I was reading an article the other day and I came across an interesting passage:

Notice that the weak form of the is typically [ði] before a vowel-initial word (the apple) but [ðə] before a consonant-initial word (the pear), although this distinction is being lost in the United States. [26]

I'm concerned with the United States part. Is it true that American speakers don't make this distiction? I have never found this information in any book on accents for English learners or actors. It seems to have been taken from this book:

Ladefoged, Peter (2006), A Course in Phonetics, Thomson.

Since I don't have it, and I can't find it anywhere on the Internet, I can't really check its contents. Are there any American speakers here who don't make this distinction when speaking? And even could provide some additional sources? As I can't find any. Thanks for your time.

The link to the article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stress_and_vowel_reduction_in_English

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    American English speakers make the distinction, though they are generally unaware of it. It comes as a surprise to them when they learn that the definite article has two forms (they're both spelled alike and Anglophone schools teach that pronunciation comes from spelling, rather than the reverse), and that they're subject to the same kind of rule as the allomorphs of the indefinite article (which are not spelled alike). – John Lawler Nov 13 '15 at 19:26
  • Yes, but I'm not talking about isolated pronunciation or an emphasis in a sentence like "Give me THE apple, not an apple." I'm talking about normal speech without any emphasis on the definite article. Will this distinction still be present there? – Fae Nov 13 '15 at 19:33
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    What John said. Furthermore, "the" exists on a continuum, and the pronunciation may "slide" toward one version or the other based on various contextual details, including particularly the rate of speech. – Hot Licks Nov 13 '15 at 19:33
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    Since there is no difference in meaning involved, the difference [ði] / [ðə] is not really a "distinction". So far as I have heard, both forms are still normal in American English speech. – Greg Lee Nov 13 '15 at 20:18
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    There are a lot of other relevant questions linked to the one choster mentioned, like this : the and thee (I prefer to pronounce it as thuh all the time) Though from what I remember, none of them have great answers. Just thought you might like to look over previous questions and answers though. – herisson Nov 14 '15 at 0:45

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