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I don't like English dictionaries that use pseudo-IPA to indicate pronunciation. I've seen none indicating that most plosives should be aspirated, but when they're in "sp", "st" and other combinations they're not - that I had to discover thru reading linguistics books.

And no dictionary I've seen yet mentions the English sandhi rules, which once you discover (even if for yourself) your pronunciation suddenly sounds much better to your native speaker friends, even if they can't state why.

I've had to discover for myself that "of" is always pronounced as "ov" when next word starts with a vowel, that the "-s" ending (of plurals and possessives) is usually turned to "-z" when surrounded by dentals of followed by a vowel, and some other rules.

Is there a book or dictionary that lists all these? This would be an enormous aid to those of us who study English as a Second Language without the aid of naive speakers - who, anyway, most of the times are not aware of these rules even though do recognize a good pronunciation when you use them.

  • Also, it seems to me an s+consonant group at the end of a word, followed by another at the beginning of the next, gets the consonant dropped and the second one aspirated, so "last step" sounds as "last-t'ep", but I've heard people saying "las'step", so I don't know if this is a dialectal variation or what... – Joe Pineda Dec 15 '13 at 15:15
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    The usual practice in dictionaries is to indicate pronunciation in terms of phonology, not of phonetics. In English [p] and [pʰ] are allophones of the phoneme /p/. – fdb Dec 15 '13 at 17:46
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    Your statements about of and -s aren't quite right: of has a voiced fricative regardless of what sound follows (though there may be occasional devoicing in allegro speech); and -s is voiced when it follows a voiced sound, so in dogs, fishes, but not cats. – TKR Dec 15 '13 at 22:54
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    @JoePineda: A dictionary alone can't reveal every aspect of a language such as how sounds interact at boundaries/in context. For this you need need a grammar reference, especially the phonology section. You also need to do some reading up on what the IPA actually is and the various ways in which it is used. There is no "pseudo", there are "broad", "narrow", "phonemic", etc. Also the narrower you make the transcription the more closely you tie the pronunciation to a single dialect/accent/variety, etc. – hippietrail Dec 16 '13 at 3:36
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    @hippietrail Thanks for your comments, a good book or (preferably) online reference you could recommend to check up sandhi rules for at least Received Pronunciation and Standardized American English? – Joe Pineda Dec 16 '13 at 16:22

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