Eh, (T)rebek?

I’m getting caught up on my *Jeopardy!, *which I have Tivo’d. This is from the Wednesday, August 3 game.

In the category “Homophones” . . . according to the staff writers, “adolescents” and “adolescence” are pronounced the same. Is it now acceptable to render the “t” silent?

To me, they sound like homophones. My mind balks at the notion, but “cents” and “sense” are probably also homophones if I’m honest about the way I actually speak. Maybe just a hint of t in cents.

Now you’ve got me repeating “fifty cents…sense…cents” over and over again.

Has it not always been “acceptable” to render a T in that position silent, in some accents?

Also, a lot of people can’t hear certain letters in other accents, even if the speakers can.

I pronounce the “t”, IMO they should not be considered homophone,
and I am put off by Jeopardy’s treatment of the issue. I would have
thought they could be counted on for more rigor than that.

We send out gift boxes at the place where I work. One place that we send them out for is an old age home. The name of the place has the word Residence in it and the card includes the people living there. I always have to think about which word to put where since I can’t tell when they read it to me on the phone… “From the staff and residents at Shady Trees Residence” (in fact, I got it backwards just typing it now)

It’s a soft “t” sound. While I don’t personally pronounce them the same, I can accept that some regional variations on the English language might. See the sub conversation in this thread about the pronounciation of the word “route,” and I, personally, think there’s an even bigger difference between “route” and “root.”

I doubt the <t> is clearly pronounced in any dialect; if it is, it’s almost certainly not as the standard aspirated /t/ sound. Are you sure you are really making a distinction between the two? It may seem so when you say the word to yourself, but to be sure you should repeatedly say the two words at random and in isolation to someone else and see if they can reliably distinguish between the two. (Don’t tell them which word you’re about to say; let them guess.)

Yeah, I went :dubious: at that one, too. There is slight, very subtle but distinct difference between the way I pronounce those two words. However, it’s very close, and I can accept the homophone designation, especially since a lot of people apparently do pronounce them the same.

Definitely homophones in my dialect, along with cents and sense.

I’m trying to pronounce “cents” with a “T” sound at the end. Do those of you who say it that way say, “Sin-tuh-ses”?

Yeah, I can’t even imagine how one would pronounce them differently that it would be audible to the listener. So any recorded examples would be great.

If you said to me “Go to the [residence | residents] of George Washington and see if there’s any interest in a magazine subscription” I wonder where in the country you’d be that the listener would know immediately whether they’re headed to Mount Vernon or looking for a town in Washington state (or maybe hitting the dorms of George Washington University).

Where do people who think “cents” and “sense” are not homophones think all those jokes over the ages about “dollars and sense” come from?

I’m also dubious that there’s anyone who speaks English who pronounces these words differently. It’s very common for people to think they pronounce things one way when in fact they don’t. (Witness a friend of mine who insisted she pronounced ‘truck’ with an initial ‘t’ sound rather than an initial ‘ch’ sound. But she didn’t, and afaik, no one does.)

Any recorded examples of natural speech illustrating the difference, or a record of linguistic work showing there is a difference?

(I’m on the lookout for linguistic work showing there’s no difference.)

It’s not a truly silent T, in that its presence does change the pronunciation of the word. But it doesn’t change it by putting a T sound into the word.

And I just tested my own pronunciation of “cents” and “sense”. Interestingly, it sounds to my own ears like I’m pronouncing them the same… But if I actually pay attention to what my tongue is doing, there is a difference. My tongue does indeed touch the roof of my mouth at the end of “cents”, but not “sense”. So I’m saying them differently without even consciously realizing I’m doing so.

Well, not exactly. I can guarantee that you don’t say “adolescen–t--s”, an impossible cluster in any variety of English. Instead, you end the word – the consonant after the “n” – with a “ts” sound – a dental which doesn’t make a sound by itself, followed by a sounded sibilant with the fact that you started it with your toungue in a dental position audibly noticeable.

In other words, EXACTLY how you pronounce “adolescence”. There, the dental position occurs because that’s where our tongue already is when we make the “n” sound.

Don’t be fooled by how we WRITE these (or any) words! You must try to ignore writing when analyzing spoken language (as all of humanity in effect did for the first approx. 145,000 years of language, and as maybe a fifth of humanity still does today. Plus all children aged about two to five.)

I do. The tongue is in a different position on the roof of the mouth for the “t” vs the “ch” sound. When I pronounce “truck”, it’s in the “t” position. That’s the chruth!

You bring up an interesting point (even if I think most people DO position their tongue identically for the example you gave). You use the word “saying” here to mean “position of parts of mouth”, rather than “audible result”. I think most linguists – indeed, most people – would tend to use the word “saying” to refer to the “audible result”. Would a blind person, or someone hearing a recording of you, or even just someone watching you but not keeping a very careful eye on your tongue position (if indeed it isn’t hidden anyway), say you “said” something different?

(If the words were pronounced without context, obviously. In context, we finally get to what we REALLY mean, usually, by “saying” – neither the sound, nor the position of the mouth, but rather the semantic/audible bundle of intended meaning.)

I’m afraid I don’t believe you! :wink: Seriously, a lot of the time, this kind of thing depends on whether we are pronouncing something carefully, slowly, and in a situation which encourages self-consciousness, vs. how we usually pronounce something in everyday life. That’s why linguists often prefer to analyze recordings of people who are unaware that they’re being recorded.

I don’t understand. Your tongue has to touch the roof of the mouth in both words, because of the N, but in neither words should be touching the roof of the mouth at the end of the word.

You think so, but you are almost certainly wrong. :wink: