/t/ becoming /ʧ/

/t/ → /ʧ/

This is a very interesting case in which the sound /j/ is involved. The alveolar /t/ followed by the palatal /j/ turns into the post-alveolar //. So, the place of articulation of the assimilated sound is neither that of the first phoneme nor that of the second: it’s a third one. The manner of articulation is also slightly different: affricate instead of plosive (as you know, affricates begin as plosives and continue as fricatives). This type of assimilation is called coalescence (to coalesce means to come together, merge, etc.) because two sounds fuse into a new phoneme in a place which isn’t that of either of them. We speak about coalescence or yod coalescence (yod is the name of the sound /j/ in the Hebrew alphabet) when the assimilation process involves the phoneme /j/ (we’ll see four different cases).



/t/ (followed by /j/) becomes //

sound_loud_speaker Didn’t you know? |ˈdɪdn tʃu ˈnəʊ|

sound_loud_speaker I’ll meet you there. |aɪl ˈmiː tʃu ˈðeə|


Listen to these first two recordings. I’d like to stress the fact that this doesn’t come from a bunch of friends having a drink in a pub, but from what is probably one of the most perfect instances of standard, well-spoken English: a BBC News bulletin.

sound_loud_speaker Bands and orchestras have faced soaring costs and complicated bureaucracy since the UK left the EU last year (BBC News bulletin). |ˈlɑːst ˈjɪə| → |ˈlɑːs ˈɪə|

sound_loud_speaker The European hub for development of laser weapons is expected to open in the United Kingdom next year (BBC News bulletin). |ˈnekst ˈjɪə| → |ˈneks ˈɪə|


And here are some examples of the same type:

sound_loud_speaker Tell me what you mean by this (Laurie Taylor, BBC4). |wɒt ju ˈmiːn| → |wɒ tʃu ˈmiːn|

sound_loud_speaker Josh Surtees is a journalist who writes for The Guardian and lives in Trinidad and Tobago. Last year he received an email from our Middle East correspondent, Bethan McKernan (podcast from The Guardian).

sound_loud_speaker What is needed, though, is that you understand the mental demands of those sports and are able to adapt your work, so that it can be integrated into the performance environment. But if you’re not honest to your clients about what you realistically can and can’t do, you won’t progress very far (from a Cambridge Advanced test).


One very important fact is that quite often this process takes place within a single word:

sound_loud_speaker He was paraded in the École normale, in the École militaire, in the huge courtyard, and he was stripped, ceremonially, stripped of all his epaulettes and decoration and his sword was broken in front of him and he was sent off to, as you said, Devil’s Island (Robert Gildea, BBC4). /ˈkɔːtjɑːd/ → /ˈkɔːɑːd/

sound_loud_speaker In this period, the papal incomes shifted rather from being mainly derived from spiritual incomes (Catherine Fletcher, BBC4). /ˈspɪrɪtjuəl/ → /ˈspɪrɪuəl/ In this case, the assimilated version is, of course, the most common one.

sound_loud_speaker  That tune is just sublime. Even the viola gets a go at it (Georgia Mann, BBC4).


In some words, the sound //, historically derived from /t/ + /j/, has become the only possibility. This is what happens, for example, with the word nature.

sound_loud_speaker   /ˈneɪə/


Listen to the pronunciation of the words nature and perpetual in this recording:

sound_loud_speaker In the Book of Genesis, nature was the paradise of Eden, but for the philosopher Thomas Hobbes it was a place of perpetual war (Melvyn Bragg, BBC4).

Nature is always pronounced /ˈneɪə/. Perpetual is almost always pronounced /pəˈpeuəl/. The pronunciation /pəˈpetjuəl/ is possible but quite rare.

This is the type of work I do with my students in my one-to-one classes. I make them practise these processes with exercises until they improve their comprehension of native speakers and are capable of speaking like that themselves. If you are interested in my classes, you can contact me here.


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