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American English Pronunciation Podcast (Pronuncian.com), #66: Syllabic n's and nasal plosions in American English

#66: Syllabic n's and nasal plosions in American English

Two new vocab words for two different interesting concepts in pronunciation

Transcript

Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 66th episode.

After last week's glottal stop episode, I wanted to continue to talk about the glottal stop a little bit more, especially since it leads right into two other pronunciation issues that are interesting and helpful to learn about: syllabic n's and "nasal plosions." I know, that is two new vocabulary words at once, but I'll explain both of them. I really wouldn't have thought about doing this if a Forum user named Peggy hadn't asked a question she titled "T-Vowel-Consonant Sound." She asked an impressive advanced learner question.

Here is what Peggy said:

"I am aware that the word button is pronounce "buttn". So, when we have a vowel between t and another consonant , this vowel is eliminated.

Does the same rule apply to irregular verbs like? : hidden bitten gotten given driven

I think that given and driven are pronounced drivEn and givEn accordingly, right?"

Peggy was on to something important right there. She noticed that there is no vowel sound between the t sound and the n sound in the words:

button hidden bitten gotten

However, there is a vowel sound in the words

given driven

What Peggy was hearing in the first set of words was a syllabic n . It's called a syllabic n because there is no vowel sound in that short, unstressed syllable, just an n sound . I've said before that every syllable needs a vowel sound. Well, there are three consonants that cause exceptions: the n sound , l sound , and m sound . Actually, the linguists don't agree about the m sound . Today I'm only going to talk about the n sound as a syllabic consonant.

Listen to the set of words again

button hidden bitten gotten

The rule is that when a vowel + n sound occurs on an unstressed syllable, and after a t or a d , the vowel is dropped and the n is used for the entire syllable.

That's why Peggy's examples of driven and given do have a vowel sound before the n sound . The vowel in those words is following a v sound , not a t sound or d sound .

Compare button , hidden , and driven . Can you hear that very slight difference in the final syllable of all three of those words? Listen again: button , hidden , driven .

That's all you really need to know for the syllabic n. However, I now need to tell you about what is happening to the t or d before the syllabic n.

I'll talk about the t first, because that relates to last week's episode about the glottal stop. Remember, the glottal stop is the sound in the middle of the word uh-oh , and happens when the t comes after a vowel or r sound , and before an n sound or an m sound . It is also important to remember that the glottal stop cannot happen if the t is the first sound of a stressed syllable. Three of the four words above fit that description, and the t is replaced with a glottal stop. Those words are:

button bitten gotten

Those three words are actually pronounced quite differently from the way they're spelled. The t turned into a glottal stop, and the n is a syllabic n so there was no vowel sound in the second syllable.

Now I want to talk about the word hidden h-i-d-d-e-n. The n is still going to be a syllabic n because it comes after a d sound , but something special, called a nasal plosion , happens to the d sound . The d sound is a stop, meaning that we stop all the air from leaving the vocal tract for a very short amount of time, then release it. When an n sound follows a d sound , the d sound isn't released as normal. The tongue stays in exactly the same position for the n sound . How does that happen? The velum, the soft muscle at the very back of our mouth, is closed for the d sound . That forces the air out our mouth. That muscle is open to our nasal cavity for the n sound . To say it simply, the d sound is released out our nose instead of our mouth. That is called a nasal plosion.

Listen to the word hidden , hidden .

I stop the air as normal for the d sound , but I don't release it normally. Instead, I move immediately into the n sound .

I'm going to say the word hidden without the nasal plosion, then with it.

hiDDen hidden

If I release the d sound as normal, I will have a hard time eliminating the vowel before the n sound .

Try saying it both ways.

hiDDen hidden

The word hidden is not a very high frequency word. We simply don't need to say that word very often. However, there are a group of very important words that we do say and do include a nasal plosion: contractions!

