Have you noticed how we say “comfterble,” even though the word is spelled com-for-ta-ble?
Have you ever heard anyone say “ax” when talking about asking questions?
Or have you wondered why people often call the second month of the year “Febyuary,” even though there’s technically an “r” in the middle?
In this video, we’re going to talk about fast speech, and the interesting things native English speakers do in order to speak the language more quickly and efficiently.
We’ll look at adding and dropping sounds, switching them around, or even transforming them into entirely different sounds.
We often make these changes because they’re easier for our mouths or better yet the entire vocal apparatus to produce.
In other words, they’re shortcuts.
As a result, we’re able to flow between sounds more effortlessly, which helps us speak more quickly.
The interesting thing to note about these sound changes is that they’re not universal or required.
That means that some speakers make them, and others don’t.
These changes can happen all of the time, sometimes, or not at all.
For this reason, this isn’t exactly a “how-to” video, but more of a “how-interesting” video.
You’re more than welcome to try the changes out to see how they feel, but please remember what I always say:
Speaking clearly is more important than speaking quickly.
As always, I encourage you to get curious about how you hear the English language actually spoken.
Use what you’ve learned to help you understand what people are saying.
Switching Sounds or Syllables (Metathesis)
The first way we may change words is by switching sounds or syllables around.
The technical term for this process is metathesis.
The thing is, we don’t switch the sounds around just because we feel like it.
We change sounds because the order feels more comfortable for our vocal apparatus.
This can happen because certain sounds regularly appear next to each other in other words.
For example, you may hear some people say /æks/ or “ax” instead of /æsk/ or “ask.”
This is actually one of the most common transpositions of sounds, dating back over a thousand years.
We don’t have too many words that have that /sk/ cluster at the end, but we’re very comfortable saying words that ending in /ks/, such as verbs like “picks” and “walks,” and nouns like “blocks” and “socks.”
That’s another reason why it may simply be more efficient to say “ax” instead of “ask.”
Similarly, some people may pronounce the word “asterisk” or /ˈæstərˌɪsk/ for this symbol right here *, as “asteriks” or /ˈæstərˌɪks/.
Moving on, English speakers often switch the /r/ sound in words like “comfortable,” “prescription,” and “introduce.”
In fact, “comfortable” with the /r/ sound after the /t/ sound – /ˈkʌmftərbəl/ – is actually considered a standard pronunciation of the word in American English.
You may hear people say “perscription” or /pərˈskrɪpʃən/, instead of “prescription” or /prɪˈskrɪpʃən/, putting the schwa sound before the /r/ sound.
You may also hear people say “introduce” or /ˌɪntrəˈdus/ as “interduce” or /ˌɪntərˈdus/.
These subtle changes help the words flow more easily out of their mouths.
Here are a few more examples:
Some American dialects pronounce “pretty” or /ˈpʌrɪti/ as “purty” or /ˈpʌrti/, and “hundred” or /ˈhʌndrəd/ as “hunderd” or /ˈhʌndərd/.
You may hear people pronounce “temperature” as:
- “temperature” or /ˈtɛmpərətʃər/
- “tempreture” or /ˈtɛmprətʃər/
- “temperture” or /ˈtɛmpərtʃər/ or
- “tempature” or /ˈtɛmpətʃər/.
A couple of other examples are pronouncing the word “cavalry” or /ˈkævəlri/, a military word, as “Calvary” or /ˈkælvəri/, a religious word.
You may also hear people pronounce the word “foliage” or /ˈfoʊliɪdʒ/ as “foilage” or /ˈfɔɪlɪdʒ/, shifting that /i/ sound before the /l/ sound.
Deleting Sounds (Elision)
Another way that we may change words to make them easier and faster to say is by deleting sounds.
We may delete sounds that happen within a word or between words.
There are quite a few processes for deleting sounds, but the general category is called elision.
Once again, we drop these sounds because they feel awkward or inefficient to say.
Deleting the sounds helps keep our speech flowing.
Let’s look at elision between words first.
Have you ever had an “iced cream” on a warm sunny day?
