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I checked some online dictionary and found that the pronunciations of p in dispatch and dispatcher are a little different. What's the reason or pronunciation rule for this difference?

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Could you link those dictionaries? –  Alenanno Jun 7 '11 at 17:02
    
@Thomson: yes, I looked in a few common online dictionaries and found no discrepancy in pronunciation. –  snumpy Jun 7 '11 at 17:18
    
Could this potential stress on the first syllable be American? The OED and Howjsay say all three words should be pronounced with stress on the second syllable. –  Cerberus Jun 7 '11 at 22:30
    
Indeed it is American. American Heritage and Merriam-Webster online both say that for the noun dispatch the stress may be on either the first or second syllable (and I pronounce it on the first) but the verb has stress on the second. Am. Her. also says that dispatcher is stressed on the second. –  Peter Shor Jun 8 '11 at 0:48
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The difference is due to the 'er' on the end. At least, when I say them, that's the only difference. –  Jonathan Leffler Jun 8 '11 at 6:00
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Dispatch (as a verb) has stress on the second syllable; dispatcher has stress on the first. English unvoiced stops [p], [t], and [k] are heavily aspirated at the start of a word, and somewhat in stressed syllables. Consider the difference between the first and second /t/ in potato.

I note that you're located in Beijing: consider Standard Mandarin, where there's no difference in voicing between 大 and 他 , where /d/ = [t] and /t/ = [tʰ].

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Not in my dictionary, it doesn't. The American Heritage dictionary says that dispatch has the accent on the second syllable when it's a verb and the first when it's a noun. But dispatcher has an accent on the second syllable (its root is the verb). In my experience, this word commonly occurs only in the term taxi dispatcher, where it definitely has the accent on the second syllable. (I suppose that a dispatcher whose job was writing dispatches might have the accent on the first syllable.) I agree that stress is the only reason you might pronounce these 'p's differently –  Peter Shor Jun 7 '11 at 21:16
    
@Peter Shor: It seems dispatcher has primary stress on the first syllable when it's isolated, but more generally on the second. I typically hear it in isolation or, as you mentioned, in context with dispatch(es), so chalk it up to prosody. My point about stress stands, at least. –  Jon Purdy Jun 8 '11 at 0:39
    
I seems a common phenomenon that a two-syllable word that can be either a noun or a verb has the accent on the first syllable as a noun and the second as a verb. Consider object and subject. –  Malvolio Jun 8 '11 at 1:22
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+1 for making the connection to Mandarin. This is a very tricky case where the difference in pronunciation is entirely allophonic in English, so all of the English speakers say "there is no difference", while the poor non-native cannot help but perceive the difference that is phonemic in his native lang. –  JSBձոգչ Jun 9 '11 at 14:04
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@Thomson: There's a difference between "Standard Mandarin" and the way that people actually speak Mandarin. In Standard Mandarin, there is no voicing, and the consonants are differentiated only by aspiration. –  Jon Purdy Jun 9 '11 at 22:16
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