Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
semantic nuance

pronunciation of ~ths

Recommended Posts

semantic nuance

Hi,

A friend asked me a question about the pronunciation of the word 'months'. I've googled and found different views on its pronunciations. I'd like to ask help from the native speakers of English here.

Does 'months' pronounce as 'month +s'? Or, does it pronounce as 'munce' (th sound is omitted)? Or does it pronounce as 'mon+ts' as in 'students/ ?

Does this ~ths rule apply to all the same suffix words, such as fifths, mouths, etc?

Thank you very much for your help!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

creamyhorror

Properly speaking it would be "mon+ths", but sometimes I get lazy and pronounce it as "mon+ts". I don't say "mon+ce".

The distinction between "mon+ce" and "mon+ts" (ce vs ts) is small and often inaudible in normal fast speech.

"Mouths" is fine, I think most educated native speakers would pronounce it fully ("mou+ths"). "Fifths" is harder - I pronounce it "fi+ths", but some speakers do the full "fif+ths". "Sixths" is worse because of the k-sound; I can pronounce it fully but it sounds awkward: "siks-ths". Luckily it's not a common word, and "siks-th" is quite doable. It takes about twice the length of time that "six" takes to say (despite counting as one syllable). The same problem occurs with "twelfths".

See http://forum.wordref...ad.php?t=994642 and http://english.stack...ronounce-fifths

I agree with this quote: "/fifθs/ is possible for many native speakers, and /fiθs/ is quite acceptable."

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
semantic nuance

Thank you so much for your explanations, creamyhorror. Pretty useful!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
c_redman

Yes, isn't English wonderful :)

It will vary a lot among accents, rate of speech, audience, and personal variation. From my personal experience in American English (Midwestern), I think it's common to try to not completely skip over a th sound, but it's sometimes hard to tell from listening whether the th is there. If I say "mouths" 10 times in a row, it probably sounds almost exactly like "mouse", but my tongue is placed slightly differently trying to say the th. For a lot of these kinds of words, I'm not sticking out my tongue for a full "th" sound. If the tip touches either the top or bottom teeth, it is close enough when speaking quickly.

It also depends a lot on the letter before the th. For n+th+s, the tongue can slide from the top teeth, to the space between, to the bottom teeth. For f+th+s in "fifths", if you want to say it smoothly you should prepare even before the "f", curling your lower lip in during the "i" and then sliding it out for f+th+s. If you don't prepare, you either have a pause while you bring your lip back (fif..ths), or you skip over the f (fiths), the th (fifs), or the f+th (fiss), all of which are done.

Some letter combinations are even more difficult. "Strengths", for example. There isn't an easy way to quickly go from ng->th->s. Personally, I tend to say streng+ks. "Healths" is another one that doesn't really roll off the tongue. "Sixths" is the worst I can think of right now.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
tooironic

Interesting your friend asked about "months". I think "months" and "clothes" (along with "usually", "products", "register", "Monash", "smile", etc.) are the most commonly mispronounced words by Chinese people who speak English as a second language.

You may find forvo.com useful. You can search for audio files of native speakers pronouncing words like these in many different languages.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
anonymoose

For me, definitely "mon+ths". I think "mon+ts" or "mon+ce" would sound weird, and if it were a foreigner saying it, I would assume they had bad pronunciation.

As for mouth and mouths, the th is there in both cases, but the th becomes voiced if an s is added.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
li3wei1

Agree with anonymoose about mouths. It's the difference between bath and bathe.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
semantic nuance

Thank you, everyone, for sharing your views. Much appreciated! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
creamyhorror
For me, definitely "mon+ths". I think "mon+ts" or "mon+ce" would sound weird, and if it were a foreigner saying it, I would assume they had bad pronunciation.

I'll have to watch my pronunciation around you if we ever meet :P

As for mouth and mouths, the th is there in both cases, but the th becomes voiced if an s is added.

I've heard the voiced mouTHs pronunciation, but I prefer the unvoiced version. Seems more consistent with "fifths", "strengths", "births", "Siths", etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
li3wei1
I've heard the voiced mouTHs pronunciation, but I prefer the unvoiced version. Seems more consistent with "fifths", "strengths", "births", "Siths", etc.

Consistency is great, but it isn't the best approach to English pronunciation. Or spelling.

http://www.forvo.com/word/mouths/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
creamyhorror
Consistency is great, but it isn't the best approach to English pronunciation. Or spelling.

True, but I think this lies within acceptable variation.

\ˈmau̇thz also ˈmau̇z, ˈmau̇ths; -- Merriam-Webster

I promise I don't pronounce "this" like "thistle", though!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Altair

In "standard" American English, when a one-syllable word ends in a voiced consonant, the vowel is automatically lengthened. This rule means that pronouncing a word like "mouths" with a voiced "thz" lengthens the duration of the syllable and gives more time to pronounce the difficult combination. I think this is why \ˈmau̇ðz\ is favored over \ˈmau̇θs\. To me, using the pronunciation \ˈmau̇z\, would be markedly non-standard and possibly stigmatized, depending on setting and dialect.

As for "months," I would like to think that I pronounce it as written, but I suspect that I and most American speakers pronounce it in normal speech as "monts," however with a clear dental articulation of the "nt," rather than the normal alveolar pronunciation. This dental pronunciation also happens in words like "width," where the "d" is pronounced with the top of the tip of the tongue against the front teeth, rather than against the alveolar ridge in the gums behind the upper teeth. Said more precisely, "th" causes a forward assimilation in the pronunciation of any immediately preceding consonants or string of consonants pronounced with the tip of the tongue, especially within the same word.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hofmann

Altair described how I pronounce "month" and "width." Instead of an alveolar /n/ and /d/, it becomes dental, in the same place as /θ/. Furthermore, the dental plosive in "width" is probably unreleased.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
semantic nuance

Thanks a lot!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...