1

Sort /sɔːrt/

of /əv/

Why is "sort of" pronounced /sɔːrdəv/ in American English even though /t/ is not between the two vowels /r/ & /ə/?

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  • In English, r is basically a vowel when it comes at the end of a syllable. @Hugh: Really? I don't think I would say "thangyew."
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 4:27
  • Perhaps your rule about the weakening of t is not quite covering reality.
    – rogermue
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 5:55
  • There are louda problems in this. Geddit?
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 6:02

2 Answers 2

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It's not. The phonemic (in the sense underlying) form is /sɔːɹtəv/ which is from combining /sɔːɹt/ and /əv/. Because it is at the end of a word, the /t/ is also at the end of a syllable, and syllable final /t/ after a vowel, a glide, or [ɹ], and before a vowel, in many American English dialects changes to a flap. So the pronunciation is [sɔːɹɾəv]. There is never a d, neither a phoneme /d/ nor a pronunciation [d].

However, a /d/ in this position would also become a flap. So if the phonemic form were /sɔːɹdəv/, it would be pronounced the same way, with flap replacing /d/ (as in "sword of Damocles").

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  • Please cite your sources.
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 6:17
  • @Kris, I learned about flapping from David Stampe's lectures when I was a student. Since then, the facts about flapping in American English have become very well known to phonologists. Here is a reference to a paper of mine: ai.mit.edu/projects/dm/featgeom/lee-howard74-divinityfudge.pdf
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 14:35
  • @GregLee Would it be fair to say it will happen after any (non-homorganic) sonorant and a vowel? Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 11:17
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It's a cultural thing and I don't think there can be a "Why" to it.

The American T on americanaccent

2 Middle of the Staircase [T is D]
If the T is in the middle of the word, intonation changes the sound to a soft D.
Letter sounds like [ledder].

Water, daughter, bought a, caught a, lot of, got a, later, meeting, better Get a better water heater. [gedda bedder wäder heeder]

Snezhina Dimitrova, British and American Pronunciation pdf

T-voicing also takes place when the stressed vowel is followed by /r/ or by /n/, e.g., party /«på:rt¶i/, reporter /rˆ«pø:rt¶\ r/, twenty /«twent¶i/, hunter /«h√nt¶\ r/. /t/ is also voiced when it is followed not by a vowel but by the syllabic lateral /l§/, e.g., battle /«bæt¶l/, little /«lˆt¶l/, frontal /«fr√nt¶l§/.

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