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I could be wrong about this, but the D sound in British English (RP) sounds a little different from the American counterpart. Often when I hear the words "Lady", "Ready", "Hidden", or "I do", it has a tendency to sound very strong and breathy compared to how I would say it with an American accent. To me, it sounds similar to how a J would sound, but not exactly. I am aware that this definitely does not happen for all D-words, but I hear it often enough that it piqued my interest.

Was wondering if this is an actual phenomenon or if I am just hearing things. I heard that there are many variations in RP English, and that location and class can even affect it. Perhaps this way of pronouncing the D is specific to a certain variation?

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    Geoff Lindsey in his book mentions that /d/ is commonly realized as affricated [dz], perhaps that's what you're hearing? Sep 10, 2022 at 22:41

2 Answers 2

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American English speakers tend to reduce /d/ to a flapped [ɾ] between vowels, while British English speakers generally don't. This means an RP /d/ can sound a lot "stronger" than an American one, since it's realized as a full stop [d] instead of merely a flap [ɾ].

This is commonly called D-flapping.

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  • I believe the OP is asking about affrication instead, given how they describe it as "similar to how a J would sound, but not exactly".
    – jogloran
    Sep 12, 2022 at 4:09
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In the examples you cite, there is no [d] in most dialects of American English, it is replaced with the flap [ɾ]. Thus "writer" and "rider" are phonetically identical, though given "write; ride" we know that underlyingly the former has /t/ and the latter has /d/. The flapping rule is not a feature of RP. Another difference is that /t/ and /d/ lenite to something like [ts, dz] in British English. This is apparently an "emerging" variant in RP.

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    "Dz" is actually the perfect way to describe the sound that I am hearing. It's that Z-like air mixed in that makes it sound hissier than a normal D. I initially thought that it might be due to the flap in American English, but then decided that this wasn't the difference that I am hearing cuz I would hear the Dz in the beginning of some words while it sounded normal in other words. Overall, it does seem like an "emerging" thing since it's not consistent. Sep 10, 2022 at 23:14
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    For me "writer" and "rider" aren't quite identical, because vowels are lengthened before voiced consonants so "rider" has a longer diphthong. The consonants are the same, though.
    – Draconis
    Sep 11, 2022 at 0:04
  • @Draconis Incidentally, I hate the word "writer" in audiobooks because, as a Canadian, Americans always sound like they're talking about "riders". (For us the /t/ would raise the /aj/ whereas the /d/ would not; therefore hearing an unraised /aj/ tells my brain that it's hearing /d/ !) Sep 11, 2022 at 12:58
  • @Draconis can confirm in a Philadelphia accent, writer and rider are distinguished only by their vowels. Sep 11, 2022 at 14:22
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    @Draconis I addressed why in North America writer has a higher and shorter vowel [ʌɪ] and rider a lower and longer vowel [aɪ] on ELU in this answer. To further quote Wikipedia on the so-called Canadian raising effect: “Hence, while in accents without raising, writer and rider are pronounced identically except for a slight difference in vowel length due to pre-fortis clipping, in accents with raising, the words may be distinguished by their vowels: writer [ˈɹʌɪɾɚ], rider [ˈɹaɪɾɚ].”
    – tchrist
    Sep 12, 2022 at 13:33

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