Some English speakers insert a /t/ absent in standard American English in ⟨else⟩.

How did this arise? What’s the mechanism behind it? Is it related to the insertion of a /ks/ in ⟨espresso⟩, as in /ɛkspɹɛsɵ/, or the consonant-swapping some speakers perform in ⟨ask⟩, saying /ãks/? Is it a feature of AAVE?

  • 2
    I consider the answers accurate, but I will add that "expresso" for "espresso" is, aside from unrelated, simply explained by the similar-sounding English word "express", with is most definitely cognate with Italian espresso and, in fact, means pretty much the same thing as the Italian word does, aside from the coffee-specific meaning: an express train is "treno espresso", and express mail is "posta espressa".
    – LjL
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 16:44
  • 1
    Look for "excrescent t".
    – jlawler
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 17:19
  • Can you explain to me, why you used these symbols? ã ɵ Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 16:27
  • They are not phonemes of the English language if you're using the IPA. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 16:28

2 Answers 2


In /l/, there's a closure between the sagittal middle of the tongue and the roof of the mouth. Air is released along the sides of the tongue. In /s/, more or less the opposite happens. The sides of the tongue are raised, and a groove is formed along the sagittal middle. If you move the tongue from an /l/ towards an /s/, and you don't time the formation of the groove correctly, you'll form a complete closure between the tongue blade and the roof of the mouth. The sound emerging from that configuration is a /t/.

In short, /t/ is formed as a transition from /l/ to /s/ when the different tongue configurations are not perfectly synced.

As a side note, the reverse happens in Icelandic, where the sequence sl- is pronounced /stl-/.

  • The same thing happens to /ns/, hence "prints" and "prince" being pronounced identically by most English-speakers.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 18:44

I've never heard this, and don't know which accents it pertains to. But it appears to me to be a perfectly normal example of epenthesis (in fact it is mentioned in that article)

I think /k/ in "espresso" is different: that is because of the influence of English words like "express". /aks/ is an example of metathesis, which is a different process.

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