I have gotten a lot of questions about words like ‘kitten’, ‘cotton’, ‘mountain’, and ‘sentence’. All of these words end with t-schwa-n. How should that T be pronounced? Make it a Stop T.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over the pronunciation of the word ‘mountain’, ‘sentence’, and other similar words.
I’ve had a few requests for words where we have the T, schwa, and N sound. For example, the word ‘mountain’, or the word ‘curtain’. First, let’s take a look at the word ‘mountain’. So here, the T is coming after the N, and before a schwa. Normally, when the T is in a consonant cluster, like ‘mount’, we would say a true T. But often, when it follows the N, we actually live it out altogether, like in the word ‘center’. Center. I say no T there.
But this is an exception. When we have the T sound, the schwa sound, and the N sound, most native speakers will make that T a Stop T. So rather than ‘mountain’, with a True T, we get mountain, mountain. Do you hear the stop? So, to make this word, my tongue is coming to the roof of the mouth for the N, mount-n. Then I just leave it there. I stop the flow of air with my throat, to make the Stop T, mount-ain, then I release and let it go again into the schwa-N sound.
Let’s take a look at the word ‘curtain’. Now here the T comes after an R and before a vowel sound, the schwa. So normally, that would be a Flap T, like in the word ‘party’. But again, because we have a T-schwa-N sound, it’s an exception. So, it’s a Stop T. Cur-tain. Cur-tain. So, to make this word, my tongue is going from the R, pulled back, cur-, to a position where the front part of the tongue is touching the roof of the mouth. Then again, I cut off the airflow here to signify the Stop T. Cur-tain. Then I don’t need to move my tongue, it’s already in position for the schwa-N sound. Curtain.
The word ‘sentence’ doesn’t end with a T-schwa-N sound, but it’s the same rule. Because we have those three sounds together, many people will say sen-tence, making a Stop T there. So again, my tongue is already in the right position because it came up for the first N. Sen-tence. So, I just cut off the airflow, and then jump right back into the schwa-N sound.
One final example, the word ‘cotton’. So here, the T is coming between two vowel sounds. Normally, that would be a Flap, like in the word ‘cutting’. There, it’s a Flap T where the tongue just bounces agains the roof of the mouth and there’s no stop of sound. But in the word ‘cotton’, it’s the T-schwa-N, so we’re going to make that a stop instead. Cotton. So, my tongue is going up into position for the T, it’s the same as the position for the N. I never move the tongue once it’s there. I just cut off the airflow, nn, and then make the N sound.
Other example words with the Stop T-schwa-N sound: fountain, kitten, button, written, Clinton, Manhattan. So don’t forget: move your tongue into position for the N, stop the sound, and then make the N sound. That’s how you should pronounce T-schwa-N.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.