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Many people raised in the US state of Connecticut have a distinctive accent that I have never heard anywhere else in New England. They cut off their "t"s when they pronounce certain words.

One place this occurs is at the end of words ending in "t". Example: "Connecticut". People don't pronounce the final "t", but instead cut off the short "u" sharply, as though something has suddenly gotten in the way of their tongues.

They do the same thing in the middle of certain words. One example is the word "important"; another is the name of the city "New Britain". In both cases, the speakers mark a barely perceptible stop between the "r" and the first "t" in "important", and do the same between the "i" and the "a" in "New Britain". In both these cases, it's as though there is nothing in place of the "t", but there's still a marked differentiation between the letters around it.

Is this a glottal stop, or something else? It seems to happen toward the front of the mouth, if that makes any difference.

Also, does anyone know how it evolved in the small state of Connecticut?

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  • TLDR, glottalisation? In 'important' and 'Britain' I often use glottal stop. Apr 22 '20 at 19:01
  • This is my first question. @Decapitated Soul, do you think I should have made it shorter, perhaps without the examples? Apr 22 '20 at 19:02
  • In both cases, the speakers mark a barely perceptible stop between the "r" and the first "t" in "important" Is it the same as in the word 'party'? Apr 22 '20 at 19:06
  • @DecapitatedSoul, good questions. Actually, it's not. They pronounce all the letters in party. It's very curious. Apr 22 '20 at 19:17
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    This is all a result of the Boston T Party!!
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 22 '20 at 22:09
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Glottal stop, according to the following article:

The glottal stop or glottal plosive is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages, produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract or, more precisely, the glottis. (Wikipedia)

From The New York Times- Connecticut - Accent? What Accent?

"It's called a glottal stop," said Pat Gomola, a speech pathologist at the Speech and Language Institute in Middletown. "It's not a 't' sound. You say it in the back of your throat. It's the same thing when they say double-t words like cattle or bottle." In New Britain, such words come out as "CAH-uhl" or "BAH-uhl." Ms. Morgenstern attributed this sound to New Britain's large Polish-American population. "They don't enunciate their consonants as much," she said.

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  • Thank you, @Hachi! I was not familiar with that article. A couple of things. While I've heard people from Brooklyn, New York say "BAH-uhl", I don't hear that in Connecticut. But the observation about the Polish-American community around New Britain is interesting. But there are also many families of Italian heritage elsewhere in the state, and many of them use the same pronunciation. Perhaps I'm wrong and Pat Gomola is right -- that it all happens in the back of the mouth. Apr 22 '20 at 19:21
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    Although I moved to California many decades ago, I'm from CT and I ascribe this accent solely to people from and near New Britain. Apr 9 at 1:10
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I think there are a couple related but slightly distinct things that you're talking about.

At the end of the word Connecticut, you are probably talking about replacement of /t/ at the end of a word with a glottal stop [ʔ]. This also can affect /t/ before a consonant in the middle of a word, as in wetly.

In words like important, the relevant sequence is even more specific: you're talking about the pronunciation of /tən/, a /t/ followed by the unstressed vowel phoneme called "schwa" and then the nasal consonant /n/. In many accents of English, the phoneme sequence /ən/ can be pronounced as a syllabic nasal, transcribed [n̩], in certain contexts, including after /t/. The realization of the /t/ itself is a little variable: it can be a nasally released /t/ sound (transcribed [tⁿ]), or for some speakers it can be a glottal stop [ʔ].

As far as I know, the use of [ʔn̩] is fairly widespread, so it wouldn't stick out too much. A slightly different thing that I think you might be noticing is the use of oral release in this context. I said earlier that /tən/ is often pronounced with [n̩], but some speakers do in fact use something like [ʔən], with a glottal stop followed by an oral vowel followed by a nasal consonant.

Speakers who don't usually use oral release seem to find that the pronunciation of /tən/ with oral release sounds odd, but they describe it in different ways. I've seen some people say it sounds to them like the insertion of an /ɛ/-like vowel; another common perception seems to be loss of the /t/ sound. A recent Reddit thread on this subject: https://www.reddit.com/r/linguistics/comments/fq3vfz/millennialzoomer_glottalization/

A post there by problemwithurstudy links to the paper "Where are the mountains in Utah?", by David Eddington, which studies the topic of how /tən/ words are pronounced in Utah. Eddington found that what is popularly characterized as "dropping t's" in Utahn pronunciation is actually the use of a glottal stop with oral release. I don't know what the situation is in Connecticut but I wonder if it could be similar.