When pronouncing this delicious treat, we drop the /t/ sound from the word “iced.”
“Iced cream” or /ˈaɪst ˌkrim/ sounds like “ice cream” or /ˈaɪs ˌkrim/.
In fact, no one writes “iced” cream with the -ed ending anymore.
These days, the frozen treat is simply known as ice cream.
When we say “next day” or /nɛkst deɪ/ we often drop the /t/ at the end of the first word, so it sounds like “nexday” or /nɛks deɪ/.
You’ll hear this all the time in the phrase “next day shipping,” or when someone is talking about a series of events.
Similarly, we often drop the /t/ at the end of “last” when it’s followed by another word. For example:
- last time: /læs taɪm/
- last place: /læs pleɪs/
- last month: /læs mʌnθ/
- last year: /læs jɪr/
You can hear something similar when we talk about fast speech or /fæst spitʃ/.
We drop the /t/ from “fast,” and it sounds like “fas speech” or /fæs spitʃ/.
That pesky little /t/ just slows us down.
If you hear someone talking about certain valuable items, such as a gold medal or a diamond ring, you may hear them drop the /d/ sound from the end of the first word:
- gold metal sounds like “gol medal” or /goʊl ˈmɛdəl/
- diamond ring sounds like “diamon ring” or /ˈdaɪmənd rɪŋ/
The /d/ sound requires a little too much time and effort, so it often gets deleted.
Or if you hear someone suggest that you come around, or in a negative situation, to go away, you may hear that they drop the schwa sound at the beginning of the second word.
The phrases might sound like come ’round or /kʌm raʊnd/ or go ‘way or /goʊ weɪ/.
Dropping Reduced Sounds (Syncope)
If you’ve been around here for a while, then you know how stress works.
We put more effort into pronouncing stressed syllables, and we relax on the rest.
Sometimes we relax so much on unstressed or reduced syllables that they disappear entirely.
When we drop a reduced vowel or consonant sound from the middle of a word, it’s called syncope.
Consider these super common words:
- “Family” or /ˈfæməli/ is often pronounced “famly” or /ˈfæmli/.
- “Memory” or /ˈmɛməri/ drops that schwa sound in the middle, and sounds like “memry” or /ˈmɛməri/.
- “Camera” or /ˈkæmərə/ does the same thing and ends up being pronounced “camra” or /ˈkæmrə/.
- When talking about this delicious cocoa treat, chocolate or /ˈtʃɔkələt/, we usually drop the schwa sound in the middle, so it sounds like “choclit” or /ˈtʃɔkələt/.
- Moving on to another food example, we have “vegetable” or /ˈvɛdʒətəbəl/, which usually drops that second vowel sound and is pronounced “vegtable” or /ˈvɛdʒtəbəl/.
- Another -ble word that loses that schwa sound is the word “preferable” or /ˈprɛfərəbəl/, which is often pronounced “prefrable” or /ˈprɛfrəbəl/.
Deleting Repeated Sounds (Haplology)
Another reason we may delete sounds or syllables when speaking is because a similar combination of sounds appears twice in the same word.
When these sounds happen close to one another, they’re tricky for us to articulate.
So once again, it’s easier and more efficient for us to say the sounds just one time.
This is called haplology.
You’ve definitely heard this when talking about months of the year, since February or /ˈfɛbruˌɛri/ is usually pronounced without that first /r/ sound as “Febyuary” or /ˈfɛbjuˌɛri/.
You’ve probably also noticed that “library” or /ˈlaɪˌbrɛri/ is commonly pronounced “libry” or /ˈlaɪˌbri/ with just one /r/ sound.
Many adverbs that end in -ly end up dropping a syllable:
- “Probably” or /ˈprɑbəbli/ may be pronounced “probly” or /ˈprɑbli/, or sometimes even “prolly” (/ˈprɑli/) or “pree” (/pri/).
- “Regularly” or /ˈrɛgjələrli/ is a tricky one, so people may say “regurly” (/ˈrɛgərli/) or “regyurly” (/ˈrɛgjərli/). Truth be told, I struggle with that word all the time when recording videos.
