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I checked the pronunciation of th in thread and python in Google Translate. The sound of the th in thread is similar to t, but in python it instead sounds like s.

However, in dictionaries (e.g. Longman), both have phonetics of /θ/. What is the difference? Why is th pronounced differently in thread and python?

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    Longman's pronunciation guide is accurate for the pronunciation of both 'thread' and 'python' in standard British English and American English. Where/from whom did you hear the 'th' being replaced by 't'/'s'? My guess is that whoever it is is not a native speaker of English. Or are these pronunciations given only by Google Translate? – Erik Kowal Dec 2 '14 at 5:46
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    It would be an unusual pronunciation to say Pyson rather than Python. Also, native speakers know and detect the difference between 'thread' and 'tread.' So it is difficult to know what you are hearing. – pazzo Dec 2 '14 at 5:57
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about inaccuracy in Google Translate text-to-speech. – Roaring Fish Dec 2 '14 at 6:06
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    @brasshat Well, neither may sound like an 's' or a 't', but the 'th' of Python would, in Britain at any rate, sound differently to the way it does in 'thread'. The reason for that is that the British place the emphasis on the first syllable - PYthon, whilst Americans may give it to the second -pyTHON. – WS2 Dec 2 '14 at 8:30
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    @WS2 By a schwa, I mean the fully reduced central vowel common in unstressed English syllables, such as in the second syllable of lemon. In North America, for whatever the reason (I have no idea why, actually), the second syllable of python does not reduce the way it does in lemon. However, the stress falls on the first syllable in both cases. I believe you are saying that in the UK, python's second syllable is reduced the way it is in lemon, so that you notice when a North American still says more of an o vowel (probably one of [ɒ, ɔ, ɑ]) there, since you do not. – tchrist Dec 3 '14 at 15:05
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It's a slurring of the following sounds. In your "similar" examples try replacing them. Thread sounds pretty distinct from tread. Python is not the same a pyson.

Going over it in my head and articulating it out I'm realizing Thread is tongue starting from the top of the teeth, Python is the tongue coming back inwards.

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  • I meant why is th differently pronounced in Thread and Python – I left StackExchange Dec 2 '14 at 5:54
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    It's a combination of both paragraphs. Mostly the second I believe. Say Thread and feel your tongue starting from the roof of your mouth coming down. When you start "Py --" your mouth is open and your tongue is at the bottom of your mouth coming upwards as you complete the word. – atxdba Dec 2 '14 at 5:56
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    @yaa110 The th is not pronounced differently in thread and python: you are either imagining it or listening to non-native speakers mangling the word. The phoneme there is /θ/ in both instances, which is a comparatively rare one amongst the worlds’ languages, and so you might not be correctly hearing it. – tchrist Dec 5 '14 at 0:12

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