Decapitated Soul's comment "'Mountain' pronounced with a 'glottal stop' sounds awkward" reminded me that /ntən/ can behave differently from /tən/ for some speakers, but I don't know the details. Here's a 2016 Language Log post by Mark Liberman about the pronunciation of the name "Clinton": https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=27112

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  • Thank you, @herisson. This is interesting material. "Mountain" is one of the words affected by Connecticut pronunciation. I have not been to Utah, however, so I can't express an opinion on the similarities. One of the reasons that the pronunciation is so noticeable in Connecticut is that people with this "accent" otherwise speak with few or no other specific regional variances from "standard" American English. Apr 22 '20 at 19:26
  • 'Mountain' pronounced with a 'glottal stop' sounds awkward. Apr 22 '20 at 19:30
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    @DecapitatedSoul: Eddington indicates that over 80% of his American-English-speaking subjects glottalized /t/ in words with /tən/. But there might be a difference for /ntən/ words.
    – herisson
    Apr 22 '20 at 19:33
  • @DecapitatedSoul, "mountain" does sound awkward pronounced in that way. Apr 22 '20 at 19:34
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Not sure if any of this helps but one of the consistent pronunciations I hear in the state of Connecticut is the interchangeability between the letter D and the letter T especially when they are doubled in words. The words BETTING and BEDDING sound identical. Also any word that ends in the letter D or T or G will be cut off completely. ING words cut off the last G, every time. Talkin' callin' goin' bein' etc. In most cases the last G is replaced with the letter t so the sounds of the words ending is a sharp t sound. "talkinT" "callinT" etc.

I'm not sure if I have an answer for you on this however there is something that should be noted. There seems to be a very thick and distinct accent in the New Haven area of the state of Connecticut. This accent is predominantly carried by the Italian-American community of which is some of the largest in the entire country. An Italian-American from New Haven will sound like they are a mix between New York and Boston accents. I happen to fall into this category and am constantly asked if I am from New Jersey or New York.

The most recognizable of the accent is the elongation of the vowels with the diphthongs taking on a completely different sound. CALL and TALK sound like "cawl, tawlk" and LONG sounds like "lawng". COUGH and COFFEE sound like "cawf, cawfee". And the list goes on and on.

There is no doubt that it is a completely distinct and colloquial accent and if you want to know the history on it you have to go back to the history of the settlement of the state of Connecticut and the influx of immigration into the state in the 1920s through the 1950s. With the amount of Irish and Italian immigration in that time period you will begin to see how the accent evolved.

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  • This is a lot about the accent but does not answer the question. I do hope you'll find more questions, and please take a moment to tour the site and read the FAQ.
    – livresque
    Mar 15 at 23:38
  • I'm from CT and would say I have no accent other than the way I say the name of the coin worth 25 cents from my 7 years in Boston. But T=D is something that was pointed out to me on a speaking tour in the UK. Specifically the word dirty. Apr 9 at 1:07
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I came across your question when I was doing some research on this topic just now. I wrote a blog post on it from the perspective of a vocal coach. Perhaps you will be entertained:

https://www.crescendomusicloft.com/2021/04/08/i-can-tell-you-are-from-connecticut/

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    If the article contains an answer to the question, please relay it here, so users don't have to click the link.
    – Joachim
    Apr 8 at 21:23
  • @Joachim From the link Dead Giveaway That You’re From Connecticut [...] The use of a glottal stop instead of a “t” sound before the consonant “n” and “m” [...] When you’re talking, it’s not so much of an issue, but when you’re singing, it’s really a glaring. Here are three words that Connecticut people say differently from most other regions: Button; Mitten; Fountain -- it is most noticeable when the “t” sound is being followed by an “n” or “m” sound. [...] they’re more like: Buh-en; Mih-en; Fowh-en. The link also contains audio examples and a video.
    – Greybeard
    Apr 8 at 21:49
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    Welcome to our site, Sandy Connolly. I'm afraid posting just a link to an external reference is not an acceptable way to answer a question here. We expect that the answers be self contained, and have references people can follow if they feel so inclined. It would be a great contribution to our community if you could take the time to summarise the salient points of your post in your answer and then link back to it for people who want a deeper dive. Apr 9 at 16:00
  • Well, thank you, @sandyconnolly. That was indeed very entertaining. I laughed out loud at your first sung version. I originally thought people would find my question rather obscure, but you have certainly made it clear that the Connecticut accent is a real "thing"! Apr 9 at 22:13
  • Please forgive me for not posting more of an answer here. It's my first time posting in any sort of forum like this, and now I understand why you wouldn't want to just post a link. I was just so excited to find someone interested in the esoteric topic I had just gone to great pains to explain. Please help me. Shall I add another comment or another answer with more content? Apr 13 at 12:54

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