- “Particularly” or /pɑrˈtɪkjələrli/ might drop that second /r/ sound as well, and sound like “particyuly” or /pɑrˈtɪkjəli/.
- Similarly, “similarly” or /ˈsɪmələrli/ might sound like “simily” or /ˈsɪməli/ from time to time.
Dropping the /t/ Sound in Words with -nt
Let’s look at another common change that happens in words that have the -nt cluster within them.
In various North American dialects, the /nt/ sounds end up being pronounced as a nasalized flap.
Since this flap happens inside our mouths, like the flap /t/ that is so common in American English, the /t/ sound is very subtle.
In other words, it sounds like the /t/ sound has disappeared. It’s very possible that some people don’t say it at all.
I’ll leave that for the linguists to study and analyze, but for now, let’s take a closer look at the words that are often pronounced this way.
Let’s look at the word “center” or /ˈsɛntər/.
This is a super common word, which means our mouths have found a way to say it more efficiently.
You’ll often hear us say it as “cenner” or /ˈsɛn
tər/ with a soft flap /t/ that almost seems to disappear.
Words that start with “inter-” often end up sounding like they start with “inner-.”
For example, let’s take the word “internet” or /ˈɪntərˌnɛt/.
Since we’re always using this word, we end up saying it more efficiently as “innernet” or /ˈɪn
“International” or /ˌɪntərˈnæʃənəl/ may be pronounced as “innernational” or /ˌɪn
“Interview” or /ˈɪntərˌvju/ often turns into “innerview” or /ˈɪn
When we’re talking about driving, we may mention an intersection or /ˌintərˈsekʃən/ or interstate or /ˈɪntərˌsteɪt/. It’s very common to say these two words as “innersection” (/ˌin
tərˈsekʃən/) or “innerstate” (/ˈɪn tərˌsteɪt/).
“Interactive” or /ˌɪntərˈæktɪv/ may become “inneractive” or /ˌɪn
The word “interesting” has several different pronunciations, including:
- “interesting” or /ˈɪntərˌɛstɪŋ/,
- “intresting” or /ˈɪntrəstɪŋ/, and
- “inneresting” with that flap /t/: /ˈɪn
Besides these “inter-” words, we also have “enter-” words such as: “entertainment” (/ˌɛntərˈteɪnmənt/), “entertaining” (/ˌɛntərˈteɪnɪŋ/), and “entertainer” (/ˌɛntərˈteɪnər/).
You may hear that first /t/ sound disappear, so the words sound like “ennertainment” (/ˌɛn
tərˈteɪnmənt/), “ennertaining” (/ˌɛn tərˈteɪnɪŋ/), and “ennertainer” (/ˌɛn tərˈteɪnər/).
Here are a few more common words and phrases where the flap /t/ sound seems to disappear.
The fruit “cantaloupe” or /ˈkæntəˌloʊp/ may be pronounced “cannaloupe” or /ˈkæn
The season “winter” or /ˈwɪntər/ may be pronounced “winner” or /ˈwɪn
tər/ so it sounds kind of like someone who has won.
You may hear people say “painting” or /ˈpeɪntɪŋ/ as “painning” or /ˈpeɪn
When we’re talking about the Christmas elf Santa Claus or /ˈsæntə ˌklɔz/, it’s common to say “Sanna Claus” or /ˈsæn
One of Canada’s most well-known cities, Toronto or /təˈrɑntoʊ/ is called “Toronno” or /təˈrɑn
toʊ/ by locals.
Actually, I think they often drop that first schwa sound as well, so it sounds like “Tronno” or /ˈtrɑnoʊ/.
This common sound change is one reason why we end up with reductions or informal contractions like “wanna” and “gonna.”
“Want to” or /wɑnt tu/ is more efficient to say as “wanna” or /ˈwɑnə/.
“Going to” or /ˈgoʊɪŋ tu/ is faster to say as “gonna” or /ˈgɔnə/.
Dropping the /r/ Sound (Dissimilation)
Another similar change happens in words that have two “r”s in them.
