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For example, how do I pronounce the "t" in "Robert"? (Assuming nothing is said after it, or the thing after it starts with a consonant)

Is it a half-stop "t" or a regular "t"?

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    We have no idea what you mean by a half-stop 't'. And it's not a technical term I can find on the web. Could you clarify? We pronounce it the way we generally pronunce 't's at the ends of words, like cart, hurt or merit, which isn't the same way as we pronounce 't's at the beginning of words. The fact that it's a name makes no difference. Apr 8 '21 at 20:24
  • What is meant is probably "glottal stop". However, this not a feature of standard pronunciation, whether in AmE or BrE.
    – LPH
    Apr 8 '21 at 20:30
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    What happens when a stop consonant ends a word is what's called an unreleased stop. You make the stop and then don't ever release it. It's the opposite of aspirated stops, which occur in English before stressed vowels -- they get released loudly with a puff of air (like the /p/ in puff), whereas unreleased stops are like /t/ in What?, which is often elided because it adds no information and is easy to delete. Since the articulation of a stop includes onset and finish, an unreleased stop just has no finish part -- your articulators stay closed. Apr 8 '21 at 20:33
  • @LPH It is not a glottal stop. In AmE, word final 't's are pronounced 'unreleased', that it is like the word initial 't' or post-fricative 't', an alveolar stop (tip of tongue against the alveolar ridge, occluding passage of air), but also there is no 'release', almost as though swallowed. The word-middle 't' in AmE like in 'water' is an alveolar flap (but is changing to a glottal stop).
    – Mitch
    Apr 8 '21 at 20:49
  • It would be nice to have typical audio samples of those various t's.
    – LPH
    Apr 8 '21 at 21:12
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As you may already know, a stop consonant like [t] consists of three parts: the approach, where you bring two parts of your vocal tract together to cut off the airflow; the closure, where the airflow is stopped; and the release, where you let it out again. For voiceless stops (again like [t]), the closure is completely silent, so the only parts we hear are the approach and the release.

When a stop comes at the end of a word in English, and doesn't have anything after it, it's generally unreleased: there's no audible release, just the approach and closure. And if the stop is voiceless, the closure is silent, so all you hear is the approach.

If this is what you mean by "half-stop t", then yes, you're correct: the end of "Robert" is an unreleased [t̚]. But it's generally not a glottal stop (the sound in the middle of "flatten" in many dialects) or a flap (the sound in the middle of "ladder" in much of America), which have been suggested as other possible meanings of "half-stop t" in the comments.

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  • I think this is only the case for AmE. In the UK there is more of a tendency to release word-final t's.
    – Mitch
    Apr 8 '21 at 21:58

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