My English teacher told me that some native speakers omit the /t/ sound in some words, for example, writ't'en, Bri't'ain, impor't'ant. That means before pronouncing the /t/, there is a sudden pause and then go for /ː(ə)nt/.Is that true? Thank you so much :)

[maybe there is no such a thing. But when I listen to BBC radio, someone says "Britain", I can hardly hear /t/ when they say that word. Why they pronounce that way?]

marked as duplicate by tchrist, FumbleFingers, choster, Chenmunka, Marv Mills Sep 9 '15 at 11:45

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Newsreaders speak more slowly and also tend to accentuate their speech, especially when they are speaking to a diverse audience.

I am a native speaker and if I were to pronounce Britain on its own, I would pronounce the "t" quite clearly. If I were to pronounce it in a sentence, the "t" would be a lot more subtle. If I was speaking to an international audience, I'd imagine I'd make more of an effort to pronounce the "t", but this might well be down to the fact that I would be speaking more slowly.

Pronouncing the "Br" in Britain requires the speaker to push a lot of air from their mouth. In order to give the "t" an equal amount of focus in the word "Britain", the speaker would be forced to pause slightly before its pronunciation. Since we typically like to speak quickly, we don't bother with the short pause and pronounce the "t" with less focus instead.

It is common in languages for certain letters in certain words to loose their accentuation over time. This is because people can still understand what word they are referring to even if this letter looses focus. This is why silent letters appear in the spelling of certain words. For example in Old English, the "k" was pronounced in "know", as was the "g" in "gnaw".

  • 1
    I don't think the 'br' at the start of 'Britain' has anything to do with it. Compare 'cotton', in which I [a UK native] also use the glottal-stop variant of the /t/ phoneme. – David Garner Aug 27 '15 at 15:34
  • David Garner If speaking quickly, I pronounce "cotton" by blowing out more heavily on the "co", resulting in the fact that I dont have enough energy left to accentuate the "tt" to the same extent. Please note that I dont have a UK accent. – Baz Aug 27 '15 at 15:55
  • Sorry, @Baz, I don't accept that. Compare 'batten' and 'rotten' - no 'heavy blowing', as you put it, at the start of those words. It's about the /t/ following a vowel and preceding a syllabic /n/. – David Garner Aug 27 '15 at 16:05
  • @David Garner I would pronounce the tt in batten more clearly than usual, but almost not at all in rotten. :) – Baz Aug 27 '15 at 16:13

The basic concept your teacher gave you is absolutely right. Your teacher's way of explaining it might not pass muster with some of the experts who participate here at English Language & Usage, but that's okay.

I think your teacher was probably motivated by wanting to help you understand people better in authentic verbal communication.

There is always a natural variation in pronunciation, among individuals, and also across regions and socio-economic classes.

For you, as a non-native speaker of English, it would be best to use as clear a pronunciation as possible, to maximize people's ease in understanding you. So I would encourage you to always pronounce the T clearly in Britain.

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