Th-stopping is the realization of the dental fricatives [θ, ð] as stopseither dental or alveolarwhich occurs in several dialects of English. In some accents, such as some Irish English, Indian English, and much of the working-class English in North America and sometimes southern England, they are realized as the dental stops [t̪, d̪] and as such do not merge with the alveolar stops /t, d/. Thus pairs like tin/thin and den/then are not homophonous.[1] In other accents, such as Caribbean English, Nigerian English, and Liberian English, such pairs are indeed merged.[1] Th-stopping occurred in all continental Germanic languages, resulting in cognates such as German die, "the", and Bruder, "brother".

New York City English

For the working class of New York City and its surrounding region, the fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ are often pronounced as affricatives or stops, rather than as fricatives. Usually they remain dental, so that the oppositions /t-θ/ and [d-ð] are not lost. Thus thanks may be pronounced [θæŋks], [tθæŋks], or [t̪æŋks] in decreasing order of occurrence; all are distinct from tanks. The [t̪] variant has a weakish articulation. The /t-θ/ opposition may be lost, exceptionally in the environment of a following /r/ (making three homophonous with tree), and in the case of the word with, (so that with a may rhyme with the non-rhotic pronunciation of "bitter-bidder"; with you may be [wɪtʃu], following the same yod-coalescence rule as hit you. These pronunciations are all stigmatized.

The [d-ð] opposition seems to be lost more readily, though not as readily as the "Brooklynese" stereotype might lead one to believe. As in many other places, initial [ð] is subject to assimilation or deletion in a range of environments in relatively informal and/or popular speech, e.g. who's there [huz (z)ɛə]; as in many other places, it is also subject to stopping there /dɛə/. This option extends to one or two words in which the /ð/ is not initial, e.g. other, which can thus become a homonym of utter-udder. But it would not be usual for southern to be pronounced identically with sudden or breathe with breed.

African American Vernacular English

In African American Vernacular English, in the words with and nothing, [t] may occur corresponding to standard [θ], with the [t] itself being succeeded by the t-glottalization rule: thus [wɪʔ] for with and [ˈnʌʔɪn] for nothing.[2]:83 Th-stopping is also reported for some other non-initial [θ]s, apparently particularly when preceded by a nasal and followed by a plosive, as keep your mouth closed.[2]:90 In initial position, [θ] occurs in AAVE just as in standard accents: thin is [θɪn], without the stopping of West Indian accents.[3] Stopping of initial [ð], however, is frequent making then homophonous with den.

Frequency in other accents

Th-stopping is also commonly heard, specifically from speakers of working-class origins, in the American English dialects of the Inland North (for example, in Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Scranton), the Upper Midwest (for example in the especially Fennoscandian-descended locals of Minnesota's Iron Range and Michigan's Upper Peninsula), and Mid-Atlantic region (for example, in Philadelphia and Baltimore),[4] It is also heard in a minority of speakers of England's Estuary dialect (for example, in London), but only in case of the word-initial /ð/.[5] Many speakers of Philippine English and some speakers of other variants in Asia also have th-stopping.

