Assilimation

23 April 2016, my own translation of the Dutch original

Hard

In a restricted Facebook forum someone drew our attention to an employment opportunity. (In the meta description it says: “If you know anyone who would be a great fit for this position, please pass the link along”, so I suppose I can freely give the link here.)

I won’t apply myself, but I thought to my myself “What’s Pitchup?” and found their site.

I didn’t say that out loud, but in my mental ear I heard I cannot properly say it! Yes, after four attempts I may finally succeed, but then the sixth time I do it wrong again.

I’m pretentious enough to think my English pronunciation is quite good (British based; I can’t and won’t do American), but it seems in my brain in some aspects it is still too much tied to the pronunciation of my native Dutch, which causes assimilation patterns and neutralisation effects from that language to play me false. So either I say ‘what’s pits up?’ or I say ‘watch pitch up’. The right way I just hardly ever manage.

Can’t and can

I presume the thing is in Dutch the combination <sj> doesn’t really indicate a separate phoneme, but rather a sequence of /s/ and /j/. When /ts/ and /tsj/ come near each other, assimilation occurs, even when I speak English.

Likewise, words like ‘register’ and ‘registration’ are hard for me to pronounce. The [Z] (not being [z]) in [dZ] and the [s] (not being [S]) in [st] interfere.

However I can pronounce the Portuguese examples in my Essiness explanation, almost without special effort. But only after ENDLESSLY repeated practice in the past. In normal conversation, I don't speak the language well at all, literally not being fluent. I know how to say what I need to say, still I often don’t manage. In English I know AND I can, except in examples like the aforementioned.

Then again I can properly say “Henry the sixth’s throne”. In that case too as a result of lots of practising, decades ago. It is one of the example exercises from the booklet ‘Drop your foreign accent’, written by Dutch writer and teacher Gerard Nolst Trenité whose non-de-plume was Charivarius. I find the book dates from 1909, although I had to buy it for school only in 1967, and learnt a lot from it in 1970s self-tuition.

They can?

Now I wonder: can native speakers of English say ‘What’s Pitchup?’ without any difficulty, without even a hunch of what can be so hard about it? Or is it a tongue-twister for them too, of the type

She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore.
The shells she sells are sea-shells, I'm sure.
For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore
Then I'm sure she sells sea-shore shells.
” ?


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