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I'm listening (and watching) for some English podcasts, and sometimes I'm confused about pronunciation. Say, this one contains the phrase at the end: "I felt a moment of glory when I got high exam results this year". The woman pronounced "this year" like thish year, but I've never heard about such a way to pronounce it.

From the beginning of another podcast, there is a phrase "keep my feet on the ground". The woman pronounces "ground" like graind. Similarly, I've never heard that before.

How do people usually pronounce these words?

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    That podcast's news reader sounds like she has an Irish accent. Many of the vowel sounds are shifted in that accent to something other than what you might expect to hear in RP (Received Pronunciation). – Robusto Oct 5 '14 at 9:39
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The way in which people pronounce words depends on regional accent. Natalie, the presenter in these clips has a Northern Irish accent, hence the 'graind'. When you're learning a language, you are usually presented with a 'polite' form of it. What is known in England as 'received pronunciation', and in this version of English, the ou in 'ground' would rhyme with 'wow!'. The 'Thish'would be pronounced without the final 'h'. People who have very fluent English as a second language often struggle with regional accents which vary widely.

There is also the question of the politics of language, in which some ways of speaking are deemed more acceptable than others. This is still a live issue. There was a recent controversy in which a school teacher was told by a schools inspector that she had 'better lose that northern accent'.

I am learning conversational Greek, and I was told by a Greek friend that we were being taught 'very posh Greek'.

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    Nice answer, but actually many RP speakers will say "thish year" or "thish shoe" for example.It's caused by the 's' being followed by a 'y' sound. – Araucaria Oct 5 '14 at 20:21
  • I can’t think of any dialects where ground doesn’t rhyme with wow (possibly NZ? I never quite know how they mangle their vowels …). I’m fairly sure Natalie who pronounces ground as ‘groined’ would also pronounce wow as ‘woi’, as it were. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 5 '14 at 21:51
  • Hoiw Noiw Broiwn Coiw. – badspell Mar 18 '15 at 23:09
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    Also, RP is a dialect - there are plenty of people (myself, my mother, many of my friends) for whom it is our only form of English. It is not a "polite" form in the same sense as (say) Japanese polite forms, where there is an underlying "plain form". My production of "this year" comes close to "thish year" precisely because of the way in which the word is formed. – Francis Davey Mar 17 '18 at 15:29
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The two pronunciations heard in the podcasts there are two entirely different phenomena. The second, the pronunciation of "graind", is part of the presenter's regional accent.

The first, however, is not. It is a very good example of alveolar assimilation. The sound /s/ is made with the rims (sides) of the tongue on a little shelf behind your teeth called the alveolar ridge. Sounds made on or near the alveolar ridge in English are very unstable. They change a lot when we speak depending on the different sounds they are next to. This happens most often when they are at the end of a word or syllable.

When a word final /s/ happens before the sounds /ʃ/ or /ʒ/ (the sound at the beginning of shower and genre), then in normal speech it will nearly always change to /ʃ/.

  • this shoe ---> /ðɪʃ ʃu:/ [pronounced "thish shoe"]
  • this genre ---> /ðɪʃ ʒɒnrə/ [pronounced "thish genre"]

When /s/ occurs before some other sounds ...

  • /r, j, tʃ, dʒ/ the sounds at the beginning of right, yoyo, church and judge

... it will sometimes change to /ʃ/. It won't happen all the time, but it happens quite often. So you will occasionally hear:

  • thish rubbish
  • thish year
  • thish church
  • thish jumper

This happens in most accents of English, including RP. So the presenter here is giving you a very good example of alveolar assimilation! If you are interested in what happens to different sounds in real speech, have a look here. These are lecture notes from John Wells, published on the UCL university website.

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    I’d add some voicing assimilation to your genre example. I personally find [ðɪʃ ʒɑ̃ːnɹə] almost impossible to say; it would invariably be [ðɪʃːɑ̃ːnɹə] for me. I also don’t really think alveolar assimilation before /r/ applies to /s/. Or at least not in my idiolect. Thish rubbish sounds like someone who’s had a bit too much to drink to me, whereas the other three sound perfectly natural. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 5 '14 at 21:43
  • Also interesting is that alveolar assimilation is, to some degree, dependent on dialect as well. In the specific context given by the OP (“results this year”), I assimilate the /s/ quite automatically in Hibernian English, optionally and about half the time in RP, and not at all in AmE. In fact, in AmE, this particular cluster of sounds, /ltsðɪsj/, actively blocks my ability to assimilate the /s/. Whenever I try, I stumble and can’t get my tongue around it. I’m somewhat surprised that even in the same speaker, the same phrase can show dialectal variation in degrees of assimilation. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 5 '14 at 21:47
  • That is weird about the different dialects. I get a bit of devoicing on the 'this genre' but I don't know if it's more than there'd be anyway . If I say I miss Zsa Zsa as in Gabor, then I definitely get some voicing on the /ʒ/ ... I'll have to think about that. Actually, I don't think there's any other words in English that begin with /ʒ/! I suppose there might be some word internal examples, but I can't think of any ... – Araucaria Oct 5 '14 at 23:01
  • There’s always zhoosh (to use the spelling the OED has chosen), as in “We need to zhoosh things up a bit here!”. That definitely begins with a /ʒ/. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 5 '14 at 23:03
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    Is say tripping (over itself) is exactly how it gets off the tongue! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 5 '14 at 23:23

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