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I came across this conundrum years ago in my phonetics class in university.

Although the consonant blend 'tr' is pronounced [tʃɹ] as in 'tree' [tʃɹi:] in American English, I was taught that 'tw' is always pronounced [tw] as in 'tweet' [twi:t]. However, I view my own (native) pronunciation similarly to [tʃw].

Am I taking this out of nowhere? It concerns me as I'm beginning to teach phonics myself and I want to make sure I'm not teaching an incorrect pronunciation.

My one guess would be possibly that as a child I combined /w/ and /ɹ/ as a child, and the 'tr' change carried through even after I separated /w/ and /ɹ/. For reference, I'm a young adult, born and raised in the American South.

  • That sounds vaguely familar. I think you should be a bit more specific about what you mean by "valid"; maybe you could ask instead if it is a "documented" pronunciation variant? Try to find out if anyone knows of any academic literature that mentions it – sumelic Jan 30 '18 at 5:50
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    Mentioned on reddit here: reddit.com/r/linguistics/comments/5o1ywh/… – sumelic Jan 30 '18 at 5:52
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    This also seems relevant: washo.uchicago.edu/pub/workshop/smith.pdf Not quite sure what to make of it though – sumelic Jan 30 '18 at 5:56
  • I don’t think /tr/ is generally pronounced [tʃɹ] in AmE. I’ve argued in an earlier answer that [t͡ʂɻ(ʷ)] is a more accurate candidate. That doesn’t change the fact that any kind of ‘changed’ (postalveolar, retroflex, etc.) pronunciation of the first part of /tw/ is not the norm—it sounds like something from Tweety and Sylvester to me. If you have a generally ‘Southern drawl’ accent, am I right to assume you also have a very labialised [ɻʷ] for /r/? If so, do you find tweet and treat to be (near-)homophones for you? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 30 '18 at 10:22
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: I think [tʃ] works as a broad transcription of [t͡ʂ]. If I remember correctly, there's a bit of disagreement about what exactly [t͡ʂ] refers to anyway (e.g. the Wikipedia article and talk page suggests laminal post-alveolar sounds may or may not be included) – sumelic Jan 30 '18 at 17:58
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How very interesting. The change of palatal glide [j] and [r] to an obstruent after a coronal obstruent is common in English ("want you", "tree"), and [u] has acquired a palatal articulation in earlier English ("value"), so for you, perhaps we can connect the dots. [w,u] become palatal, then after [t,d] the resulting palatal glide becomes an obstruent.

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