For example, ‘speaker’ sounds like ‘speager’ and ‘Stop it’ sounds like ‘stob it’.

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    It's because Chinese consonants don't correspond to English consonants. Using IPA, in Pinyin, "k" is /kʰ/ and "g" is /k/. In English, we pronounce "k" as /kʰ/ at the beginning of words and /k/ at the end of words, while we pronounce "g" as /g/ everywhere (and /g/ is not a phoneme in Chinese). Similarly for "p" and "b". You have to stop listening with Chinese-tuned ears and train your ears to hear English consonants. – Peter Shor Apr 21 '19 at 15:05
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    Speaker and speager do not sound the same. You may hear the k in speaker as more of a g-like sound, but an English speaker hears a k sound. If you hear someone say speager, that will sound distinctly different because the preceding vowel is longer. That’s just how English phonology works, and there’s no logical ‘reason’ for it. It’s a bit like a French person asking why the Chinese pronounce 高 gāo with a k sound instead of a g sound. Any Chinese speaker will say that they don’t, because the sound they say is a g to them, even if it sounds like a k to a Frenchman. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 21 '19 at 16:31
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    Just be glad you're not learning an Indian language, where /kʰ/, /k/, /gʰ/, /g/ are four different consonants. And notice that if you pronounce a "b" the way you do in Chinese, English speakers will think you're saying cap and not cab. – Peter Shor Apr 21 '19 at 19:35
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    @KwanHOLee I think it’s lazy when Chinese people pronounce the g in 高 as an unvoiced [k]. If you pronounce it properly, it’s fully voiced [g]. — See how that doesn’t work? It is not lazy; it’s just how the language works. Chinese has no voiced plosives, and (American) English does not have aspirated plosives at the end of syllables. Pronouncing them as such would be mispronouncing them in both languages. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 21 '19 at 22:57
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    Most of the time, we have no problem distinguishing /k/ and /g/. However, they are similar, and it's the case that occasionally native speakers don't articulate these sounds well enough for us to tell them apart easily. – Peter Shor Apr 22 '19 at 12:56

Would it have to do with the stop in BE, at least for the first word?

When I pronounce the words with my fake British accent (not cogney, but not quite proper either) "speaker" sounds lie "speek-uh" (apologies -- I don't have the wherewithal to include a proper phonetic spelling) and pronouncing "stop it," I hear "Stawhpit."

In my (inexperienced) opinion, the Queens English has more uniformity in phonemes than American English--the vocalized consonants are vocalized, the unvocalized consonants are not--"Stawh-pit" (where pit is as close to peet as I could get without changing the letter to ee) as opposed to one of the American Northeast metropoli (where everything is fast and furious) "Stobpit" (where the I is clearly a short I). Likewise, "speak-uh" becomes the rushed "speagker." I would also enter the following supposition--in American English of the NE, besides rushing through the sentances, clipping the unvocalized consonants into vocalized consonants to save time, we tend towards laziness in conversation--it is not so much that we don't pronounce K or P, but that they are partially (or wholly) vocalized making them sound like G or B, and easier to pronounce quickly.

Another example of laziness in conversational pronunciation: In Philadelphia, for example--"did you eat?" becomes duhjeeet" where I would almost leave out the "uh" and replace with an apostrophe. The second D sounds like a J, even though original phrase contains no letter J, or G.

As a side note, High German (of Hanover I believe,) has strict pronunciation rules, which make it much easier (for me) to learn the pronunciation of new words. I'm sure many a foreigner wishes English was like that.

  • Hello Nolan, did you deliberately mis-spell 'cockney' as 'cogney' to match the question or do you really think it's spelt like that? – BoldBen May 4 '20 at 1:10
  • @Boldben no, I wish I realized it when I composed the answer--I would have basked in the PUNishment. – Nolan K Spade May 4 '20 at 9:53
  • Must have been a Freudian (or something similar before someone gets pedantic about the definition) slip, Nolan. – BoldBen May 5 '20 at 12:06
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    @chronocidal I guess my meaning of “fake” BE accent was not understood. I was communicating the fact that to my non-British, untrained ear, the sto-pit of the majority of BE Accents contains your plosives. Here in the American Northeast, where everything from meals to speech is rushed, we are lazy, and our pronunciation reflects that. My apologies—I do recall typing “Inexperienced.” I shall edit my answer accordingly— you are quite correct: I have no to very little “experience” (with the exception of Downton Abbey and Grantchester, of course-a joke.) – Nolan K Spade May 6 '20 at 19:24

It's a "lazy" accent - but it is not unique to the USA. However, it may be that you are only seeing exaggerated / stereotypical accents for non-US English speakers in media you are consuming.

If we take the first example, "Speaker" verses "Speager" - the first two phonemes ('/s/', '/p/') are unvoiced constants, the third ('/i:/') is a long, unvoiced vowel, and the fifth ('/ə/') is an unstressed, unvoiced vowel. The fourth phoneme, the '/k/', is a plosive (unvoiced velar plosive). This takes both more time and effort than using a stop, such as '/g/' (voiced velar stop - as this stop is not followed by a plosive, it is sometimes referred to as a "voiced velar applosive"). Instead of just obstructing the airflow, you have to obstruct it, build pressure, and then release. (In actuality, you'll find that this tends to be an unvoiced velar applosive - neither '/k/', nor '/g/' - which avoids the "effort" of using the larynx / voicebox)

Taking the second example, "stop it" versus "stob it" (or "stobbit"), a similar trend is shown: The unvoiced bilabial stop ('/p/') is sandwiched between two short voiced vowels ('/ɒ/' and '/ɪ/') - instead of interrupting the flow of the word to properly "unvoice" it - i.e. no longer using the larynx - the voiced bilabial stop, '/b/' creeps in. Again, this takes slightly less time and effort than saying it correctly would.

(This also correlates to why accents often "fade" to this style while singing)

The most well-known example of a non-plosive ("applosive") stop is the "Glottal Stop" (ironically sometimes called a "Glottal Plosive"), such as when pronouncing "butter" as "bu'er".

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    What's the difference between a 'voiceless velar plosive' and an 'unvoiced velar stop'? I didn't think there was one. – Jacob Stewart May 4 '20 at 13:24
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    @JacobStewart See here - while every plosive follows a stop, you can have a stop which is not then followed by a plosive (in which case the "stop" is sometimes called an "applosive" instead - I will update the answer with that in mind). "Unvoiced" and "voiceless" are synonyms, but I will edit to use just one for less confusion – Chronocidal May 4 '20 at 13:33
  • I realise that the term "lazy accent" might have a technical definition but I find the "lazy" classification of an entire accent really difficult to accept. In my experience entire working class accents are often described as "lazy" by people who use RP because they contain slurs and dropped letters which are different from those employed in RP. However there are ofren elements of the accented speech which are harder work than the equivalent ones in RP. I can accept the definition of individual "lazy" elements but not the classification of an entire accent as "lazy". – BoldBen May 5 '20 at 12:27

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