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ESL teachers always tell people to suppress the normal release of the consonant "p b k g t d" if it's at the end of a word and the next word also begins with a consonant.

But what about words with a doubled consonant in them? Like accent, technology, do you produce the /k/ sound? Is it alright to not say it?

The Chinese people are not used to pronouncing a consonant directly after another consonant without a vowel between them, so some of us tend to remove a consonant (some may even add a vowel that isn't there); that's why I'm asking.

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    It's a bit hard to tell what you mean by "stop the consonant". In linguistics terminology, "stop" and "plosive" are usually synonyms that refer to consonants like p b k g t d in any position. Your question seems to be about a particular way of pronouncing plosive consonants -- I think you are asking whether they are pronounced with an audible "release", or whether they are "unreleased". The term "double consonant" is often used to refer to spellings with the same letter twice in a row, but in your question, you seem to be asking about sequences of distinct consonant sounds like /ks/ or /kn/.
    – herisson
    Aug 25, 2019 at 1:15
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    It would be helpful if you could add some sentences where this happens. Aug 25, 2019 at 7:18
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    @sumelic thank you for correcting me, I used the wrong term "double consonant". What I meant was the Chinese aren't used to produce 2 consonants together, like "bus station", "related topics"... so some of us pronounce those phrases like "bus-a-station", "related-a-topics". Then my teacher says that we should assimilate the S in "bus station", and stop saying the D in "related topics". They say if p b k g t d is followed by a consonant, it is not pronounced.
    – Adrian GUO
    Aug 25, 2019 at 13:11
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    In addition to what @sumelic says, you should realize that similar consonants do sometimes sound like they're getting dropped. Example: upbraid. A non-native speaker may hear this as u'braid, even though there is the hint of the /p/ in it, which is obvious, more or less, to native ears. In those cases, the latter consonant is usually emphasized.
    – Robusto
    Aug 25, 2019 at 13:32
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    @tchrist That English contrasts voiced and unvoiced instead of aspirated and unaspirated isn’t usually a problem for Chinese people – there’s a two-way dichotomy in both languages, and the systems are easily comparable. I think this is simply about consonant clusters, since Chinese (well, Mandarin) allows only nasals (and marginally /ɹ/) in syllable coda and no clusters at all in syllable onset, meaning no clusters except /NC/ (and marginally /ɹC/) even across word boundaries. Many Chinese speakers find /ks/ nigh impossible to say, saying instead /kəs/ or just /s/. Aug 25, 2019 at 22:17

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In words like accent and technology, both consonants are pronounced with no vowel sound in between: [ks] and [kn]. English speakers tend to think of the [k] sound in these words as part of the end of the preceding syllable.

I think it would be difficult to understand a pronunciation of either of these words that moved straight from the vowel sound to the [s] or [n] consonant sound.

Adding a vowel sound between the two consonants is not the best way to pronounce it, but as long as you make the added vowel short and unstressed, this kind of pronunciation will probably be easier to understand than a pronunciation that deletes the [k] sound.

As mentioned in the comments, "bus station" and "related topics" are somewhat special cases. In "bus station", the two [s] sounds may be blurred together. In English, sequences of the same consonant sound are not very common, and when they arise between words, they are sometimes pronounced in a way that sounds like a single consonant sound. So in this case, it might be better to pronounce one [s] sound instead of inserting a vowel sound between the words.

In the case of "related topics", the two consonant sounds, while not identical, are produced in the same place in the mouth: [d] and [t]. The pronunciation of clusters like this is a bit complicated to describe, but in general, we can say that the first consonant become more similar in pronunciation to the second.

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  • If you replace the [k] with a glottal stop, both these words are easy to understand: /æʔsn̩t/, /tɛʔnolədʒi/. In fact it happens all the time in rapid speech.
    – TonyK
    Aug 25, 2019 at 22:05
  • @TonyK: Sure, I guess what I really meant was that I'd recommend using some consonant sound there, not that it's vital that is is [k] specifically. I don't know whether alternative consonant sounds would be any easier for Chinese speakers, though.
    – herisson
    Aug 25, 2019 at 22:07
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    Other consonants wouldn’t be easier, no. The only consonants that Mandarin allows in syllable coda are /n ŋ ɹ/, of which the first is usually transferred to the preceding vowel, nasalising it, and being itself realised something like [ð̃]. Glottal stops are not phonemic and only occur in syllable onset. Aug 25, 2019 at 22:21
  • @TonyK The problem is that, if you do replace one consonent with a glottal stop it can become difficult to work out which of two or more similar words you mean. For example "accent", "ascent" and "assent" could all sound the same.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 25, 2019 at 1:27
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    @BoldBen: Your example is terrible! Firstly, "ascent" and "assent" are homophones; and secondly, neither of them sounds at all like "accent", because (i) the stress is on a different syllable, and (ii) there is only one central consonant so nobody pronounces them with a glottal stop.
    – TonyK
    Sep 25, 2019 at 8:35

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