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I've noticed that many Americans in movies usually omit letter k when it falls between s and t sounds at the end of any word like in asked, tasked,

Can we generalize that as a rule, so the word masked will be /mast/ and risked will be /rist/?

The same thing with final mpt, can we omit /p/ in cramped, empty, attempt?

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    We don't omit the /k/; we just don't pronounce it quite the same way as a regular /k/. It's called an unreleased /k/. We can tell the difference between wrist and risked, although it's a considerably smaller difference than between (say) sin and skin. See this Wikipedia entry. – Peter Shor Jul 10 '15 at 12:57
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    For your other question, for me there actually is no difference between the final consonants in dreamt and attempt. But it's more like I'm adding an unreleased /p/ to dreamt than dropping the /p/ from attempt. They both end with the same sound as in rasped. (But since in English, final /mt/ = final /mpt/, if you drop the /p/ from attempt, nobody will misunderstand you.) – Peter Shor Jul 10 '15 at 13:03
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    Some American dialects (including African-American) switch the consonants around so that asked becomes aksed. – Robusto Jul 10 '15 at 13:18
  • @PeterShor I don't know about Gen Am, but /k/-elision is often a feature of those words in standard British English. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 10 '15 at 16:08
  • @PeterShor There's no such thing as an unreleased /k/. That usually result in death :D Though of course they can be masked or have no "audible release". – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 10 '15 at 17:19
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In some dialects in Britain (particularly around the Thames Estuary) you will hear for example asked pronounced without the 'k'.

Example

'I never said as 'ow 'e shouldn't; I only arst yer if it was the sime.' 'Yea, thet's 'oo I mean.' ''Is nime is Blakeston—Jim Blakeston. I've only spoke to 'im once. Liza of Lambeth: By Somerset Maugham

Note: In the above, the 'r' is not pronounced - it is used to indicate the lengthening of the 'a' sound. Estuary English is non-rhotic.

Most people however do pronounce all the components of such words. You may miss them because in 'asked' only the vowel sound is voiced. All the consonants are unvoiced.

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  • RP speakers hardly ever pronounce the /k/ in asked. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 10 '15 at 14:00
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    @Araucaria: speak for yourself. As chasly said, it is not voiced, but it is certainly there. – Tim Lymington Jul 10 '15 at 14:14
  • @TimLymington This ain't a matter of opinion, it's been empirically measured. So they've gone out and tested thousands of speakers. Unless you've got some similar evidence contradicting this, I'll stick with the current thinking based on evidence :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 10 '15 at 14:19
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    @Araucaria Do you have a link to this research? You can't take the high ground on evidence if you don't produce it. – mikeagg Jul 10 '15 at 15:26
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    @Araucaria - Not here any more - Of course, you should also record saying it without the 'k' and see if you (or someone else) can distinguish between them. – chasly - supports Monica Feb 22 at 19:08
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Some of the answers and comments here seem to say that the /k/ in asked is not elided in standard Englishes. To counter this misconception, as well as to through some light on masked and risked, I thought it might be a good idea to put some information here from vetted published sources, and world-renowned professional phoneticians of English.

The following goes for Standard Southern British English (also called RP). It's taken from Practical Phonetics and Phonology by Beverley Collins and Inger Mees, Routeledge, 2008:

The sequence /skt/ has elision of /k/ instead of, or if preceding consonants, in addition to /t/:

  • masked gunmen /mɑ:st gʌnmən/ or /mɑ:s gʌnmən/, they asked us /ðeɪ ɑ:st əs/

[Practical Phonetics and Phonology p. 127]

It would seem then that one should be able to extrapolate from this to words like tasked and possibly risked.

However, the following is from Professor John Wells' blog here. It's the entry for Thur 7 September 2006 (in case you want to check out the rest of the entry):

As an ordinary vocabulary item asked, the past tense of ask, is frequently pronounced without the [k]. In its LPD entry I write it as "ɑːskt", showing by the italicization that the velar plosive can be omitted. If it has no [k], it is homophonous with arsed, which explains our eggcorn.

Although we are very ready to elide the [k] in asked, we are not so ready to do so in other -sk past tenses: masked, basked, tasked, whisked, tusked. Nor can we readily elide the [p] in clasped, rasped, lisped, cusped. (OK, in rapid speech I concede that they all might go.)

I leave it to the gentle readers here to make of that what they will!

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No. Some people may not always pronounce these words clearly, some people do. If you want to come up with a rule for others to follow (good luck with that!), how about "pronounce words clearly so they are not confused with other words".

For the record, I have never heard masked pronounced as mast, though the difference can be subtle and those for whom English is not their first language may perhaps miss it.

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