You know as well as I do that that /r/ sound can be tricky, so when it appears twice in one word, it’s especially challenging.
To make the word easier to say, people may actually drop the first /r/, which often appears after a schwa sound in an unstressed syllable.
This is called dissimilation.
Dissimilation is when two similar sounds actually lose what they have in common and become less similar.
In these examples, the words lose the first /r/ sound:
- “Surprise” or /sərˈpraɪz/ becomes “suprise” or /səˈpraɪz/ because it’s easier to say.
- “Particular” or /pɑrˈtɪkjələr/ ends up sounding like “paticular” or /pɑˈtɪkjələr/.
- “Caterpillar” or /ˈkætərˌpɪlər/ ends up turning into “catapillar” or /ˈkætəˌpɪlər/.
- “Governor” or /ˈgʌvərnər/ becomes “govenor” or /ˈgʌvənər/.
- “Reservoir” or /ˈrɛzərˌvwɑr/ drops that middle /r/ and becomes “resevoir” or /ˈrɛzəˌvwɑr/.
- “Adversary” or /ˈædvərˌsɛri/ turns into “advesary” or /ˈædvəˌsɛri/.
From time to time, you may hear people drop the /r/ sound before the schwa sound instead.
Some people say “frustrated” or /ˈfrʌsˌtreɪtɪd/ as “fustrated” or /ˈfʌsˌtreɪtɪd/, or “library” as “liberry” or /ˈlaɪbɛri/ or /ˈlaɪbəri/.
For more examples of dropped sounds, check out these videos:
Changing Sounds (Assimilation)
Now that you better understand why sounds seem to disappear from words, let’s talk about why sounds may change into a completely different one.
In order to say words more quickly, we may change where we actually form the sound.
After all, similar sounds are articulated or produced in the same general location, so it’s less work to say them back to back.
This process is called assimilation, and it’s super common in words and phrases.
For example, the word “input” or /ˈɪnˌpʊt/ is often pronounced “imput” or /ˈɪmˌpʊt/.
The /n/ sound changes into the /m/ sound so that it flows more easily into the /p/ sound.
It makes sense when you consider where the /m/ and /p/ sounds are formed.
Similarly, in the sentence “I live in Boston” or /aɪ lɪv ɪn ˈbɔstən/, the /n/ sound that appears before the city name changes into the /m/ sound to flow more easily into the /b/ sound that follows: “I live im Boston” or /aɪ lɪv ɪm ˈbɔstən/.
“I can believe it” or /aɪ kən bəˈliv ɪt/ has the same change, where the /n/ sound changes into the /m/ sound, so it sounds like “I cam believe it” or /aɪ kəm bəˈliv ɪt/.
When saying “I’m on my way” or /aɪm ɑn maɪ weɪ/, we often change the /n/ sound into the /m/ sound to flow more easily into the next word: “I’m om my way” or /aɪm ɑm maɪ weɪ/.
It’s easier and more efficient to slightly shift where the sound is articulated to keep our speech flowing.
With a phrase like “We can go” or /wi kən goʊ/, we may slightly adjust the /n/ sound into the /ŋ/ sound instead: “We cang go” or /wi kəŋ goʊ/.
The /ŋ/ sound is closer to the /g/ sound that follows.
If we say “We should go” or /wi ʃʊd goʊ/ instead, we’ll change the /d/ sound into the /g/ sound so that it keeps flowing into the verb that follows: “We shoulg go” or /wi ʃʊg goʊ/.
With the sentence “That could be fun” or /ðæt kʊd bi fʌn/, the /d/ sound of “could” may change into the /b/ sound instead: “That coulb be fun” or /ðæt kʊb bi fʌn/.
The sound moves from inside the mouth to the lips.
“That place is cool” or /ðæt pleɪs ɪz kul/ becomes “thap place is cool” or /ðæp pleɪs ɪz kul/.
Rather than tap the /t/ sound inside the mouth, we move the sound to the lips instead.
Once again, these changes help us say these words more efficiently because we’re forming the sounds in the same place of articulation.
