when the phrase "I understand you" is pronounced, does the palatalization happen in fast/connected speech? In other words, does the D+Y sounds more like a J sound as in Joke).

Here's the way I pronounce it https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1924024/understandyou.wav with that J sound. I need to know if it's correct and commonly used way to pronounce it.

  • I didn't claim my pronunciation is good but if that is too fast for you, you certainly haven't heard American TV shows. There should be a contrast between syllables: [i-UN-der-STAND-you] My question was about palatalization and I clearly mentioned "fast/connected" speech. Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 12:44
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    It varies, person to person. There are a lot of learning strategies, several per person. Generally one or another works. In speaking English, i would first work on intonation and rhythm, and use fixed or lightly variable phrases as much as possible. Get that right enough and you may be understood fast. But it matters a lot whether you can understand the spoken language already or not. If not, don't lose your dumb foreigners' privileges too fast, until you can actually understand chit-chat at normal speed. Oh, and the answer to your question is: yes. It would be palatalized to an affricate. Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 13:34
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    @John Lawler makes a good point about privileges. I'm told that my French and Spanish pronunciation is pretty good. All it means is people in France and Spain speak to me at full speed, and I barely catch a word. Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 15:15
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    Yes, it's very common, and as implied by JohnLawler's answer, the type of feature which may mark you out as someone proficient with the language. In terms of your intonation, your pitch appears to be dropping on the middle syllable of understand. It needs to be level until the stand syllable, for what I believe you're aiming at. [Also the faster you're talking the less likely, that there'll be a stress on un there. More likely to just be one on stand]. Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 16:22
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    The link no longer works, which makes this question kind of useless. Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 23:53

2 Answers 2


Yes, it's fine in American English. I have a non-standard theory of this change, according to which it is an assimilation in obstruency of the "palatal" glide of "you" to a preceding coronal obstruent. That is [j] -> [ʒ] after alveolar or palato-alveolar obstruent. Please understand that syllable onset [j] in English is actually not a palatal, but rather a palato-alveolar (i.e., in SPE features, [+coronal]).

Also, please understand that the sound represented by "j" in English spelling is really a cluster of two consonants at different places of articulation, [d] is alveolar and [ʒ] is palatal-alveolar. So the above change really does merge "d'you" with "Jew".

Evidence that mine is the correct account comes from the pronunciation of such phrases as "miss you", where the [j] becomes [ʒ] after obstruent [s], then [ʃ] by voicing assimilation. (The [s] of "miss" can also assimilate regressively to a palato-alveolar [ʃ], but that further step I find to be optional.)


It can be acceptable, and is certainly common in some dialects of English (particularly American Louisiana Cajun/Creole).

Here in Michigan, USA, it seems that we typically do enunciate both letters in your sample sentence. But every dialect has oddities. For instance, in my Midwestern American dialect (and somewhat specific to Michigan) we say "real-a-tor" for realtor (yeah, we know there's not an extra "a"). We also tend to add an ownership note to any store named after a person, though in my generation this seems to be lessened somewhat, and my kids' generation even more so. For instance, Ford Motor Company is often "Ford's" and Meijer (a grocery chain) is often "Meijer's", but Target would not be "Target's".

My long-winded point is that when talking about English, due to the very vast number of places where it is spoken and persons who speak it, there are very few ways of saying something that are common. For most people, as long as we can even basically understand it - then it's good enough. Otherwise Americans and Brits would never comprehend one another and NOBODY would understand the Aussies. :)

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