Annals of casual speech

The One Big Happy from February 9th:

in other words > nudder words. Part of this is just ordinary stuff in connected casual speech. Then there’s the [d] for standard [ð] in other.

Connected casual speech. In ordinary speech, words are not separately articulated, but are bundled into phonological units of various sizes. In particular, words that are normally unaccented (articles, short prepositions, and the like) are incorporated into larger word-like phonological units. So an íce man and a níce man are ordinary pronounced the same (with an [n] serving as onset of the second syllable, regardless of its place in a syntactic analysis of the phrase).

(Note: the two phrases can be distinguished in a careful pronunciation, but they are usually not.)

Like the indefinite article, the preposition in is usually unaccented, with alternative pronunciations [ɪn] and [n̩] (syllabic n) — and in casual speech the latter can be simplified to the consonant [n]. That gives us the n in the spelling nudder.

The fate of the voiced dental fricative [ð] in various varieties of English is complex. Intervocalically, as in other, brother, father, bathing, some varieties of English simplify the gesture to a voiced dental stop [d̪] or even to a voiced alveolar stop [d] — pronunciations that are often conventionally represented in spelling as dd.

These pronunciations are sociolinguistically marked, by association with an assortment of working-class varieties (of several ethnicities). But they’re also common in child phonology; in the cartoon, the [d̪] or [d] of nudder is presumably a remnant of Joe’s earlier pronunciation.

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