When you make a glottal stop (or a glottalized t/stop t) in English, does the front of your tongue touch the roof of your mouth? For example, the word "hit".

  • 5
    A glottal stop doesn't use the tongue at all; it's done entirely by the larynx. And English doesn't have any glottal stop, or any glottalized stops. In normal /t/ pronunciation, most English speakers touch the alveolar gum ridge behind the teeth with the tip of their tongue, not the "roof" (hard palate) of the mouth. In most languages with a /t/ phoneme, the tongue tip touches the incisor teeth from behind, but English /t/ is retracted to the gums behind, and that's a distinctive feature of an English accent in many languages. Aug 21, 2019 at 20:57
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    @JohnLawler: I think your comment ("English doesn't have any glottal stop, or any glottalized stops") is only accurate as a description of one particular variety of English, not of "English" as a whole. Various phoneticians have talked about the use of glottal or glottalized stops in English accents; e.g. this post on John Wells's phonetic blog: glottal t in AmE
    – herisson
    Aug 21, 2019 at 22:37
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    @JohnLawler I think the question is rather whether those who glottalise their syllable-final /t/s still make alveolar contact (i.e., combining the glottal stop with an unreleased alveolar plosive) or whether they use only a glottal stop. The answer is of course that both variations exist, even within the same glottaliser. Aug 22, 2019 at 7:29
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    The problem is that many accent coaches and linguists use the term "glottal stop" to describe what is actually an "unreleased T". In GenAm, and the combination of /t/ + schwa sound + /n/ is pronounced as a glottal stop, the rest are either "real" (either aspirated or un-aspirated), flapped or unreleased.
    – David Haim
    Aug 22, 2019 at 11:17
  • 2
    English doesn't have glottal stops? Uh oh!
    – shoover
    Sep 21, 2019 at 2:28

1 Answer 1


Glottal stops - Cockney or London accent

No, the tongue does not touch the roof of the mouth. It ends up floating in the middle of the mouth. But the shape of the tongue seems to depend on the vowel. If I say ‘butter’ with a glottal stop, my tongue is flat but floating. If I say ‘glottal’ with the stop, my tongue is more curled up at the sides, but floating. There’s a bit of a diphragm push on the ‘t’ of ‘hit’ as well - like a kick.

The glottal stop is rare in English, but it does exist in ‘Cockney’ - a London accent or localised ‘language form’.

Cockneys are people who are ‘born within the sound of Bow bells’ in London. Meaning, within earshot of the sound of the church bells of Bow church, in East London, and Cockney (the language) has a glottal stop on the letter ‘t’ - so for example ‘better’ sounds like ‘be -er’ with the glottal stop in the middle.

The glottal stop is found more widely also, in most people who have a ‘London accent’ or ‘East end’ (of London) accent - all the way down to Brighton - though the home counties people further south of London speak differently.

The tongue does not touch the roof of the mouth (I’m trying it now!)

The ‘Cockney accent’ is often referred to as just ‘Cockney’ in London, and thought of as ‘a language’ by Cockneys, although it is of course, a version of English.

This video shows the glottal stop in Cockney very clearly:


Glottal stops also show up in Cockney at the start of words beginning with H - as in: ‘ow?’ instead of ‘how?’, and at the end of words ending in T like ‘light’. And also, in other accents including Glaswegian.


Here’s a video showing a few aspects of Cockney speech, including the glottal stop.


PS I’m not a cockney, as I was born in Islington, out of earshot of Bow. But my sister is - she was born at Paddington and you can hear Bow bells from there.

  • 1
    Note that there are other accents which glottalise /t/ and do make contact. Tynesiders and Northumbrians, for instance, tend to combine the two (think Lewis or Vera for media examples). Even in Cockney, I’d say an utterance-final glottalised /t/ is not unlikely to be accompanied by an alveolar closure as well. Aug 22, 2019 at 7:33

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