed into a glottal stop or nasally released, in a process called debuccalization.

Examples of this from the above Wikipedia article are "get ready" and "cotton." If you compare the pronunciations of these words to "internet" with an elided T, you should be able to hear that these are different phenomena.

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