10

What is the sound of TH in the word WITH?

Is it made with the upper teeth in the bottom lips, or with the tongue between them?

Is there any source of why there are such differences with this pair of letters?

Question related: Pronouncing the "th" sound in American accent

  • 4
    Specifically in with (and without), the fricative can be either voiceless /θ/ or voiced /ð/. Both are frequent, even with the same speaker. – John Lawler Oct 9 at 22:12
  • Simple answer: between the teeth. – aparente001 Oct 10 at 6:09
  • 3
    Also be aware that th-fronting is present in many English dialects - with th-fronting, the upper teeth will indeed be on the lower lip – AakashM Oct 10 at 9:18
13

th in with is realized as a voiceless or unvoiced dental fricative, /θ/ as in think, or as a voiced dental fricative, /ð/ as in father, depending on the accent.

In Wells' Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, the poll conducted about the pronunciation of with gives the following results :

  • AmE : wɪθ 84%, wɪð 16%
  • BrE : wɪθ 15%, wɪð 85%

Wells adds that "in Britain /wɪθ/ is nevertheless frequent in Scotland (preferred by 82% of Scottish respondents) and that in some varieties, including GenAm but not RP, there may also be a weak form /wəð, wəθ/."

Here's Gimson's description of the sound in An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English:

  • The tip and rims of the tongue make a light contact with the edge and inner surface of the incisors and a firmer contact with the upper side teeth, so that the air escaping between the forward surface of the tongue and the incisors causes friction. With some speakers, the tongue-tip may protrude between the teeth.
  • Sometimes I even see this pronounced as an intermediate between the tch in witch and the ch in which, or even the t in wit. Now this is wrong, right? – Kelvin Oct 10 at 13:33
  • 1
    @Kelvin So far as I know, "tch" and "ch" in "witch" and "which" are pronounced the same way in all varieties of English, the only difference between the two is at the beginning for those speakers that pronounce which /hwɪtʃ/ as opposed /wɪtʃ/. In Irish English (Ulster excluded) "th" /θ/ is realized as a dental plosive /t̪/ and "with" would be sounded /wɪt̪/. – petitrien Oct 10 at 14:59
3

In English, 'th' in 'with' is an unvoiced dental fricative, with the tip of the tongue against the back of the upper teeth. The lips are not involved at all. The wiki page mentions that it is sometimes pronounced 'interdentally', the tip of the tongue between the upper and lower teeth, but this is not done in English.

The sound is rare among the world's languages so it is difficult for most people learning English. In teaching, sometimes an exaggerated articulation is encouraged, where the tongue sticks out, making for all sorts of rude humor among kids. This helps with learning but is not the native articulation in English.

  • 2
    With respect to P's answer, mine is only about the American variety. – Mitch Oct 9 at 21:01
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    To be honest, I do find the tip of my tongue sticking out from between my teeth when I say this word. But it's not for as long as the BrE pronunciation. I'm from New York, but I'm rhotic if it helps. – David M Oct 10 at 0:51
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    One of my earliest memories is of my infant-school headmistress telling me to “Put your tongue between your teeth” to pronounce ‘th’ properly! (I know that sound is unusual and difficult for non-native speakers. Even here in England, it's not uncommon for children to mispronounce it as ‘v’ or ‘f’, as I must have done when very young.) – gidds Oct 10 at 9:03
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    I disagree with the claim here that having "the tip of the tongue between the upper and lower teeth...is not done in English". The tip of my tongue is out past my top teeth by a couple of mm. My tongue is close to my bottom teeth, but not touching. US midwest accent. – Reinstate Monica Oct 10 at 15:03
-1

Not the bottom, not between the lips.

Here's how I taught it:

Touch the top of your mouth with your tongue and push it forward, touching the back of the top teeth. It can be relaxed, doesn't need to be tense. Keep your mouth open a little.

Now hum!

  • I'm a native AmE speaker. Trying to do what you just described doesn't create anything like my /θ/ or my /ð/. Given that you mentioned humming, I think you're trying to generate /ð/, but it's possible to hum without forcing any air at all through the mouth. – shoover Oct 10 at 21:41

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