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I often hear people saying something that sounds like "What is that mean" on TV and the Internet but I am wondering whether they really mean that or they actually say "What does it mean". If the latter, why is it so common?

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    It just sounds like that. They are saying, “What does that mean.” but the “t” gets merged with the “d” to become “whaddoes that mean.”
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 20:52
  • Do you think that such concatenations are more common for American English or British English, or there's no rule? Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 21:03

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Where enunciation is not critical, pronunciation will always tend to elide words or omit consonants, or both.

What does that mean? will, where stress is not important, always tend to What's that mean? or Wad's that mean? and will probably end up as Wassa' mean? The glottal stop which replaces the terminal -t on that is likely to be retained, but only as a stop, not as an enunciated -t.

Anything which means the mouth and tongue don't have to move very much is up for adoption.

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Yeah, it's just "What does that mean" all elided together. There should be a detectable difference between an elided "what does" and "what is", something phonetically like "wutuz" vs. "wutiz".

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    There should be??? How closely do you have to listen to detect it? And if they contract it all the way down to "What's that mean", how do you distinguish them then? Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 21:24
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    @Peter True, but the question was not about the contracted version. It was about something that sounded (just) like "what is", which the contracted version does not (different number of audible syllables).
    – Jeff Y
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 21:27

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