How do you pronounce double consonants in American English?

For example:

  • Daddy - Do you say "Da-di", "Dad-di" or "Dad-i"?
  • Mommy - Do you say "Ma-mi", "Mam-mi" or "Mam-i"?
  • Swimming - "swi-ming", "swim-ming" or "swim-ing"?

I try to listen but I can’t catch it. Are there any rules to pronounce double consonants?

By the way, I'd to know more about syllabic-boundary of double consonants. For example, I read two dictionaries online. For "Mommy" one pronounces "Ma-mi" and another one pronounces "Mam-i". It makes me confused. Can we say both? But when I hear by myself it looks like "Mam-mi", can I say that too?

And about "butter" (it's interesting) which EnabledZombie wrote that it is pronounced "budder" (two Ds) but I saw in a dictionary, it wrote that it has to be pronounced "bud.er". There is only one D. How are they different? Or does it share "d" between 2 syllabics?

  • I corrected your question formatting, so it's easier to read now. :) (If you don't like it, you can roll back or re-edit in some other way.)
    – Alenanno
    Jun 8 '11 at 15:17
  • Related: Pronunciation of “applicable”
    – b.roth
    Jun 8 '11 at 15:44
  • Related: Different syllabic boundaries in various dictionaries. Neil Coffey's answer even mentions a doubled consonant when discussing hypenation.
    – user1579
    Jun 8 '11 at 20:09
  • Thanks a lot everyone for your help.Right now I understand more about double consonant and syllabics.Moreover,Thanks for edition,Rhodri. I like it.:-)You're really kind.
    – Moopp
    Jun 9 '11 at 14:42

To expand on the other answers, you will find that some American English pronunciation of consonants is different from that of British English. For example, the Ts in butter are pronounced distinctly as Ts in the UK (buht-er), but just the same as Ds in America (buh-der). Note that both of these pronunciations use only one consonant sound, not two.

An audial example can be heard at 01:52 in this video.

  • 3
    Yes, but Americans pronounce the 't' in butter in the same way that we pronounce the 't' in waiter. It has nothing to do with the fact that the consonant is doubled. Jun 8 '11 at 16:36
  • 2
    In case anyone else is confused, the Ts in butter are only pronounced as one T in British English (and likewise one D in some varieties of American English)
    – user1579
    Jun 8 '11 at 19:56
  • Thanks for the comments, Peter and Rhodri. I've altered my contribution based on your feedback. Jun 8 '11 at 21:08
  • The UK RP pronunciation of butter is [ˈbʌtə]; the North American pronunciation is [ˈbʌɾɝ]. Intervocalic t’s like that always reduce to a simple flap in North America. Also, unlike say Italian, English has no geminated consonants, even when written doubled. Compare Italian bella /ˈbɛl.la/ with English Bella /ˈbɛlə/.
    – tchrist
    Jan 8 '12 at 16:17
  • Besides cases where the collision of consonants in compound, prefixed or suffixed words cause doubling [I offer as examples 'midday', 'unnecessary' and 'solely'], doubling also occurs in some varieties of British English in very specific circumstances: when a stressed vowel is followed by an unvoiced consonant, then one of /l/, /r/, /w/ or /j/. Thus, 'Zeppelin' pronounced /ˈzɛpplɪn/, 'mattress' pronounced /ˈmattɹəs/, 'liquid' pronounced /ˈlɪkkwɪd/ and 'executive' pronounced /ɪgˈzɛkkjətɪv/. I concede that each doubling might be regarded as glottal stop + single consonant. Dec 17 '14 at 20:39

In English, double consonants and single consonants are two ways of spelling the same sound; unlike Italian, this difference in spelling does not indicate any sound difference. There are compound words such as bookkeeper where "double consonants" are indeed pronounced differently from single ones, but none of your examples are in this category; see this question.

  • What about the word accent, for example? Don't you pronounce both c's?
    – b.roth
    Jun 8 '11 at 15:40
  • 1
    @Bruno You say "Aksent" not "akkent" so it's not a double consonant like the italian word "Casa" vs "Cassa".
    – Alenanno
    Jun 8 '11 at 15:41

In general, doubling a consonant in English doesn't affect how the consonant is pronounced (unlike, say, Finnish). If it has any effect at all, it is usually to shorten the vowel before it, as in "hoping" and "hopping" (/həʊpiŋ/ and /hɒpiŋ/ respectively), which is related to the "silent e" spelling convention.

There are exceptions, most of which have grown up through historical accident. All the examples that have sprung to mind are occasions where "cc" has become pronounced /ks/ for some reason: accelerate, accent, access and so on.

There are also a number of double consonants that aren't really double consonants, where one or other consonant is actually part of a digraph with a completely different sound. @psmears kindly supplied outthink and misshapen as examples; there are undoubtedly more out there.

  • As @Bruno suggested above, accent.
    – MT_Head
    Jun 8 '11 at 19:44
  • @MT_Head: All of the other ones I can think of are "cc" pronounced as /ks/ too: accident, accede, access...
    – user1579
    Jun 8 '11 at 19:59
  • @MT_Head @Rhodri "Account"?
    – Alenanno
    Jun 8 '11 at 21:15
  • @Alenanno @Rhodri - Yes, "account" seems like a good exception to the apparent "cc" rule... Excuse me; I'm off to work out an accord with my aksountant.
    – MT_Head
    Jun 8 '11 at 21:41
  • "outthink"? "misshapen"? Or is that cheating? :-)
    – psmears
    Jun 8 '11 at 21:43

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