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I often hear "that you" pronounced (roughly) like "thatch you".

I've taken on pronouncing it like that until my English teacher implored me not to do so.

Is there a consensus on whether this is rude (or incorrect)?

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  • Consensus? Not that I'm aware of. In terms of eloquence, your pronunciation definitely is not eloquent. Eloquent speech stresses the delivery of syllables and "that you" makes a mess of the syllables in both words.
    – kolossus
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 0:10
  • are you referring specifically to British English? In American English the final /t/ in that is glotallized, so we don't get palatalization across the word boundary.
    – hunter
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 10:20

1 Answer 1

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Palatalisation is less a matter of rudeness or incorrectness, and more a matter of carefulness and social identity — in terms of social class and geographical location. And it matters which word we are talking about too. As you can see, this is not a straightforward issue.

  1. PALATALISATION NORMAL. If you consider a word like literature, most dictionaries only now indicate /tʃə(r)/ for the last syllable. It is still possible for individuals to say /tjə(r)/, though this would be heard as an unusual choice. The spelling certainly tells us that this would have been closer to the earlier pronunciation of the word. This is true of AmE and BrE.

  2. FREE CHOICE. If you consider a word like mature, we have a case of a choice between a palatalised pronunication and an unpalatalised one, with (I think) no social stigma attached to either one. My impression is that there is also regional variation, and that the unpalatalised pronunciation is more common in AmE.

  3. PALATALISATION STIGMATISED. If you consider a word like tube, we have /tʃ(j)uːb/ existing together with /tjuːb/ (and also /tuːb/ in AmE), with /tjuːb/ perceived as being more 'careful' and possibly therefore high status.

The palatalised pronunciation of let you and similar seems to belong to category 3.

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    I'd add that people who speak quickly will tend to gravitate towards a palatalised pronunciation with this sound combination, because most people find it easier to run these sounds together than to articulate them separately when talking at speed.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 7:00

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