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The Wikipedia article on gemination claims that gemination of /t/ is the distinguishing factor between the pronunciation of the two phrases night train and night rain.

In my whole life, I've almost never heard the final /t/ in night and the initial /t/ in train articulated the same way. The initial /t/ in train is affricated due to it being in the /tr/ cluster, while in night the /t/ is either a typical English T /t/, unreleased [t̚] or glottalized. They are distinct enough.

I don't think this minimal pair is distinguished by gemination in practical use, as far as I know. How is this pair really distinguished? Is there really gemination there?

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    I don't quite understand the question that you're asking here - could you rephrase it a little? Or add a sentence with a different wording of the same question?
    – Alex K
    Dec 17, 2015 at 5:45
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    An answer could discuss whether gemination refers to a phonological or phonetic concept, or whether it depends on context.
    – user28567
    Dec 17, 2015 at 7:44
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    Is this better suited to Linguistics than ELL? OP seems to be a native speaker of English.
    – Gossar
    Dec 17, 2015 at 8:29
  • Interesting topic, but can you clarify what your question is? Is it 'does germination occur in either 'night train or 'night rain'?
    – Mitch
    Dec 17, 2015 at 13:34
  • @Mitch I have the minimal pair "night train" and "night rain". Wikipedia claims that the minimal pair is distinguished by gemination. I disagree with them. Am I right or wrong? Dec 17, 2015 at 13:36

1 Answer 1

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In my whole life, I've almost never heard the final /t/ in night and the initial /t/ in train articulated the same way.

Short answer: dialectal variation (and I think it's a poor choice for an example of gemination)

The Wikipedia article you cite qualifies this example as a minimal pair "for most accents" (which I doubt, but that's Wikipedia for you). I also notice that, in that section, it's the only example without an IPA transcription (further raising my suspicion).

You'd need a phonologist and a fluoroscope to distinguish all the variation in "night train"

/ˈnaɪt treɪn/ /ˈnaɪt̚ treɪn/ /ˈnaɪʔ ʧreɪn/ /ˈnaɪt̚ t͡ʃreɪn/ /ˈnaɪʔ t͡ʃreɪn/ /ˈnaɪt͡ʃreɪn/

and "night rain" among English speakers.

/ˈnaɪt reɪn/ /ˈnaɪt̚ʔ reɪn/ /ˈnaɪʔ reɪn/ /ˈnaɪɾ reɪn/

Some of these might still make a minimal contrast pair, but with t-glottalization, pre-glottalization, an unreleased stop, or even a flap potentially replacing one half of the twin pair, it would not necessarily be gemination.

You're not the first person to question that particular example. (see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Gemination#.22night_train.22_versus_.22night_rain.22 )

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    I tried to strip this example off the Wikipedia because of this sort of logic, but another person reverted it. Dec 18, 2015 at 15:16

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