Keep in mind that people may or may not transform these sounds.
It depends on a lot of factors, such as how quickly they’re speaking, how relaxed they feel, and the people they’re talking to.
Once again, these are possible substitutions, not required ones.
Palatalization or Yod Coalescence (Wouldja, Didja, Whatcha)
If you’ve ever heard someone say “wouldja,” “didja,” or “whatcha,” then you’ve heard them do something called palatalization.
Palatalization is a form of assimilation where the sound moves towards the palatal region. (The palate is the roof of the mouth.)
Let’s look at the examples of fast speech you’re probably most familiar with.
When a modal verb like “could,” “would,” or “should” or an auxiliary verb like “did” is followed by the word “you,” the /d/ sound at the end of the verb changes into the /dg/ sound to flow more smoothly into the /j/ sound that follows.
- “could you” or /kʊd ju/ becomes “couldgu” or /ˈkʊdʒu/
- “would you” or /wʊd ju/ becomes “wouldgu” or /ˈwʊdʒu/
- “should you” or /ʃʊd ju/ becomes “shouldgu” or /ˈʃʊdʒu/, and
- “did you” or /dɪd ju/ becomes “didgu” or /ˈdɪdʒu/.
Some people take it a step further and reduce the /u/ sound to the schwa sound: couldja (/ˈkʊdʒə/), wouldja (/ˈwʊdʒə/), shouldja (/ˈʃʊdʒə/), didja (/ˈdɪdʒə/).
Similarly, in phrases like “what are you,” “got you,” or “bet you,” the /t/ sound changes into the /ch/ sound to flow more easily into the /j/ sound at the beginning of the word “you.”
The sounds end up blending together:
- “what are you” or /wʌt ɑr ju/ sounds like “whatchu” (/ˈwʌtʃu/) or “whatcha” (/ˈwʌtʃə/)
- “got you” or /gɑt ju/ sounds like “gotchu” (/ˈgɑtʃu/) or “gotcha” (/ˈgɑtʃə/)
- “bet you” or /bɛt ju/ sounds like “betchu” (/ˈbɛtʃu/) or “betcha” (/ˈbɛtʃu/)
This process is called yod coalescence and occurs in the natural pronunciation of many other words, including “nature” and “soldier.”
Glottalization in Words That End in -tən
Here’s another change that you hear a lot in American English.
Let’s talk about how we pronounce certain words that have the sounds /tən/ in the final syllable of the word.
You just heard me use a glottal stop in the word “certain.”
A glottal stop is a sound that’s produced by blocking the airflow in the vocal tract, specifically in the glottis.
It’s the sound you can hear when we say “uh-oh!”
Even though glottal stops are common in many languages, they can be confusing in English because sometimes we use them, and sometimes we don’t.
Let’s look at the glottalization of the /t/ sound when it appears before an unstressed /n/ sound.
When saying words like “important” (/ɪmˈpɔrtənt/), “mountain” (/ˈmaʊntən/) and “certain” (/ˈsɜrtən/), we often change the /t/ sound to a glottal stop.
Once again, this happens because it’s quicker and more efficient for our vocal apparatus.
If you pronounce the /t/ sound before the /n/, you have to tap your tongue against the ridge of your mouth two times in a row.
By using a glottal stop instead, the sound becomes a little easier to pronounce.
Let’s take a closer look at these words that are often pronounced with a glottal stop:
Instead of saying “important” (/ɪmˈpɔrtənt/) we often say “important” with a glottal stop.
Rather than pronouncing these words as “mountain” (/ˈmaʊntən/) and “fountain” (/ˈfaʊntən/), we often say “mountain” and “fountain” with a glottal stop instead.
You certainly noticed how I said “certain” earlier. “Certain” (/ˈsɜrtən/) and “certainly” (/ˈsɜrtənli/) are a little more work for the mouth than “certain” and “certainly” with a glottal stop.
When it comes to words with the double “t” like “cotton” (/ˈkɑtən/), “button” (/ˈbʌtən/), and “mitten” (/ˈmɪtən/), we often substitute a glottal stop instead.
