Living in Merseyside, I've noticed a phonetic oddity that I can't find described anywhere [I did a Web search and found a transcript of Liverpool speech on a Liverpool University site, but no mention of the following]. When single-syllable words end in T, the T is dropped but, if I'm hearing correctly, the whole syllable is aspirated. Voiced consonants are still voiced but also aspirated. So 'but' is pronounced /bʰʊʰ/, 'not' pronounced /nʰɒʰ/ and 'that' pronounced /ðʰaʰ/. Is this a recognized phenomenon, and if so, is it confined to Liverpool?

  • Could you provide a link to the transcript you found?
    – Nicole
    Dec 15, 2014 at 18:19
  • I don't see why not, especially when whispering. In AmE, "The" is regularly pronounced as /ðʰʊʰ/, for example.
    – Nick2253
    Dec 15, 2014 at 18:22
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    Precisely. In Hindi, open syllables beginning with voiced aspirates are all aspirated: /bhu, dha, ghi/ etc. Dec 15, 2014 at 20:16
  • I wish I could find that transcript. It was 2 or 3 years ago, but I've only just discovered Stack Exchange. However, I've just found a document which refers to changing final /t/ to /h/, though not to aspiration of the whole syllable. See page 3 of: eprints.lancs.ac.uk/4011/1/download2.pdf Dec 15, 2014 at 21:00
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    @John Lawler Being held captive by whomophiles? Dec 15, 2014 at 23:23

1 Answer 1


There is no such thing as, "The whole syllable is aspirated." What you are describing is breathy voicing of the vowel, probably. 'Tis not aspiration.

Non-nasal stops may be aspirated. In some languages, voiceless (non-nasal) stops can be preaspirated, but typically aspiration occurs upon the release of the stop. Both voiced and voiceless stops can be aspirated, as shown in many languages of the Indian subcontinent.

  • Thanks for that. So would the Liverpool 'but' as I described be rendered in IPA as /bʊʱ/ - just the vowel 'breathy-voice aspirated', or maybe /bʱʊʱ/? Dec 16, 2014 at 9:40

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