Monday 21 January 2013

Glottal stops in standard English pronunciation

On page 133 of the book you can see here to the left (Pronuncia dell'inglese; Zanichelli, 2009), there is a section on the use of the glottal stop in standard English pronunciation. The authors, John Johnson and Maria Chiara Piccolo, state that (click on the picture below to enlarge it)

"[i]l cosiddetto glottal stop (occlusiva glottale) non fa parte della pronuncia standard inglese ed è considerato da alcuni una brutta abitudine, indice di una condizione sociale bassa".

('the so-called glottal stop is not considered to belong to RP and is regarded by some as a bad habit since it is associated with speakers of the least privileged socio-economic classes.')

This claim is not totally accurate. As my readers will know, glottal stop is now firmly embedded in English pronunciation at all social levels. As John Wells put it in his blog of the 3rd July 2012, "in everyday RP t-glottalling has been frequent and unremarkable for a good half-century or more for word-final /t/ when the next word begins with an obstruent, thus right behind, right day, right guess, right thing, right shape, or a nasal or liquid, thus right name, right man, right royal, right letter". Listen, for example, to how Prime Minister David Cameron pronounces the placename Sutton in this BBC video: at 00:05 we can clearly hear ˈsʌʔn̩.

John Wells in his post goes on to say that the glottal stop is 

"also frequent (though purists might jib at it) where the next word begins with a semivowel, as right unit, right one. Those are all places where I would happily use glottalled /t/ myself". 

This claim on the part of John is exemplified by this clip in which we hear BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull pronounce what you in "let us know what you…" (0:14) as wɒʔ ju instead of wɒt ju or the assimilated wɒtʃu. And in this other video, meteorologist Tomasz Schafernaker is heard to say aʊʔ ˈwest (out west; 2:26) rather than aʊt ˈwest.

For more on the use of glottal stop in both RP and GenAm you can read this.

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Next posting: February 4th.

Il glottal stop nella pronuncia standard inglese

A pagina 133 del libro Pronuncia dell'inglese pubblicato da Zanichelli nel 2009, c'è una sezione che riguarda l'uso del glottal stop nella pronuncia inglese standard. Gli autori del testo, John Johnson e Maria Chiara Piccolo, affermano che (cliccate sulla foto in alto a destra)

"[i]l cosiddetto glottal stop (occlusiva glottale) non fa parte della pronuncia standard inglese ed è considerato da alcuni una brutta abitudine, indice di una condizione sociale bassa".

Questa loro considerazione è in parte errata. Il glottal stop è da oltre mezzo secolo parte integrante della pronuncia inglese ad ogni livello sociale. Come scrive John Wells nel suo blog del 3 luglio 2012, l'utilizzo del glottal stop al posto di t in finale di parola quando questa è seguita da una consonante ostruente (quindi in, per esempio, right behind, right day, right guess, right thing, right shape), o da nasale o liquida (in right name, right man, right royal, right letter), è da considerarsi oggi totalmente irrilevante e molto frequente. Ascoltate, per esempio, come David Cameron pronuncia il toponimo Sutton in questo video della BBC: al secondo 00:05 sentiamo chiaramente ˈsʌʔn̩.

John Wells, nel suo breve articolo, prosegue affermando che il glottal stop è frequentemente usato, sebbene i puristi non l'amino molto, anche quando dopo t troviamo le semivocali j o w: right unit, right one. In entrambi i casi, conclude, "I would happily use glottalled /t/ myself" ('io stesso non avrei alcun problema ad utilizzare ʔ al posto di t'). Quanto detto si può facilmente esemplificare ascoltando, in questo video, come il presentatore di BBC Breakfast Bill Turnbull pronuncia what you nell'espressione "let us know what you…": al secondo 0:14 sentiamo wɒʔ ju invece di wɒt ju o dell'altra possibile pronuncia assimilata wɒtʃu. In quest'altra clip, infine, il meteorologo Tomasz Schafernaker dice aʊʔ ˈwest (out west; 2:26) piuttosto che (quello che molti studenti d'inglese si spettano) aʊt ˈwest.

Per maggiori informazioni sull'utilizzo del glottal stop in inglese britannico e americano, leggete questo articolo.

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Prossimo post: lunedì 4 febbraio.


  1. In Spanish, vowels followed by silence are usually ended with a sort of “gentle” glottal stop (in the sense that, when you listen to it, you only get the impression of a clean cessation of the preceding sound – English glottal stops sound a bit more “abrupt “ to me).

  2. This is very true.

    However, tirades in the press (usually the right-wing press) on declining standards in language often mention the "glottal stop" as the epitome of negative change. Many people say that they dislike the glottal stop without realising that they use it themselves sometimes.

  3. Pronunciation will be the way a word or a language is normally spoken, or the manner in which someone utters a word. When one is said to have "correct pronunciation", then it refers to both within a particular dialect. how to say London place-names pronounce London names

  4. I would say the most ugly example of the glottal stop is in the misuse of our articles - a, an, the.

    The obvious is that I hear people say "a apple" instead of "an apple". Ugh!

    Slightly less obvious - but still cringe worthy - is people pronouncing "The online shop" as "Thuh online shop" instead of "Thee online shop". It really does make the language jerkier and flow less smoothly.

    Try saying a sentence such as "The easy thing about the English language is the ease with which the entire sentence flows" - first with "the" rhymes with "he", and then with "the" rhymes with "huh".
    The first ones flows, the second one jerks and grates. It's a bad habit worth encouraging people to avoid.