Just when you thought maybe this wasn't a very important skill, here I am, saying we do it all the time in the words:

didn't hadn't couldn't shouldn't wouldn't

Yep, those words go straight from a d sound to an n sound , and we say all of them with a nasal plosion. The d is not released as normal, it is released as the n sound .

Here they are again

didn't hadn't couldn't shouldn't wouldn't

Are you ready to practice with me? I'm going to say three sets of words. This first set has a glottal stop followed by a syllabic n. Please repeat after me.

written brighten eaten cotton rotten

The next set has a nasal plosion d sound/syllabic n .

hidden garden sudden burden forbidden

And the following contractions have a nasal plosion d sound/n sound .

didn't hadn't couldn't shouldn't wouldn't

Wow, that was a lot of information for one episode! If you are a new listener to the show, you may want to go back and listen to earlier shows to gain a better understanding of the vocabulary used here today. I have been building up to these advanced level concepts, and they really are advanced. If this is really tough for you, don't give up, it's tough for everyone at the beginning. If you can listen to and understand this lesson in English, you are already a highly capable English speaker.

I'll link to the forum post that helped me realize that my listeners are ready for information like this, and you can continue the discussion from where it left off. This is important stuff, but I hope you trust me when I tell you that native speakers will understand you even if you don't learn these skills perfectly. However, the more interaction you have with native speakers, the more they will appreciate your clear pronunciation.

As always, you can support this show by subscribing to Pronuncian or purchasing one of my books from Pronuncian.com. Oh, and I have been asked a couple of time what the difference is between subscribing to Pronuncian and becoming a member. Membership is a one-time fee. You choose the number of months you want, and at the end of that time your account expires. Subscribers get a lower price, and the account automatically renews until you go in and cancel your account. Subscribers also never have a price increase. You always renew at the price we had set at the time you began your account.

You can always participate in the forums for free and let us know if you like this kind of content or not. I produce these podcasts for you, so you might as well tell me what you want to learn about.

That's all for today. Thanks for listening everyone.

This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn.

Bye-bye



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#66: Syllabic n's and nasal plosions in American English

Two new vocab words for two different interesting concepts in pronunciation

Transcript

Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 66th episode.

After last week's glottal stop episode, I wanted to continue to talk about the glottal stop a little bit more, especially since it leads right into two other pronunciation issues that are interesting and helpful to learn about: syllabic n's and "nasal plosions." I know, that is two new vocabulary words at once, but I'll explain both of them. I really wouldn't have thought about doing this if a Forum user named Peggy hadn't asked a question she titled "T-Vowel-Consonant Sound." She asked an impressive advanced learner question.

Here is what Peggy said:

"I am aware that the word button is pronounce "buttn". So, when we have a vowel between t and another consonant , this vowel is eliminated.

Does the same rule apply to irregular verbs like? : hidden bitten gotten given driven

I think that given and driven are pronounced drivEn and givEn accordingly, right?"

Peggy was on to something important right there. She noticed that there is no vowel sound between the t sound and the n sound in the words:

button hidden bitten gotten

However, there is a vowel sound in the words

given driven

What Peggy was hearing in the first set of words was a syllabic n . It's called a syllabic n because there is no vowel sound in that short, unstressed syllable, just an n sound . I've said before that every syllable needs a vowel sound. Well, there are three consonants that cause exceptions: the n sound , l sound , and m sound . Actually, the linguists don't agree about the m sound . Today I'm only going to talk about the n sound as a syllabic consonant.

Listen to the set of words again

button hidden bitten gotten

The rule is that when a vowel + n sound occurs on an unstressed syllable, and after a t or a d , the vowel is dropped and the n is used for the entire syllable.

That's why Peggy's examples of driven and given do have a vowel sound before the n sound . The vowel in those words is following a v sound , not a t sound or d sound .

Compare button , hidden , and driven . Can you hear that very slight difference in the final syllable of all three of those words? Listen again: button , hidden , driven .

