In some words, the pronunciation of t is actually closer to ch, as in fortune.

Is this is a recognized phenomenon in English pronunciation? Does it have a name? What other prominent examples can be cited as examples of this phenomenon? Why does it happen?

  • 2
    It's not "-une", exactly; it's the fact that it used to be pronounced /yun/ (and still is in many dialects), and the /y/ stuck on to the /t/ and became first /ty/ and then /tʃ/, which is one of the ways <CH> can be pronounced in English spelling. – John Lawler Apr 12 '13 at 22:06
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    I can't enunciate Tues[day] any different to chew. But unlike many Americans, my tune has a /y/ after the /t/, so it's different to toon (abbreviation of cartoon [character] as per Who Framed Roger Rabbit) – FumbleFingers Apr 12 '13 at 22:16
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    Mention, situation, departure, does anybody have a word list to check? – Mitch Apr 12 '13 at 23:02
  • Asking for a list of similar words is considered not constructive, so I made an effort to make the question more general in an effort to invite a more interesting answer. – Kit Z. Fox Apr 13 '13 at 2:03

The pattern is very simple.

The basic British rule (as I understand it) is the orthographic "long u" alters the pronunciation of four consonants that preceed it. These consonants are /t d s z/, which become /ch j sh zh/. Almost invariably.

That's the whole rule for the man in the street who pronounces "Tuesday" as "Chewsday".

For the speakers who do not (a distinct minority in the UK), things are a bit more selective: only words of French and Latin origin tend to follow the rule with the orthographic "long u" only in an unaccented syllable. For example: creature, feature, fortune, natural, but not "tutor". (If there is a secondary accent on the syllable, count it as accented.) There are exceptions among these speakers, which may actually be hypercorrections, such as "issue".

In North American English, the consonant shift is the same as the second speaker. The pronunciation of the vowel spelled by the "long u" itself will vary considerably from that of our cousins in the old country, but the consonants will be the same.

As noted by John Lawler, the consonant change is due to an historic intrusive "y" sound. This "y" intruded only slightly in the dialects that formed most North American dialects, thus the vast majority of Americans say /nooz, toon, doolee/ where our cousins would say /nyooz, tyoon, dyooli/ when reading "news, tune, duely".

A similar change takes place with the same consonants when preceding other unaccented "Y + vowel" combinations.

  • I think it is more like Ts -uesday than Ch-ewsday. And, duely ? – Kris Apr 14 '13 at 5:54
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    I think you mean 'duly' in your last set of examples. – Luke Apr 14 '13 at 14:38
  • Issue isn't an exception in North America. Most of us pronounce it with an /sh/. See dictionary. – Peter Shor Oct 2 '17 at 11:47
  • @Kris: no, not for most people. There are dialects where /t/ tends to gets aspirated towards [ts] (for example, Liverpool) but that depends much less on the following vowel, and is a different phenomenon. What we're talking about here is palatalization, where the /t/ changes to [tʃ] ([t] followed by an 'sh') - which is almost the same as 'ch'. And no, 'duely' is not a current spelling of 'duly'. – Colin Fine Oct 2 '17 at 12:31

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