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It's common practice in Ireland (and the US as far as I know) to pronounce the x in the middle of sixth: six-th [sɪksθ]. However, I've noticed from visits to England as well as watching British television, that a lot of English people pronounce it as 'sicth' [sɪkθ]. Why is this, and is it an accepted usage?

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  • Yes, it's accepted usage. Also common among non- newscasters and actors in AmE.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 12:05
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    This isn't the 'th' sound though. It's 'k' or 'ks'?
    – Ronan
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 13:17
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    Ronan Murphy, it's not always pronounced as sikth, in the UK. There are British people who pronounce it as siksth.
    – Tristan r
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 14:15
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    Other discussions of this phenomenon here and here. Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:33
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    Even us fast speakers from the US (Chicago-area) pronounce it correctly as siksth. (as a personal aside...I find it fascinating that people from so far away can make assumptions about people with whom they don't actually interact frequently enough to make the assumption.) Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 16:26

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If I am not mistaken, the usual Irish-English pronunciation of “sixth” is [sɪkst] with the famous shift of [θ] to [t]. In England this word is pronounced as [sɪksθ], but I can imagine that some speakers of Irish English might have difficulty distinguishing [sθ] from [θ], as these sounds do not occur in their own dialect.

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    I think the OP states the opposite - in Ireland he observes the pronunciation [sɪksθ], and during his visits to England he heard a lot of [sɪkθ], and thus wonders if this is widely acceptable.
    – Vilmar
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 12:14
  • This is correct. [sɪksθ] is how I pronounce it myself.
    – Ronan
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 12:38
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    Here is what I guess is happening: The word sixth ends with a consonant cluster which is quite difficult to pronounce, so lots of people simplify it. In Ireland, if [sɪksθ] is simplified, it gets simplified to [sɪkst] (which the OP doesn't notice because he's used to it). In England, it gets simplified to [sɪkθ], which the OP notices because it's unusual for him. Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 12:39
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    @Peter: In US movies I've always noticed many (Afro-) Americans pronouncing ask as aks. But lately I keep hearing that reduced to (even simpler?) ats. Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 13:08
  • @FumbleFingers - the South Wales accent also pronounces ask as "aks."
    – Greybeard
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 14:16