When in the history of the english language did the consonants begin to be pronounced as a glottal stop? I notice this phenomenon is more prevalent in American English at the end of words but sometimes I notice it in British English, in the cockney pronunciation of bottle and water and slightly less frequently at the end of words.

Was this something that happened also in Middle English?

1 Answer 1


One has to divide the phenomenon of glottalisation into its different forms. Intervocalic T-glottalisation is the classic defining feature of a whole host of English varieties, mostly from Britain, and there are several candidates:

  • East Anglia, specifically Norfolk. Studies done in the 1950s on local residents born in the 1870s suggest that the T was glottalised back then.

  • Cockney. Very influential, and possibly the driver of the modern trend towards glottalisation across urban areas across Britain, although its influence might be hyped. This is well attested in the mid-19th century through the eye dialect of certain famous novels.

  • Glasgow. Glaswegian English is stated to have used the glottal stop since the 19th century in word-medial and word-final positions.

As for final glottalisation, that's something less well explored.

  • Barbados seems to have developed it separately, as it only affects /t/ in final position, and in the Caribbean it is identified with Barbados exclusively.
  • New York glottalises /t/ at the ends of syllables but not intervocalically. 19th century intervocalic glottalisation was reported, but does not seem to have survived intact.

I haven't seen any reports on Middle English glottalisation, and it's not altogether clear whether Shakespeare used it, although there are possible indications that the Original Pronunciation movement like to pick up on.

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