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I thought that it is aspirated because of the rule of aspiration : the stops like /p t k/ become aspirated when they occur in the word initial position OR in the onset position of the stressed syllable. But the answer was "unaspirated" because /k/ is not in the stressed syllable even though it occupies the word initial position. Is the answer correct?

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    It can occur either aspirated or unaspirated, depending on whether there is a secondary stress on the first syllable, and how fast the speaker is going. In a phrase like initially confused (as in "He was initially confused, but..."), there would not be such a stress, and the /k/ would appear unaspirated [ɪ'nɪʃəlikṇ'fyuzd]. In the Monty Python sketch name "Confuse-a-Cat", however, it'd be aspirated. Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 15:50
  • The IPA notation for English uses no signs for aspirated plosives.
    – rogermue
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 16:13
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    @rogermue: that's because (1) aspirated and unaspirated versions are allophones of the same phoneme, like light and dark l and (2) aspiration is optional for probably around half the unvoiced plosives in speech (like the /k/ in confused). Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 16:32
  • This is a difficult question because in English, compared with Spanish for example, consonants all have some degree of aspiration. Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 16:54

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It's aspirated, since it's at the beginning of a syllable. The aspiration is less prominent if the syllable does not have stress, but it's still aspirated. Compare the "t" of "tomorrow" or "today", where "t" is before the schwa of an unstressed syllable, yet has clearly discernible aspiration (at least for many people -- there could be exceptions).

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