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Well, I usually say "twenny" instead of "twenty" (not "twendy" even). I recently noticed that I never heard the same from any native english speakers during any talks I ever had with them.

Recently I had a brief search on the 'net and it seems that it is somehow okay to say "twenny", but it might look the least correct pronunciation for most of the people, or they might think you have strange accent, etc.

So, my question is, is there any good reference which clearly proves saying "twenny" instead of "twenty" is totally correct or wrong?

P.S. You're most welcome to write your very personal opinion if you don't know any good references.

Update

I've already looked at the major dictionaries and didn't find any of them lists "twenny" in their pronunciation's section, however I'm sure that I didn't made that up, but I heard that while ago. Maybe in a movie, maybe from someone, and that's why I'm looking for the answer.

  • 1
    @coleopterist yes, I had a look at all the major dictionaries, not of them listed "twenny" in their pronunciations, however would you agree with me that there are people (mostly native english speakers) whose saying "twenny" instead of "twenty"? that's why I look to see if it's totally acceptable or wrong. – Mahdi Jan 3 '13 at 18:54
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    For what it's worth, "twenny" is absolutely ubiquitous in Southern Ontario (whence I hail), and it wouldn't occur to me to pronounce "twenty" otherwise in any context. But then again, we do (in)famously call the capital city of Ontario /ˈtrɒnoʊ/... – Branimir Ćaćić Jan 3 '13 at 19:22
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    If one is going to ask (or answer) a question about pronunciation here, one should use standard English phonemic notation, not made-up spellings or 18th-century notation. English writing does not reproduce sounds, and trying to make it do so is a recipe for still more confusion. – John Lawler Jan 3 '13 at 19:30
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    I don't think /ˈtwɛni/ — John Lawler is right, this is precisely why IPA and its derivatives exist — is absolutely universal in North America, but I would imagine that it's common enough. – Branimir Ćaćić Jan 3 '13 at 19:38
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    God help us all if somebody asks how to pronounce "oysters". – T.E.D. Jan 3 '13 at 20:06
15

The stop in syllables that end in a homorganic nasal-plus-stop cluster (in English, these clusters are /mb, mp, nd, nt, ŋɡ, ŋk/) is often elided. Word-final /-mb/ and
/-ŋɡ/ never occur in Modern English, for example, although their dumb Middle English spellings hang around.

Final /-nd/ does occur, though not always, but it's frequently neutralized with /-nt/, especially after a stressed vowel and preceding an unstressed one. As in twenty.

This interacts with the neutralization of /d/ and /t/ in the same environment; in American English, both go to [ɾ], as in betting and bedding, which differ -- if at all -- only in the allophonic vowel length of stressed /ɛ/ in the first syllable of bedding.

Upshot: In American English, /'twəni/ is the normal pronunciation, /'twɛni/ is somewhat more formal and careful, and /'twɛnti/ is fastidiously careful.

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    You may quote me. – John Lawler Jan 3 '13 at 19:33
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    Charles-James Bailey in his "Four low-level pronunciation rules of Northern States English" says that /'twɛni/ > /'twəni/ has to do with the retraction of light nuclei. He also links this further with pen-pin merger. Of course, I am not presenting the whole picture of what he says. What do you think of that? I can share his paper with you, if you dont have it. – RainDoctor Jan 3 '13 at 19:37
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    I'm not presenting the whole picture, either, not in ten lines. C-J is correct; there's a whole lot going on here. But this is not LOLPhonology. – John Lawler Jan 3 '13 at 19:39
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    I think of /'twɛni/ as the normal pronunciation, and never say /'twəni/ (although it doesn't sound wrong to me, so I have probably heard it). The first vowel clearly depends on the dialect of American English. – Peter Shor Jan 4 '13 at 17:26
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    If the stop is unreleased you can't tell whether it's voiced or not. – John Lawler Aug 8 '15 at 21:26
5

ODO on BrE: Pronunciation /ˈtwɛnti/
ODO on AmE Pronunciation: /ˈtwentē/1

Speakers of English may get lazy and not articulate the second t sound clearly, or at all. However it is non-standard. There are some dialects (for example, London and the Thames Estuary) where it is reasonably common. Because it is non-standard, it appears in writing only when actually representing this speech, as indicated in the Wiktionary entry.

1 I believe these do in fact represent the same pronunciation.

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    Pretty sure this is normal for almost all the XXXty-YYY numbers in most speakers when not being careful. Listen to a little kid count up to 100 out loud as fast as they can. See what happens? Now do it yourself. Same thing, right? – tchrist Jan 3 '13 at 19:06
  • thanks Andrew for explanation, Wiktionary reference and mentioning Eye dialect, I learned something new! :) – Mahdi Jan 3 '13 at 19:06
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    @tchrist It's easy with twen'y and seven'y and possibly nine'y, more difficult with eighty. That would be more likely to resemble /d/. – Andrew Leach Jan 3 '13 at 19:11
1

Twenty with the 't' pronounced is more of a British (Colonial English) way to say it whereas 'Twenny' is American English (native speakers). Hope it helps.

1

I don't entirely agree with John Lawler's answer, insofar that it seems to suggest that there is little difference between the pronunciation of "twenty" and the pronunciation of any other word with /nt/, or of any word with /nd/. I do believe that the use of a reduced pronunciation without the sound [t] is more common for twenty than for a word like winter, and more common for winter than for a word like grunting (see my answer to the ELL question Can we drop the T sound in word grunting in American English?) And words with /nd/ don't necessarily show the same kind of reduction.

Also, mb, mp, ŋɡ, ŋk behave even less similarly, so I wouldn't group them together with nt or nd.

It's impossible to show that any pronunciation of twenty is "totally correct" or "wrong" because these words don't have any clear and universally accepted definition in this context. The pronunciation without a [t] is attested in the Oxford Dictionaries entry for US English: it gives the pronunciation in IPA as /ˈtwɛn(t)i/, which is just an abbreviated way of writing "/ˈtwɛnti/ or /ˈtwɛni/". As described in this answer by Greg Lee, at least some speakers are supposed to use a nasal flap sound [ɾ̃] in words like twenty. Greg Lee says that he also uses a nasal flap in words like penny, but in a comment, Janus Bahs Jacquet suggested that some speakers might maintain a slight distinction by using [ɾ̃] in twenty but [n] in penny.

Greg Lee also left a comment below that post with an interesting citation about the pronunciation of /nd/ vs. /nt/ in this kind of context:

Stampe has pointed out that for some midwestern speech, there is a level of casualness where "candor" and "canner" differ just in having [n] in the first and nasal flap in the second. The [n] in "candor" comes by an assimilation of the [d] to preceding [n], giving [nn], then a simplification of the geminate.

  • I’m pretty sure I’m one of those people. In normal speech, my twenty (especially in twenty-XXX compounds) is very likely to be [ˡtʍɛɾ̃i ~ ˡtʍəɾ̃i]. In rapid or tired speech, frequently even [ˡtʍəɹ̃i], with the /nt/ cluster becoming a nasalised, centralised, postalveolar approximate with no contact at all (I might even write it [ˡtʍə.ɨ̞̯̃i], if it weren’t so diacritically overloaded). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 17 at 0:08
  • (Jinx – you were editing as I was wrestling with typing IPA on my phone!) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 17 at 0:11

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