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Why in a word 'lecture' /k/ is unaspirated? Shouldn't it be weakly aspirated because of the fact that it's in unstressed syllable?

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    It's at the end of a syllable. We never aspirate consonants at the end of syllables. A syllable can't begin with /ktʃ/ because those letters aren't the start of a valid English word (although maybe they could be in some other language). Nov 29, 2014 at 12:51
  • And what is a "weakly aspirated" consonant? As far as I know, there are only aspirated, unaspirated, and optionally aspirated consonants in English. Is your teacher using "weakly aspirated" for "optionally aspirated" (ones which some people aspirate and some people don't)? And does he or she actually expect you to aspirate them at a level strictly between aspirated and unaspirated? That's making English even harder than it should be. Nov 29, 2014 at 13:04
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    'Weak aspiration' - for example: 'paper' - the first /p/ is strongly aspirated, because of the fact that it's in the stressed syllable. The second syllable is unstressed, so the second /p/ is weakly aspirated 'Strong aspiration' - at the beginning of a stressed syllable: 'appear, kid, pit' 'Optional aspiration' - at the end of the word "map, tap, mac'
    – maja
    Nov 29, 2014 at 13:11
  • Ok, I think I got it: If there's no oral release, a plosive will always be unaspirated.
    – maja
    Nov 29, 2014 at 13:15

2 Answers 2

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From John Wells' blog:

As I put it in LPD, English [p t k] are aspirated

  • when they occur at the beginning of a syllable in which the vowel is strong.

They are unaspirated

  • when preceded by s at the beginning of a syllable
  • when followed by any FRICATIVE, as in lapse læps, depth depθ
  • if immediately followed by another plosive as with the k in doctor ˈdɒktə || ˈdɑːktər. The release stage of the first plosive is then usually inaudible (‘masked’).

Otherwise, they are unaspirated or just slightly aspirated. For example, ripe raɪp, shut ʃʌt, lake leɪk; happy ˈhæpi, writer ˈraɪtə (BrE), lucky ˈlʌki; wasp wɒsp || wɑːsp, restinɡ ˈrestɪŋ, Oscar ˈɒskə || ˈɑːskər, lifted ˈlɪftɪd, today təˈdeɪ.

The last case, "unaspirated or just slightly aspirated", is also called weakly aspirated.

The /k/ in lecture is followed by a plosive, so by these rules, it is unaspirated.

But speaking as an English speaker, I am not sure that English speakers actually distinguish between weakly aspirated consonants and unaspirated consonants. We don't hear three levels; using an unaspirated consonant instead of a weakly aspirated consonant is never going to be wrong.

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  • 'The /k/ in lecture is followed by a plosive' I thought it's followed by tʃ, affricate.
    – maja
    Nov 30, 2014 at 10:34
  • Plosives followed by affricates also have no audible release. Dec 3, 2014 at 3:31
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The word is pronounced LEK-chur. (Stress on 1st syllable, "k" sound)

Pronounced with no "k", it sounds like "lecher" or "letcher", (a pervert)

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