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The theory has it that in the US people tend to voice intervocalic "T" like in writer sounding more or less like rider. My question is - how do Americans perceive voiceless pronunciation? (Not only in the word I used as an example) Does it sound how? Careful? British? Snobby? Regional?

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    It sounds foreign. It's not just British; all sorts of foreigners do it as well, and it's one of the indications I use for a foreign accent. One can ask the question of: if somebody just voiced intervocalic "t" and otherwise had a perfect American accent, where would they sound like they were from? I don't know; I suspect they'd just sound vaguely foreign to me. They certainly wouldn't sound British, as there are many other indicators of a British accent they'd be missing. – Peter Shor May 2 '14 at 22:08
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    Intervocalic alveolar flapping is common in English dialects (certainly it's the norm in American English). It only happens after a stressed vowel, before an unstressed syllable, and it neutralizes the phonation of /t/ and /d/; both are changed to a voiced tap [ɾ]. In some dialects the preceding stressed vowel is pronounced longer (i.e, it takes up to twice as long to pronounce it), and native speakers cue on the vowel length to distinguish writer ['rayɾɚ] from rider ['ra:yɾɚ]. – John Lawler May 3 '14 at 0:08
  • There's also often a slight difference in vowel quality (raising) between writer and rider. My native dialect has it, and I think Prof. Lawler's might too. – Bradd Szonye May 3 '14 at 0:15
  • OTH it can be fun to ask AE speakers to say water correctly. Most cannot pronounce the T ;-) – andy256 May 3 '14 at 1:44
  • Get them pissed off because you refuse to understand what they've asked for and they will enunciate very clearly: The WAH-TER you idiot... – Jim May 3 '14 at 4:17
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Of course, asking how it sounds from the worldwide English community, you are likely to receive a few different answers, so anything here will be highly subjective.

Coming from an Australian point of view, the use of depends on the richness of the accent. Certain areas of Sydney, for example, have stronger and more regional-sounding accents, which generally sound very casual and laid-back. If ever you listen to really rich Aussie accent, you would definitely NOT consider it 'careful', 'British' or 'snobbish'. If anything, it's lazy and my parents certainly called me up on it when I spoke that way as a child.

ADDITION:

Examples of lazy Australian pronunciation include 'rider' rather than 'writer' though with a soft 'd' sound - almost like 'rye-er', 'twenny' rather than 'twenty', dropping the 't' from words such as 'want', 'track-der' rather than 'tractor'...

In many ways, it's very similar to what you would find in American English pronunciation.

My parents regarded speaking in that way as lazy (they were both British-born) and, to be honest, it does sound lazy and a bit uncouth, especially from younger speakers. Others, however, think it's hilarious. It also depends a lot on the tone of the voice, as many Australian speaks can sound very nasal. So that side of things is very subjective.

I used to work as a captioner (subtitler with sound effects included for the hearing impaired) and many words tripped me up when listening to American English speakers. The hardest to decipher was when an American was saying 'God' or 'guard'. I couldn't tell the difference at all! Had to rely on context alone. Not as easy as it sounds!

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  • You haven't mentioned anything about the 't' in your answer (this answer could work equally well for almost any question on this site). Could you tell us what exactly it is that you say and if different what you think a 'rich Aussie accent' says? What do your parents say for the 't'? Is the 't' voiced or voiceless? A puff of air afterwards or not? longer vowel before? Does the 't' sound a lot like a 'd'? – Mitch May 6 '14 at 0:53
  • Sorry, I ran away with myself. Examples of lazy Australian pronunciation include 'rider' rather than 'writer' though with a soft 'd' sound - almost like 'rye-er', 'twenny' rather than 'twenty', dropping the 't' from words such as 'want'... In many ways, it's very similar to what you would find in American English pronunciation. – Mogginson May 6 '14 at 2:27
  • My parents regarded speaking in that way as lazy (they were both British-born) and, to be honest, it does sound lazy and a bit uncouth, especially from younger speakers. Others, however, think it's hilarious. It also depends a lot on the tone of the voice, as many Australian speaks can sound very nasal. So that side of things is very subjective. Other words such as 'tractor' would be pronounced 'track-der', omitting that second 't' altogether for another sound! It's all over the place. – Mogginson May 6 '14 at 2:33
  • Mogginson: You can edit your answer to add all that. – Mitch May 6 '14 at 2:41
  • Most Americans have an "r" in guard (which you may not hear, being Australian) and no "r" in God. But the vowels are indeed the same, and the words are homophones for a New York accent. – Peter Shor May 6 '14 at 17:03

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