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    #1

    t in "/tɔːk/" vs t in "/treɪn/"

    Hi all,

    I'm confused about the IPA symbols used for words such as "train", because the "t" sound in this word is distinctly different from the "t" sound in "talk", for example (unless I've been pronouncing "talk" incorrectly my entire life). However, looking it up in dictionaries, one can plainly see that the word "train" is expressed as "/treɪn/", while the word "talk" is expressed as "/tɔːk/" - same t symbol, but to me, very different sounds.

    Are both "t" sounds supposed to be the same? I know when we teach phonics, we say "ts...a-ts" for the t sound, but we do not say "tsalk". The "t" sound only really comes out when we distinctly pronounce the back of words like "that"... the last "t" in "that" definitely sounds like a "ts" or "tch" sound. Why are they written the same in IPA when they sound different?

    Also, the word "train" sounds to me like "chain" with an r in it. However, "chain" is expressed in IPA as "/tʃeɪn/"... so shouldn't "train" be "/tʃreɪn/"?

    Thanks for your help in advance.





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    #2

    Re: t in "/tɔːk/" vs t in "/treɪn/"

    Transcriptions between slashes are phonemic, not phonetic. Native speakers think of the sounds in the words you mention as the same sound, but they are actually different allophones. The /t/ of 'train' is post alveolar [t̠], while that of 'talk' is alveolar and aspirated [tʰ].

    There are so many allophones of most phonemes, most of which native speakers are completely unaware of, that most dictionaries, course books, grammars and teachers of English stick with phonemic transcriptions.
    Typoman - writer of rongs

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: t in "/tɔːk/" vs t in "/treɪn/"

    Quote Originally Posted by shadowsinner View Post
    Also, the word "train" sounds to me like "chain" with an r in it.
    Yes, you're right—it does sound like that.

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    #4

    Re: t in "/tɔːk/" vs t in "/treɪn/"

    Quote Originally Posted by shadowsinner View Post


    Also, the word "train" sounds to me like "chain" with an r in it. However, "chain" is expressed in IPA as "/tʃeɪn/"... so shouldn't "train" be "/tʃreɪn/"?


    A native speaker of English 'hears' the first phoneme as /t/, even if it is closer to /tʃ/. That's why it's transcribed phonemically as /t/.
    Typoman - writer of rongs

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    #5

    Re: t in "/tɔːk/" vs t in "/treɪn/"

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    Transcriptions between slashes are phonemic, not phonetic. Native speakers think of the sounds in the words you mention as the same sound, but they are actually different allophones. The /t/ of 'train' is post alveolar [t̠], while that of 'talk' is alveolar and aspirated [tʰ].

    There are so many allophones of most phonemes, most of which native speakers are completely unaware of, that most dictionaries, course books, grammars and teachers of English stick with phonemic transcriptions.
    Thank you so much for pointing me in the right direction. I did some research, and "t" has two allophones... suddenly everything is clear. Thank you again.

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    #6

    Re: t in "/tɔːk/" vs t in "/treɪn/"

    /t/ has more than two allophones. The /t/s in these words are all different allophones: top, stop, pot, trip.
    Typoman - writer of rongs

  7. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: t in "/tɔːk/" vs t in "/treɪn/"

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Yes, you're rightit does sound like that.
    Train is not pronounced chrain anywhere I've ever been!

    It's a hard T. Like talk.

    It's a ch in future, culture, furniture, and suture and often in suit yourself but not in train. That would be a tongue-twister!
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #8

    Re: t in "/tɔːk/" vs t in "/treɪn/"

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Train is not pronounced chrain anywhere I've ever been!

    It's a hard T. Like talk.
    I think if you had had some training in phonetics you would realise that the /t/ in 'talk' is very different from the 't' in 'train' for many native speakers of English.

    Many native speakers are blissfully unaware of the phonetic quality sounds they make.
    Typoman - writer of rongs

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    #9

    Re: t in "/tɔːk/" vs t in "/treɪn/"

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Train is not pronounced chrain anywhere I've ever been!
    Pay very close attention to the sounds you produce when you say "train". You'll find that's exactly how you say it.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #10

    Re: t in "/tɔːk/" vs t in "/treɪn/"

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Pay very close attention to the sounds you produce when you say "train". You'll find that's exactly how you say it.
    No, it's not.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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