Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

There is a class of words, mainly such as

the, this, that, these, those, though, although, then, there, thus,

the archaic thou, thee, thy, thine, thyself, thence;

which I always find myself pronouncing with a stopped sound intermediate between a "d" and the smoother (fricative) sound of "th" in words such as

father, mother, brother, other, bother, rather, feather, dither, breathe, loathe, smooth.

This seems fairly common in American English, but many people always pronounce a voiced "th" smoothly, and some think that speech that sounds too much like "dis, dat, deze, doze" is uneducated or not correct. This pronunciation seems to push the "d" further back toward the "r", (for distinction's sake?) and the "r" even further back, deep against the soft palate.

I'm curious as to where and when this slight consonant shift has taken place in English, and where it is considered standard or not, as the case may be.

share|improve this question
    
Can you link to a recording, or use IPA or standard terminology? E.g., is voiced th an affricate here? –  Daniel Harbour Jul 27 '12 at 7:06
    
I would say my stopped "th" is a voiced dental stop en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiced_dental_stop with the tip of the tongue at the inner gumline of the upper front teeth. My smooth voiced "th" is a voiced dental fricative en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiced_dental_fricative with the tip of the tongue between the teeth. (I have a hard time finding a consistent definition of the IPA symbols anyway.) –  JL344 Jul 27 '12 at 7:58
    
Just to be clear, my "d" is (to a small degree) retroflex: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiced_retroflex_stop and so is my "r" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retroflex_approximant -- I suppose "retroflex" is what I meant by "pushed back". –  JL344 Jul 27 '12 at 8:07
    
When you say This pronunciation seems to push the “d” further back toward the “r”, (for distinction’s sake?) and the “r” even further back, deep against the soft palate, do you mean this happens categorically (to every d, r) or only to those in the vicinity of /d̪/? –  Daniel Harbour Jul 27 '12 at 10:59
1  
Everybody has their own set of pronunciation habits. /ð/ can be pronounced practically any way and still be distinguishable because its occurrence can be predicted so easily; [d] or [dð] are common variants. This isn't a "consonant shift that has taken place in English"; this is a consonant shift that has taken place in your English. Perfectly normal; nothing to worry about. –  John Lawler Jul 27 '12 at 16:11
show 4 more comments

1 Answer

I’m not sure that there is a chain shift, though it is possible. Ultimately, you would need to do careful measurements of though, doe, roe as said by:

  1. members of your childhood cohort who pronounce though with [dð] not [ð],
  2. members of your childhood cohort who pronounce though with [ð] not [dð],

I’m mildly doubtful of a chain shift because apico-dental and apico/lamino-coronal sounds can coexist in the same language, and, to make things easier, you have affrication help to differentiate voiced th from d.

That’s the best answer I can give on the available information!

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.