That's all you really need to know for the syllabic n. However, I now need to tell you about what is happening to the t or d before the syllabic n.

I'll talk about the t first, because that relates to last week's episode about the glottal stop. Remember, the glottal stop is the sound in the middle of the word uh-oh , and happens when the t comes after a vowel or r sound , and before an n sound or an m sound . It is also important to remember that the glottal stop cannot happen if the t is the first sound of a stressed syllable. Three of the four words above fit that description, and the t is replaced with a glottal stop. Those words are:

button bitten gotten

Those three words are actually pronounced quite differently from the way they're spelled. The t turned into a glottal stop, and the n is a syllabic n so there was no vowel sound in the second syllable.

Now I want to talk about the word hidden h-i-d-d-e-n. The n is still going to be a syllabic n because it comes after a d sound , but something special, called a nasal plosion , happens to the d sound . The d sound is a stop, meaning that we stop all the air from leaving the vocal tract for a very short amount of time, then release it. When an n sound follows a d sound , the d sound isn't released as normal. The tongue stays in exactly the same position for the n sound . How does that happen? The velum, the soft muscle at the very back of our mouth, is closed for the d sound . That forces the air out our mouth. That muscle is open to our nasal cavity for the n sound . To say it simply, the d sound is released out our nose instead of our mouth. That is called a nasal plosion.

Listen to the word hidden , hidden .

I stop the air as normal for the d sound , but I don't release it normally. Instead, I move immediately into the n sound .

I'm going to say the word hidden without the nasal plosion, then with it.

hiDDen hidden

If I release the d sound as normal, I will have a hard time eliminating the vowel before the n sound .

Try saying it both ways.

hiDDen hidden

The word hidden is not a very high frequency word. We simply don't need to say that word very often. However, there are a group of very important words that we do say and do include a nasal plosion: contractions!

Just when you thought maybe this wasn't a very important skill, here I am, saying we do it all the time in the words:

didn't hadn't couldn't shouldn't wouldn't

Yep, those words go straight from a d sound to an n sound , and we say all of them with a nasal plosion. The d is not released as normal, it is released as the n sound .

Here they are again

didn't hadn't couldn't shouldn't wouldn't

Are you ready to practice with me? I'm going to say three sets of words. This first set has a glottal stop followed by a syllabic n. Please repeat after me.

written brighten eaten cotton rotten

The next set has a nasal plosion d sound/syllabic n .

hidden garden sudden burden forbidden

And the following contractions have a nasal plosion d sound/n sound .

didn't hadn't couldn't shouldn't wouldn't

Wow, that was a lot of information for one episode! If you are a new listener to the show, you may want to go back and listen to earlier shows to gain a better understanding of the vocabulary used here today. I have been building up to these advanced level concepts, and they really are advanced. If this is really tough for you, don't give up, it's tough for everyone at the beginning. If you can listen to and understand this lesson in English, you are already a highly capable English speaker.

I'll link to the forum post that helped me realize that my listeners are ready for information like this, and you can continue the discussion from where it left off. This is important stuff, but I hope you trust me when I tell you that native speakers will understand you even if you don't learn these skills perfectly. However, the more interaction you have with native speakers, the more they will appreciate your clear pronunciation.

As always, you can support this show by subscribing to Pronuncian or purchasing one of my books from Pronuncian.com. Oh, and I have been asked a couple of time what the difference is between subscribing to Pronuncian and becoming a member. Membership is a one-time fee. You choose the number of months you want, and at the end of that time your account expires. Subscribers get a lower price, and the account automatically renews until you go in and cancel your account. Subscribers also never have a price increase. You always renew at the price we had set at the time you began your account.

You can always participate in the forums for free and let us know if you like this kind of content or not. I produce these podcasts for you, so you might as well tell me what you want to learn about.

That's all for today. Thanks for listening everyone.

This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn.

Bye-bye


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