How to write (orthography) words in a distinct way to capture the essence of these pronunciations (I'll try to use IPA but probably will do it wrong so adding another variation).

  • hip /hɪp/
  • hipo /hɪpo/
  • hippo /hɪpo/
  • hip'po /hɪpʔpo/
  • hip'p /hɪpʔp/
  • hip'p'po /hɪpʔpʔpo/

But I'm not sure I'm doing the glottal stop here, so maybe it is just:

  • hip'p'po /hɪp'p'po/

So that is pretty straight forward. But in English we write hippo instead of hipo for some reason. But in some language somewhere I am sure there is a case where you want to pronounce the two p sounds separately, as in hip'po.

A more subtle case is where the letters are different, as in comb. You can pronounce it these ways:

  • /kom/
  • /komb/
  • or even /komb'/

But I'm not even sure the IPA is capturing what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to explicitly pronounce that b. Like coambuh, but not aspirated just popped. Similar to how you would pronounce the t in these:

  • sift /sɪft/ (not sure that IPA is capturing the poppingness of the t though)

I feel like I need to write it like this: /sɪft'/.

Another example is attempt.

  1. /ʌtɛmt/ or /ətɛmt/
  2. /ʌtɛmpt/ or /ətɛmpt/
  3. /ʌtɛmp't'/ or /ətɛmp't'/

I think I pronounce it like (2) with /ʌtempt/, but what I'm wondering about is how to properly write it so that you pronounce all of the consonants either partially (as in 2), or fully as in (3) with /ʌtemp't'/ or uhtɛmp't'.

Finally there is tent. Wondering what this is.

  1. /tĕnʔ/
  2. /tĕnt/
  3. /tĕnt'/

I'm pretty sure I don't use the glottal stop when I pronounce "tent", and I don't make the t pop, so I think I do (2) here as well. But it doesn't seem IPA captures the essence of this. That is, the t in these two words are pronounced differently:

  • sift
  • tent

The t in sift is popped, while the t in tent is not. More specifically, it's almost as if the t in sift is an extra syllable, sift-t.

So my questions are:

  1. How to annotate the difference between the last t in sift vs. tent, so that you say it either does or doesn't "pop". It's almost like the t in tent is a "stop", while the t in sift is an ejective or something. But maybe it doesn't need to be annotated and it is just a side effect of the specific letter combinations we are making. Even so, I would still like to know how to annotate it better.
  2. How to annotate the combination of multiple consonants, so that you either do or don't pronounce them both. So for hip'po, both p sounds are made, or /ʌtɛmpt/ vs. /ʌtɛmp't'/, where in /ʌtɛmpt/ the consonants blend, while in /ʌtɛmp't'/ they more pop.
  3. Same with /kom/ vs. /komb'/.

As a corollary to annotating the "popping" sound, the question is how to annotate the non-popping sound, or "flowing" sound (flowing from one consonant to the next).

1 Answer 1


The feature that you're apparently referring to is "release". In American English, final /t/ in "hit" (and similar words) is usually unreleased and glottalized, and may even be changed to glottal stop. In "hip", final /p/ is more likely to be somewhat released. At the end of a syllable after a fricative, the voiceless stops tend to be more released, though I've encountered speakers that had no audible release in words like "rasp, mask". I have never encountered a speaker who uses an ejective anywhere. IPA has a diacritic [p̚] for notating the fact of being unreleased, and one can use the aspiration diacritic to indicate the released version of [pʰ]. There is an unofficial diacritic for notating release, "˹".

I would say that "tent" is [tɛ̃ʔ], but other American speakers may say [tɛnt̚]. I would however say [læmp] or [læmp˹]. I say [sɪft˹]; it may be that in UK dialects there is enough release stuff that you would notate that pronunciation [sɪftʰ]. As a service to the reader, I think it is nice to indicate how you pronounce words, if you can, and not just give bare phonemic distinctions.

As for "hippo", there is only one p, despite spelling – or perhaps, "because of spelling". We need a way to indicate that the preceding vowel is short, so we usually double letters to do that.

  • So then it seems there are 3 states: [t̚], [t͉], [tʰ] (t̚ -> t͉ -> tʰ) (unreleased, released, aspirated). Wondering if there are any more than that, maybe the 4th state "glottal" goes at the beginning, but not sure you can do a glottal p or b, or k, etc. Oh also there is popped, but that can be aspirated too, so we have [t͉'] and [t'ʰ]. Oops, wrong symbol, the middle one should be "˹" like you pointed out, looks like Unicode doesn't have the proper one.
    – Lance
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 0:10

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