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Th-stopping is the realization of the dental fricatives [θ, ð] as stops—either dental or alveolar—which occurs in several dialects of English. In some accents, such as of Indian English and middle- or upper-class Irish English, they are realized as the dental stops [t̪, d̪] and as such do not merge with the alveolar stops /t, d/; thus, for example, tin ([tʰɪn] in Ireland and [t̪ɪn] in India) is not a homophone of thin [t̪ʰɪn]. In other accents, such as varieties of Caribbean English, Nigerian English, Liberian English, and older, rural, or working-class Irish English, such pairs are indeed merged. Variation between both dental and alveolar forms exists in much of the working-class English speech of North America and sometimes southern England. Th-stopping occurred in all continental Germanic languages, resulting in cognates such as German die for "the" and Bruder for "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 [tʰæŋks]. 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.: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.:90 In initial position, [θ] occurs in AAVE just as in standard accents: thin is [θɪn], without the stopping of West Indian accents. 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), 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/. Many speakers of Philippine English and some speakers of other variants in Asia also have th-stopping.
|/t, d/||/θ, ð/||IPA||Notes|
|Bart||bath||ˈbɑːt||Non-rhotic accents with trap-bath split.|
|bat||bath||ˈbæt||Without trap-bath split.|
|blitter||blither||ˈblɪɾə(ɹ)||With intervocalic alveolar flapping.|
|body||bothy||ˈbɒɾi||Without lot-cloth split and with intervocalic alveolar flapping.|
|brought||broth||ˈbrɔːt||With lot–cloth split. Also /ˈbrɒt/ in some accents.|
|cent||synth||ˈsɪnt||With pen-pin merger.|
|clot||cloth||ˈklɒt||Without cot–caught merger.|
|Dee||the||ˈdiː||The before vowels and silent H.|
|dirt||dearth||ˈdɜː(ɹ)t||with fern-fir-fur merger.|
|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.|
|fraught||froth||ˈfɹɔːt||With lot-cloth split.|
|frot||froth||ˈfɹɒt||Without lot-cloth split.|
|hitter||hither||ˈhɪɾə(ɹ)||With intervocalic alveolar flapping.|
|hurt||earth||ˈɜː(ɹ)t||With H-dropping and fern-fir-fur merger.|
|latter||lather||ˈlæɾə(ɹ)||With intervocalic alveolar flapping.|
|mutter||mother||ˈmʌɾə(ɹ)||With intervocalic alveolar flapping.|
|neater||neither||ˈniːɾə(ɹ)||With intervocalic alveolar flapping.|
|pads||paths||ˈpædz||Without trap-bath split.|
|part||path||ˈpɑːt||Non-rhotic accents with trap-bath split.|
|pat||path||ˈpæt||Without trap-bath split.|
|rat||wrath||ˈɹæt||Without trap-bath split.|
|rot||Roth||ˈɹɒt||Without lot-cloth split.|
|root||ruth, Ruth||ˈɹuːt||With yod-dropping.|
Some accents pronounce root as /ˈɹʊt/.
|scent||synth||ˈsɪnt||With pen-pin merger.|
|sent||synth||ˈsɪnt||With pen-pin merger.|
|soot||sooth||ˈsuːt||Some accents pronounce soot as /ˈsʊt/.|
|suede||swathe||ˈsweɪd||Some accents pronounce swathe as /ˈswɒd/.|
|swat||swath||ˈswɒt||Without lot-cloth split.|
|swayed||swathe||ˈsweɪd||Some accents pronounce swathe as /ˈswɒd/.|
|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.|
|turd||third||ˈtɜː(ɹ)d||With fern-fir-fur merger.|
|utter||other||ˈʌɾə(ɹ)||With intervocalic alveolar flapping.|
|wetter||weather||ˈwɛɾə(ɹ)||With intervocalic alveolar flapping.|
|wort||worth||ˈwɜː(ɹ)t, ˈwʌɹt||Some accents pronounce wort as /ˈwɔː(ɹ)t/.|
|wrought||Roth||ˈɹɔːt||With lot-cloth split.|
- Wells, J.C. (1989). The British Isles. Accents of English. 2. Cambridge: University Press. pp. 565–66, 635. ISBN 9780521285407.
- 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.
- Wolfram 1969, p. 130, does however mention the use of 'a lenis [t]' as a rare variant.
- 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.
- 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.