Does anyone know of any studies on the change in use of accenting after a glottal stop? I am in my late 40s, and first heard this maybe 10 years ago used by an adult. I have a nephew who is 11, and it seems like all kids use this, where I would NEVER use such a pronunciation under any circumstance.

My best example is the name Peyton, like Peyton Manning. In my non-linguistic writing, I would say PAY’-n, where the apostrophe designates the glottal stop. Unaccented schwa only on the last syllable.

My nephew says PAY’-IN, with a longer pause in the middle. He says it as a spondee (same accenting on both syllables), and converts the schwa into an ih.

I asked some 20-somethings at my work, some said it his way, some did not. Oldest was maybe early 30s. NOBODY in their 40s says this, ever.

  • I think a personal name is a poor example for your question, due to the fact that any name may be pronounced however the owner of the name prefers. Can you provide other examples? – Bread May 6 '18 at 16:48
  • I don't believe there are any spondees in English; all words have primary stress on exactly one syllable. But maybe he's saying Pay'in with secondary stress on the second syllable, which would be surprising. – Peter Shor May 6 '18 at 16:59
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    All the Americans pronouncing satin on forvo.com use a glottal stop, and I don't believe all of them use a schwa. Of course, I don't know how old they are. – Peter Shor May 6 '18 at 17:01
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    A glottsl stop is like East London glitter, where there is no t. Syllabic n after t is a different thing. – KarlG May 6 '18 at 17:10
  • Steve, re @KarlG's remark, are you sure you use a glottal stop in 'Peyton'? The same as in 'button'? What do you use for the 't' in 'water' and 'writer'. I've found that my (around your age) pronunciation of these is all a dental flap, and 'the kids these days' have a glottal stop only for before 'n'. – Mitch May 6 '18 at 18:32

The word "spondee" is a bit unclear when talking about English. There are certain disyllabic words that could be said to have a major stress on both syllables: words like the -teen numbers (e.g. nineteen) and two-letter acronyms (e.g CD) where the primary stress or accent falls on the second syllable when the words are spoken in isolation, but when the word occurs in a phrase, like nineteen men, the accent may fall on the first syllable (apparently, to avoid having two accented syllables in a row). I somewhat doubt that there is any pronunciation of "Peyton" that actually has an accented second syllable in this sense.

The other thing "spondee" could refer to is words that have only one major stress, on the first syllable, but that also have "minor" or "tertiary" stress on the second syllable. Many disyllabic compound words fall into this category, like outcast (n) or household.

I wonder if you are saying that your nephew pronounces the second syllable of Peyton as an "accented" syllable when you really mean that it sounds to you like it has a "minor" or "tertiary" stress. For comparison, the word "latex" is generally pronounced with an unreduced "short e" sound in the second syllable, which some American English speakers hear as a kind of stress (see MW's transcription "\ ˈlā-ˌteks \") but it's clear that the primary stress or accent falls on the first syllable. The two syllables are not equally accented. Likewise, I would expect that your nephew's pronunciation of "Peyton" actually has only one primary stress, and that it falls on the first syllable, but perhaps the vowel sound used in the second syllable makes it sound more like a stressed syllable to you. (However, the fact that you nephew realizes /t/ in this context as a glottal stop rather than as an aspirated plosive suggests that the syllable is not being treated as stressed in his phonological system.)

You write your pronunciation as "PAY’-n", which to me suggests that you actually pronounce this name with a syllabic nasal consonant [n̩] as the nucleus of the second syllable.

Unfortunately, I don't know of linguistic literature or studies that mention this, but I have seen anecdotal accounts suggesting that the realization of /ən/ after /t/ or /d/ as a syllabic nasal [n̩] with no preceding phonetic vowel sound may be more common for older American English speakers than it is for younger speakers. Older speakers remarking on this apparent phenomenon seem to vary in whether they describe the vowel that they hear younger speakers using before [n] as sounding more like [ɛ], [ɪ] or [ǝ].

For example, this blog post, "Desyllabication of /n/ in Consonant Clusters", by Michael Shapiro:

American English in the last decade or more has manifested a phonetic change whereby what was previously a syllabic /n/ in the clusters /dnt/ and /tnt/ at the end of words has instead developed an epenthetic [ɛ] preceding it. Accordingly, whereas the older normative pronunciation of words like student, hadn’t, didn’t, and patent typically had no vowel before [n], now the younger generation of speakers inserts an unstressed open mid-vowel [ɛ] before it.

As well as the questioner (and some commenters) in this Language Log post: Ask Language Log: Trend in the pronunciation of Clinton?

From David Russinoff:

I wonder if you've done, or are aware of, any research relevant to the following observation. In the articulation of a "d" or "t" followed by a schwa, the tongue may or may not leave the alveolar ridge. (I just did some cursory research on parts of the mouth and hope I got that right.) My (highly unscientific) observation over recent years is that, at least in the pronunciation of certain words, such as "student", removal of the tongue is increasingly common. In fact, this trend is so apparent to me that I find it remarkable that most people don't seem to have noticed it. I also have an impression that the trend is especially pronounced (unfortunate choice of words) among younger speakers, but my attempt to support this observation by listening to various pronunciations of "Clinton" over the past four nights failed miserably.

To check if the same difference exists after /d/, maybe you could listen to how your nephew pronounces words like student, garden, or hidden.

  • Why do you write that ‘the word "latex" is generally pronounced with an unreduced "short a" sound in the second syllable’? Do you have the BAG–BEG merger? :) Shouldn’t that just be [ˈleɪ̯ˌtʰɛks]? Now I wonder what the nephew does with the second syllables of photon and codeine, which also resist reduction in American dialects and so under some analyses present secondary stress. Contrast codeine which does with coating which does not. – tchrist May 6 '18 at 22:13
  • sumelic: The David Russinoff comment was spot on! I have heard CLI’-IN too many times! There’s a definite age break in there somewhere, probably related to the earlier comment (adding the vowel in student). – Steve A May 7 '18 at 2:34
  • sumelic: also, there’s more age-based ones out there. Younger people are way more likely to pronounce the T in “exactly”. ((P.S. I like the fractal icon.)) – Steve A May 7 '18 at 2:37

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