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While checking the exact pronunciation of the term deuce, I noticed that there is a clear difference between BrE /djuːs/ and NAmE /duːs/.

While it is true that pronunciation has more exceptions than set rules, I’m surprised by the missing “e” (/j/) in the AmE version.

Is it just another exception, or are there other similar examples that might suggest a sort of pattern for similar clusters of letters?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Aug 8, 2018 at 11:50
  • Suddenly I realize why everybody mishears the line in Manfred Mann's Blinded by the Light as "wrapped up like a douche." Deuce is pronounced with an American accent— doose (the way Bruce Springsteen does it). And I guess people don't expect this pronunciation from a British group, so they mishear it. Jun 23, 2020 at 17:37

2 Answers 2

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The elision of /j/ in deuce etc. in North American English is known as yod-dropping and occurs after coronal consonants (those that involve the tongue tip, i.e. /t, d, n, s, z, θ, l/) within the same syllable.

This makes dew/due and tune homophonous with do and toon, respectively. It is present in all of North America except some parts of the Southern US.

/r/ is also a consonant that involves the tongue tip, and rude, brew, true, etc. used to be pronounced with /j/, but it's now completely gone even in British English. /j/ after /s/ and /l/, as in suit and lute, is also disappearing in BrE too.

A related phenomenon observed in Englishes outside North America is yod-coalescence, by which /tj, dj, sj, zj/ become /tʃ, dʒ, ʃ, ʒ/. This makes dew/due homophonous with Jew instead and Tuesday sound like choose day. Yod-coalescence in words traditionally pronounced with /tj, dj/ such as tune and dune used to be considered substandard or rural in British English, but has since gained wide currency and is now considered part of the standard(ized) variety of Southern British English (though pronunciation with /j/ is still common). Words like nature and vision also used to be pronounced with /j/ but yod-coalescence in these words is complete in almost all accents worldwide.

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  • Well ... that map is just for /t/ and /d/. I believe the distinction after /n/ is more persistent than the distinction after /t/ and /d/, so that may still be around in more parts of the U.S. Aug 2, 2018 at 2:00
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    Yod dropping exists, and has existed for a long time, in certain British English accents as well, just not in the posh accent (whatever we're calling the modern version of RP). For instance, Cockney accents have yod dropping after n, so news is pronounced /nu:z/, like the most common (though not universal) American pronunciation. Rural Norfolk accents have very extensive yod dropping, so view is pronounced /vu:/, and beautiful is /bu:tɪfʊl/. If you need a source for this, see John C. Wells Accents of English. Aug 2, 2018 at 8:12
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    Surely native speakers on every continent say Did you ...? with its /dj/ coalesced to /dʒ/ in all but the most careful speech. I doubt that bit is confined to the UK alone.
    – tchrist
    Aug 4, 2018 at 0:08
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Consider tune in AmE and BrE: in the latter it is like tyune /tjuːn/ (in AmE it is /tuːn/). This pronunciation after a dental /t/, /d/ and before U is a known difference, although I dont know the exact contexts in which it happens.

See also Quora's Why do British speakers insert a "y" before the letter "u" when pronouncing...

This has been written as a "partial answer" per recent metapost guidelines/suggestions.

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    The reason that British speakers put a "y" before the letter "u" in jaguar, puma, Nicaragua, kudos is that they don't know how to pronounce either Spanish or ancient Greek. It has nothing to do with Americans dropping the "y" in tune, deuce, and new. We always include the "y" after the consonants "g", "k", "p" (except sometimes when, miraculously, we pronounce foreign words better than the British). Aug 1, 2018 at 20:46
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    @PeterShor: Not quite "always"--there are a few words where "y" is mysteriously absent after /g/ or /k/ in most people's pronunciation, like "gubernatorial" and "recuperate".
    – herisson
    Aug 2, 2018 at 1:33
  • @sumelic There sure aren’t that many (if any) initial /gju/ words, unlike medially as in argument, angular, figure. Putatively guze, guvacine count, but show me somebody using those. And perhaps gulo, gulosity which surprises me but I’m not a "virgin" English speaker, knowing the word not from English myself, but only from Spanish and Latin via its taxon, Gulo gulo. None of these are in common use. Compare the “naturally spelled” goose and goof, goop, goon. Ghoul doesn’t count though.
    – tchrist
    Aug 3, 2018 at 2:34
  • @tchrist: also gewgaw. Aug 3, 2018 at 23:44

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