Adding Sounds (Insertion / Epenthesis)
Now that we’ve looked at how sounds change, let’s talk about adding sounds to words or phrases, which is often called insertion.
Sometimes adding a sound makes the transitions between sounds easier.
First, let’s look at epenthesis. This is when we insert a vowel or a consonant into a word to make it easier to pronounce.
For example, we have a cute little critter called a hamster or /ˈhæmstər/.
Many people insert the /p/ sound into the word so that it actually sounds like “hampster” or /ˈhæmpstər/.
The insertion of the sound also happens in the word “warmth” or /wɔrmθ/.
Many people add a /p/ sound before the final /θ/ in order to make it easier to say: “warmpth” or /wɔrmpθ/.
You may also hear this on the word “something” or /ˈsʌmθɪŋ/, where people will add a /p/ before thing: “sompthing” or /ˈsʌmpθɪŋ/.
The last name “Thomson” or /ˈtɑmsən/ is often pronounced “Thompson” or /ˈtɑmpsən/ for the same reason.
These changes may actually end up in the spelling of the word.
For example, the word “empty” or /ˈɛmpti/ now includes the /p/ sound in the middle of the word.
Back in the day, the word “thunder” or /ˈθʌndər/ used to be pronounced and spelled without that middle /d/.
The word “incidence” or /ˈɪnsədəns/ is often pronounced with a /t/ sound between the final /n/ and /s/.
It ends up sounding like the plural of the word “incidents” or /ˈɪnsədənts/.
We also add vowel sounds to words in order to make them easier to say.
Some people pronounce “picnic” or /ˈpɪknɪk/ as “picanic” or /ˈpɪkənɪk/ instead.
Same goes for the job “realtor” or /ˈriəltər/. You can hear people say “realator” or /ˈriələtər/.
The word “athlete” or /ˈæθˌlit/ often gets an extra “a” in the middle and sounds like “athalete” or /ˈæθəˌlit/.
Athletes may choose to complete a triathlon or /traɪˈæθlɑn/, which is often pronounced as “triathalon” with an extra “a” in the middle: /traɪˈæθəlɑn/.
My curiosity about these added sounds started when somebody pointed out that I pronounced “familiar” or /fəˈmɪljər/ as “fermiliar” or /fərˈmɪljər/ in one of my videos.
As it turns out, this is called r-insertion.
This happens in words that already contain an /r/ sound, such as the word “familiar.”
It may be easier for us to say “fer-” at the beginning of “familiar,” because of words like “forget” and “forgive.”
You can also hear this insertion of /r/ in the word “persevere” or /ˌpɜrsəˈvɪr/, which is often pronounced as “perservere” or /ˌpɜrsərˈvɪr/.
The frozen treat sherbet or /ˈʃɜrbət/ often gets an extra /r/ at the end as well, and sounds like “sherbert” or /ˈʃɜrbərt/.
Adding Sounds to Link Words (Intrusion / Liaison)
Besides adding sounds to make words easier to pronounce, we also add sounds in order to link words together to say them more efficiently.
For example, when linking between vowel sounds, the /w/ or /j/ sound might be added to make the transition a little easier.
This is called intrusion.
Because long vowels and diphthongs are off-glides, they have a little extra sound at the end.
Since we’re already forming the sound with our mouth, we simply keep going and add it to the next word.
For example, “do it” or /du ɪt/ becomes “dowit” or /duwɪt/. We use the /w/ shape to link the two words.
“Grow up” or /groʊ ʌp/ turns into “growup” or /groʊwʌp/. Once again, we’re linking with that /w/ sound.
“Throw out” or /θroʊ aʊt/ becomes “throwout” or /θroʊwaʊt/ with the /w/ sound in between the words.
“We ate” or /wi eɪt/ becomes “weyate” or /wijeɪt/.
In this case, we’re linking with the /j/ sound.
“I am” or /aɪ æm/ becomes “Iyam” or /aɪjæm/. We use the /j/ shape to link to the next word.
