It is known that English has a set of aspirated consonants, the allophones [pʰ], [tʰ] and [kʰ] of /p/, /t/, /k/, respectively. Are there other consonants with aspirated allophones? In which cases do them occour?

I am asking it because /d/ in the beginning of words like "dance" or "doctor", I hear what looks like a small aspiration almost like [dʰ] or even a very subtle [d͡z], the difference is really clear if you compare with the /d/ in italian "dottore" or portuguese "doutor", where it sounds lika a plain [d]. I am a Portuguese native speaker and it really sounds like a different phone to me and I could not find any answer to this question.

4 Answers 4


Apart from the fact that English p,t,k are aspirated, b,d,g are also different from b,d,g in French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese in not being "as voiced", in initial position – often, they are produced as voiceless unaspirated stops, especially d,g. But "unaspirated" means "very short delay between release of the constriction and the start of voicing". So d,g will not sound like Portuguese d,g. Beside that, I have observed occasional weak affrication of d from some speakers, which may be what you are hearing.

  • If unaspirated means what you said, what term can we use to tell that a segment hasn't this delay? Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 2:35

Aside from the "fortis"/"voiceless" plosives /p t k/, aspiration is supposed to occur with the "fortis"/"voiceless" affricate /t͡ʃ/. (In some linguistic theories, I believe affricates like /t͡ʃ/ are phonologically analyzed as sibilant plosives/stops.)

English "lenis"/"voiced" plosives like /d/ are not expected to have any aspiration in word-initial position. They are less voiced than Italian voiced plosives, but the "voice onset time" is supposed to be around zero at most, not notably positive (aspirated stops have positive voice onset time, and fully voiced stops have negative voice onset time).


What you're hearing as "a small aspiration" is probably the friction during the release phase of a plosive. A plosive phoneme in an onset may be in realization essentially an affricate, but since [t, d] and [ts, dz] do not contrast in onsets, it is usually analyzed and referred to as a plosive. From Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996: 90):

In almost every case, as a stop is released the articulators will pass briefly through a position in which the constriction is narrow enough that it will cause turbulence in the air at the constriction site. This transitory friction is usually considered a part of the release burst of the stop. Affricates are stops in which the release of the constriction is modified in such a way as to produce a more prolonged period of frication after the release. As with many of the types of sounds we have discussed, the class of affricates has no sharp boundaries.

Also note that, in addition to the difference in the timing of voicing, English stops are usually apical alveolar while in Portuguese and Italian they are usually dental (laminal denti-alveolar), which may be part of why you're hearing a difference.


My comment is not that of an expert and I can't cite any source but I still feel like confirming your guess: /d/ can be aspiratedly realized in English - in the british variant that is. I've heard some brits speaking and some - those who are said to have a very strong british accent, seem to put more air out when pronouncing consonants, /d/ included.

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