Homophonous pairs

/t, d/ /θ, ð/ IPA Notes
ate eighth ˈeɪt
Bart bath ˈbɑːt Non-rhotic accents with trap-bath split.
bat bath ˈbæt Without trap-bath split.
bayed bathe ˈbeɪd
bet Beth ˈbɛt
bladder blather ˈblædə(ɹ)
blight Blythe ˈblaɪt
blitter blither ˈblɪɾə(ɹ) With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
boat both ˈboʊt
body bothy ˈbɒɾi Without lot-cloth split and with intervocalic alveolar flapping.
boot booth ˈbuːt
breed breathe ˈbɹiːd
Brett breath ˈbɹɛt
cedar seether ˈsiːdə(ɹ)
cent synth ˈsɪnt With pen-pin merger.
cite scythe ˈsaɪt
clot cloth ˈklɒt Without cot–caught merger.
coot couth ˈkuːt
Dan than ˈdæn
dare their ˈdeə(ɹ)
dare there ˈdeə(ɹ)
day they ˈdeɪ
debt death ˈdɛt
Dee the ˈdiː The before vowels and silent H.
Dee thee ˈdiː
den then ˈdɛn
dense thence ˈdɛns
dents thence ˈdɛn(t)s
dhow thou ˈdaʊ
die thy ˈdaɪ
dine thine ˈdaɪn
dirt dearth ˈdɜː(ɹ)t with fern-fir-fur merger.
dis this ˈdɪs
doe though ˈdoʊ
does those ˈdoʊz
dough though ˈdoʊ
dow thou ˈdaʊ
dow though ˈdoʊ
drought drouth ˈdɹaʊt
dye thy ˈdaɪ
eater either ˈiːɾə(ɹ)
eater ether ˈiːtə(ɹ)
eight eighth ˈeɪt
fate faith ˈfeɪt
fetter feather ˈfɛɾə(ɹ) With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
fit fifth ˈfɪt Some accents pronounce fifth as /ˈfɪft/.
fodder father ˈfɑdə(ɹ) With father-bother merger.
fort forth ˈfoə(ɹ)t
fort fourth ˈfoə(ɹ)t
fraught froth ˈfɹɔːt With lot-cloth split.
frot froth ˈfɹɒt Without lot-cloth split.
got goth, Goth ˈɡɒt
groat growth ˈɡɹoʊt
hart hearth ˈhɑː(ɹ)t
header heather ˈhɛdə(ɹ)
heart hearth ˈhɑː(ɹ)t
heat heath ˈhiːt
hitter hither ˈhɪɾə(ɹ) With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
hurt earth ˈɜː(ɹ)t With H-dropping and fern-fir-fur merger.
Ida either ˈaɪdə Non-rhotic accents.
knead neath ˈniːd
kneader neither ˈniːdə(ɹ)
kneed neath ˈniːd
ladder lather ˈlædə(ɹ)
lade lathe ˈleɪd
laid lathe ˈleɪd
latter lather ˈlæɾə(ɹ) With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
letter leather ˈlɛɾə(ɹ)
lied lithe ˈlaɪd
load loathe ˈloʊd
lout Louth ˈlaʊt
mat math ˈmæt
mead Meath ˈmiːd
meat Meath ˈmiːt
meet Meath ˈmiːt
mete Meath ˈmiːt
mit myth ˈmɪt
mutter mother ˈmʌɾə(ɹ) With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
naught north ˈnɔːt Non-rhotic accents.
neater neither ˈniːɾə(ɹ) With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
neat neath ˈniːt
need neath ˈniːd
oat oath ˈoʊt
oats oaths ˈoʊts
odes oaths ˈoʊdz
pads paths ˈpædz Without trap-bath split.
paid pathe ˈpeɪd
part path ˈpɑːt Non-rhotic accents with trap-bath split.
parts paths ˈpɑːts
pat path ˈpæt Without trap-bath split.
pats paths ˈpæts
pit pith ˈpɪt
pity pithy ˈpɪti
rat wrath ˈɹæt Without trap-bath split.
rate wraith ˈɹeɪt
read wreathe ˈɹiːd
reads wreathes ˈɹiːdz
reads wreaths ˈɹiːdz
reed wreathe ˈɹiːd
reeds wreathes ˈɹiːdz
reeds wreaths ˈɹiːdz
ride writhe ˈɹaɪd
rot Roth ˈɹɒt Without lot-cloth split.
root ruth, Ruth ˈɹuːt With ewe-yew-you merger.
Some accents pronounce root as /ˈɹʊt/.
route ruth, Ruth ˈɹuːt
scent synth ˈsɪnt With pen-pin merger.
seed seethe ˈsiːd
seeder seether ˈsiːdə(ɹ)
sent synth ˈsɪnt With pen-pin merger.
set saith ˈsɛt
set Seth ˈsɛt
she'd sheathe ˈʃiːd
sheet sheath ˈʃiːt
side scythe ˈsaɪd
sight scythe ˈsaɪt
sit Sith ˈsɪt
site scythe ˈsaɪt
smit smith ˈsmɪt
smite Smyth ˈsmaɪt
spilt spilth ˈspɪlt
soot sooth ˈsuːt Some accents pronounce soot as /ˈsʊt/.
sudden southern ˈsʌdən Non-rhotic accents.
sued soothe ˈsuːd With ewe-yew-you merger.
suede swathe ˈsweɪd Some accents pronounce swathe as /ˈswɒd/.
suit sooth ˈsuːt With ewe-yew-you merger.
swat swath ˈswɒt Without lot-cloth split.
swayed swathe ˈsweɪd Some accents pronounce swathe as /ˈswɒd/.
tank thank ˈtæŋk
taught thought ˈtɔːt
teat teeth ˈtiːt
tent tenth ˈtɛnt
Thai thigh ˈtaɪ
tick thick ˈtɪk
tide tithe ˈtaɪd
tie thigh ˈtaɪ
tied tithe ˈtaɪd
tin thin ˈtɪn
toot tooth ˈtuːt
tor thaw ˈtɔː Non-rhotic accents.
tor Thor ˈtɔː(ɹ)
tore thaw ˈtɔː Non-rhotic accents with horse-hoarse merger.
tore Thor ˈtɔː(ɹ) With horse-hoarse merger.
torn thorn ˈtɔː(ɹ)n With horse-hoarse merger.
tort thought ˈtɔː(ɹ)t Non-rhotic accents.
trash thrash ˈtɹæʃ
trawl thrall ˈtɹɔːl
tread thread ˈtɹɛd
tree three ˈtɹiː
true threw ˈtɹuː, ˈtɹɪu
true through ˈtɹuː With ewe-yew-you merger.
tum thumb ˈtʌm
tump thump ˈtʌmp
turd third ˈtɜː(ɹ)d With fern-fir-fur merger.
udder other ˈʌdə(ɹ)
utter other ˈʌɾə(ɹ) With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
Utes youths ˈjuːts
welt wealth ˈwɛlt
wetter weather ˈwɛɾə(ɹ) With intervocalic alveolar flapping.
wit width ˈwɪt
wit with ˈwɪt
wordy worthy ˈwɜː(ɹ)di, ˈwʌɹdi
wort worth ˈwɜː(ɹ)t, ˈwʌɹt Some accents pronounce wort as /ˈwɔː(ɹ)t/.
wrought Roth ˈɹɔːt With lot-cloth split.

See also


  1. 1 2 Wells, J.C. (1989). The British Isles. Accents of English. 2. Cambridge: University Press. pp. 565–66, 635. ISBN 9780521285407.
  2. 1 2 Wolfram, Walter A. (September 1970). "A Sociolinguistic Description of Detroit Negro Speech". Language. 46 (3): 764. doi:10.2307/412325. ISSN 0097-8507. JSTOR 412325.
  3. Wolfram 1969, p. 130, does however mention the use of 'a lenis [t]' as a rare variant.
  4. van den Doel, Rias (2006). How Friendly Are the Natives? An Evaluation of Native-Speaker Judgements of Foreign-Accented British and American English (PDF). Landelijke onderzoekschool taalwetenschap (Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics). p. 268.
  5. van den Doel, Rias (2006). How Friendly Are the Natives? An Evaluation of Native-Speaker Judgements of Foreign-Accented British and American English (PDF). Landelijke onderzoekschool taalwetenschap (Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics). p. 251.

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