I get the impression that in the "classical Received Pronunciation" of English during phonetician Jones's era, the lenis plosives /b/, /d/, /g/ (and probably the affricate /dʒ/ as well) in initial position were more voiced than the English of today's Britain. Additionally, were the fortis plosives /p/, /t/, /k/ (and /tʃ/) any less aspirated? By "more/less", I mean both in voice onset time and in the frequency of the feature's occurrence. Can anyone confirm or refute these claims?

  • Are you talking about initial/final plosives? Intervocalic voiced plosives are usually fully voiced in modern English. Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 23:15
  • Please define your terms. Do you simply mean voiced vs unvoiced stops? Where is this lenis/fortis terminology coming from anyway? Have you read this? I know no phonetician surnamed *Jone, let alone several of them. Please explain.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 23:23
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    I am indeed referring to the "voiced and voiceless stops" of English, for which the "lenis/fortis" distinction is probably a better characterisation. I'm using those terms in their phonemic sense, just as a way of referring to the /b/, /d/, /g/, /dʒ/ set vs /p/, /t/, /k/, /tʃ/. Would like to focus the discussion on initial plosives. And thanks for the spot of the missing s!
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 23:32
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    There may be some extant recordings of Daniel Jones pronouncing English words somewhere. At least you can surely get recordings of other British speakers from that generation. Then you can find out.
    – user483
    Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 12:47
  • @Michaelyus, Why do you think so? In other words, what is your "impression" based on?
    – Alex B.
    Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


English (at least in the present-day) can be characterised in terms of VOT as having short-lag (voicing beginning soon after release) versus long-lag (voicing begin some time after release) plosives whereas some languages, such as Spanish, have lead (voicing beginning some time before release) and short-lag plosives.

So you appear to be suggesting that plosives in the upper-class British English of a century ago were more like modern Spanish plosives. It would be helpful to understand where you get this impression. As @jlovegren says, a half-decent recording of Jones or someone else from that era could easily be used to test the hypothesis (so you could confirm or refute the claim). For what it's worth, my impression from listening to Jones is that the hypothesis is not correct.

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