1

I would appreciate your help with these two questions:

1)

I hated them.

Will the speaker omit the D or TH sound?

Will he say:

I hateD'em

OR

I hateTHem.

Are both variatons possible?

The example is quite tricky because 'them' is the Middle English 'hem', hence you get the silent H, like in the case of 'him' and 'her'. Usually, you retain the latter or "mix" both sounds, but I'm not sure what happens in this case.

2) What about the sentence:

I helped them.

Would an American, or any other speaker that uses the flap T sound, flap this T and said:

I help̚Dem.

I realize there are accents without the voiced "th" sound, but this is a question to those who do use the voiced "th" sound in their accents. I'm mainly concerned with the GenAm accent.

PS: If you're wondering what's the /p̚/ symbol above the /p/, it's the /p/ sound with no audible release, an unreleased stop consonant.

  • 2
    Testing on myself (native AmE speaker, Northeast): I say "I haydedem". That is, I elide the TH, and convert both Ts to Ds. Also, all the syllables at run together, without any pause. – Dan Bron Nov 11 '15 at 16:20
  • 1
    In General American, them is very often reduced to *'em". I don't think it's very likely you'd keep the /th/ and get rid of the /d/ here—it sounds strange to me. And we never flap /t/s after stops. – Peter Shor Nov 11 '15 at 16:24
  • The th is always the part that gets reduced. The d at the end of the participle will be voiced or unvoiced in accordance with whether the preceding phoneme is voiced or unvoiced. – Robusto Nov 11 '15 at 16:35
  • The reason why I hateTHem doesn’t work is because it would be interpreted as “I hate them” (present tense) instead of past (hated). – Jim Nov 11 '15 at 19:33
2

The short answer (for general American English) is:

  • the T in hated is pronounced as a D
  • the D is pronounced at the end of hated and helped
  • the TH at the start of them is often elided (omitted) unless it's specifically emphasized.

(1) For the first example:

I hated them.

I pronounce it in one of two ways, depending on speed and stress (emphasis).

(a) When I am speaking quickly and not in need of emphasizing a particular word, I will use the D sound for the first T and the [...d th...] sound between words, thus yielding:

  • I hay|de|dem

(I suppose that's the same as saying that I pronounce the D at the end of "hated" but elide the TH in "them.")

As a side note, since the e sound is really a schwa, this pronunciation is effectively all but identical to how I would quickly pronounce "I hated him."

(b) When I am speaking slowly or trying to emphasize the word hated or them, then I will still convert the T in "hated" to a D sound, but I will pronounce the TH in them, thus yielding:

  • I hay|ded them.

(2) As for your other example:

I helped them.

The TH sound essentially disappears altogether (i.e. I elide the TH). I pronounce the entire word helped but let that glide straight into the "-em" portion of "them."

===

(As you noted, answers will vary wildly depending on accent, geography, etc. etc. For context, I'm a native American English speaker who has traveled a lot, and have been told on numerous occasions that I have a fairly neutral American accent.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.