‘th’ Joining & Why it’s Important.

On Saturday I taught a class of 8 advanced speakers and pronouncers of English, they could all repeat both ‘th’ sounds with no problem (/θ/ as in ‘think’ and /ð/ as in ‘those’). Nearly all of the students would, however, make an error when speaking normally, and the ‘th’ sounds would be mispronounced as some kind of alveolar or dental plosive. A huge number of advanced speakers make this error, but there is a simple trick to avoid it as follows.

What’s the problem?

The problem arises if one of the alveolar sounds /t, d, l, n/ appear directly before a dental sound /θ, ð/. Why? Because the tongue is out of position, it is impossible to go from the alveolar ridge to the teeth in no time, so the speaker makes their ‘th’ sound in the wrong place.

How to avoid a pronunciation error.

Avoiding the error is technically very simple – you simply make the previous alveolar consonant on the teeth. To demonstrate, compare the following examples:

nine /naɪn/ ninth /naɪnθ/ – the underlined ‘n’ would be dental.
blood /blʌd/ bloodthirsty /blʌdθɜ:sti/ – the underlined ‘d’ would be dental.

This also occurs when joining words together:

in /ɪn/, in the /ɪn ðə/
did /dɪd/, dɪd they /dɪd ðeɪ/

Practice

In class on Saturday we used the following sentences and looked for at least two examples of alveolar consonants becoming dental in each sentence:

    1. Aren’t the residents unhealthy living in that pollution?
    2. It’s hard to succeed in the cutthroat world of the media.
    3. Did the internet suffer a loss of bandwidth this morning?
    4. I think they should ban the wealthiest from attending.
    5. For the thousandth time Katie, join the leads together.
    6. ‘Heartthrob’ we used to call him, although he’s lost his looks now.
    7. Well it’s true that synthetic materials were all the rage.
    8. We were happy, but then her misanthropy got in the way.
    9. Do you think that the national anthem is appropriate?
    10. What the hell are you doing drinking absinth?

You can listen to the sentences here:
/wp-content/uploads/dental-joining.mp3

By | 2016-03-17T14:34:04+00:00 January 21st, 2014|IPA, Pronunciation, Sounds, Teaching|2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Виктор December 4, 2015 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    So, have you guys ever had difficulty to pronounce the TH sound in English? Don’t worry, you’re just like every other English learner out there.

  2. juliadiets.com March 25, 2016 at 4:09 am - Reply

    Let s see how to pronounce the th combination in English. There are two different sounds, but a lot of people always pronounce them the same.

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