“They asked” or /ðeɪ æskt/ becomes “theyasked” or /ðeɪjæskt/. The /j/ sound links the two words.
This can also happen in the middle of words, like “idea” (/aɪˈdiə/) and “create” (/kriˈeɪt/).
We simply use that extra sound to connect the syllables: “ideya” (/aɪˈdijə/) and creyate (/kriˈjeɪt/).
Adding this extra sound to link between vowels can also be called liaison, and it’s one of the features of connected speech.
Linking Sounds (Catenation)
Let’s discuss linking sounds.
Another way we link words together is catenation.
Catenation is when we join a consonant sound at the end of one word to the vowel sound at the beginning of the next word.
For example, the phrasal verb “pick up” or /pɪk ʌp/ almost sounds like “pi kup” because the /k/ sound connects the two words: “pikup” or /pɪkʌp/.
In the phrasal verb “call out” or /kɔl aʊt/, you can hear that the /l/ sound at the end of the first word connects to the vowel sound at the beginning of the next word: “calout” or /kɔlaʊt/.
With the phrase “an answer” or /æn ænsər/, you can hear that the /n/ sound at the end of the article joins with the vowel sound at the beginning of the noun: “ananswer” or /ænænsər/.
In a sentence, it will sound like this: Please call out an answer (/pliz kɔlaʊt ænænsər/).
In the common greeting “what’s up?” or /wʌts ʌp/, you can hear that the /s/ sound connects to the word that follows: “whatsup” or /wʌtsʌp/.
This is why people often reduce the greeting to “sup” or /sʌp/ in casual speech.
Linking Repeated Sounds (Gemination)
What happens if a sound appears twice in a row, once at the end of one word, and once at the beginning of the next word?
In this case, we can use this sound to link the two words together.
This is called gemination, and as usual, it helps us move through words more quickly.
Rather than pronouncing the same sound back to back, we simply extend the sound and flow into the next word.
Let’s look at a few examples:
- big garden or /bɪg ˈgɑrdən/: They have a big garden. We extend the /g/ sound and flow into the next word. They have a bigarden (/bɪˈgɑrdən/).
- signed document or /saɪnd ˈdɑkjumənt/: Please return the signed document. In this case, we use the /d/ sound to flow on to the next word. Please return the signdocument (/saɪn ˈdɑkjumənt/).
- nice street or /naɪs strit/: They live on a nice street. We use the /s/ sound to flow between words. They live on a nistreet (/naɪstrit/).
- hall light or /hɔl laɪt/: Turn on the hall light. The /l/ sound helps us transition smoothly between words. Turn on the hallight (/hɔlaɪt/).
- black cat or /blæk kæt/: Did you see the black cat? We’re using the /k/ sound to link between the words. Did you see the blackat (/blækæt/)?
Of course, there are other ways that we link words together, but these are the ones that you’ve probably noticed the most.
Understanding Fast Speech and Experimenting
Now that we’ve discussed fast speech and the interesting things native English speakers do to speak more quickly and efficiently, start noticing when you hear these changes.
Tune in to these subtle differences in how words sound when we add, drop, switch, change, or link sounds.
Native speakers might not even realize that these changes are happening when they’re listening to other people, unless the change is noticeably different than their own dialect.
With that said, while some of these pronunciations are widely accepted or not even noticed, others are often judged or criticized.
There are language purists or prescriptivists who believe that there are rules that need to be followed.
As you know from your own experience, these issues related to language, identity and belonging are nuanced and complex.
At this point, you’re probably wondering if you need to do these things when you’re speaking English.
I think it’s important to be aware of these changes so that you understand what people are saying, even if the words are pronounced slightly differently than you expect.
However, by now you know my emphasis is on speaking clearly and confidently so that people understand and listen to what you have to say.
Once you’ve got stress and intonation under control, you can experiment and see if these changes help you flow between words or speak more efficiently.
If it seems hard to make these changes, they may be distracting you from your meaning and your message.
Think of fast speech as one possible tool in your toolbox.
You don’t have to use it all the time, just when it helps you achieve your goals.
For even more on fast speech and clear speech, check out this video.