the letter 't' - does it sometimes sound like 'k'?

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by DWS, Jun 5, 2007.

  1. DWS

    DWS Member

    Thanks in advance for your help. I'm new to the czech language and have been practicing with Pimsleur audio CDs. One thing I have noticed and been unable to find an explanation for:

    In some words the letter "t" seems to be pronounced with a "k" sound - as in the english word "key".

    Examples: velmi mě těší
    : něco k pití

    In both of these phrases the "t" seems to be pronounced like "k" by the czech speaker. Is this a trick of my english ears?

    Is there a rule for when "t" should sound like "k"?
  2. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry, I definitely don't hear direct similarity between k and ť, even in your examples.
  3. Qcumber

    Qcumber Well-Known Member

    Two possibilities:

    1 [weak]) Your brain misinterprets the palatization of the /t/ - /t/ + /i/ > [tj] - as the /h/ puff that accompanies /p/, /t/, /k/ in English as in pat, tat, cat.

    2 [stronger]) Your brain misperceives /t/ for /k/ as already noted in some languages, but generally in the present of an /l/, e.g. some old French speakers: Hitler > Hikler; some provincial speakers of Tagalog: itlóg > iklóg "egg".
  4. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    Well... it strongly depends on the language you speak. And... yes, it is somehow possible to confuse the two if they are mispronounced or pronounced not very carefully in some positions (due to their phonetic nature).
    But the main reason may be the coarticulation. Coarticulation is tranfering of phonemic traits to phonetic environment.
    e.g.: words "kýbl" and "kůň" both commence with K. The speaker nor the hearer does not hear any difference. But try to say "kýbl" and "kůň"... and pronounce only the K (without schwa, just as if you wished to pronounce the word but as soon as you have pronounced the first phoneme, stop it), you will hear very strong difference. The K in "kýbl" (or in English hypothetical word "skee") is palatalised and K in "kůň" (English "school") is velarised and labialised... sounds much darker.

    So... as I perceived, you possibly confused T and Ť (in "pití", there is no T, it is Ť...). Ť is defined as "unvoiced palatal explosive". You see? Palatal. K is "unvoiced velar explosive". Palatum and velum are two parts of your mouth, I hope you know which. But K can be palatalised and sometimes very very strongly, especially if the locutor is from Moravia (or anywhere where they tend to pronounce E and I more closed), and both sounds could happen to be pronounced very similarly. But generally they should be both well distinguishable in standard pronunciation.

    I noticed the real problem:
    Ť should never sound like K, but K could sometimes (very seldom, in a very specific context) sound like Ť.

    Yes, there IS a trick. Probably very important trick. The English is a language that aspirates.
    When you pronounce words as "poor", "teach" or "core", the initial T,P,K is followed by a strong puff of air. In words like "spore", "steam" and "school", there is no such puff. You probably do not notice this as a native speaker, most of them do not (as most Czechs do not perceive the difference of N's in "náš" and "maminka"). In Czech, there is never such a puff of air after the initial unvoiced explosive... so this can confuse you and make the sounds sound different for your English speaking ear (did you notice the joke? I am very proud of it :D ) which can confuse it somehow. Especially as we are speaking about K and a sound Ť, which does not exist in English, so it may be difficult to distinguish it, because palatal and velar regions in mouth are quite close (closer than velar and alveolar, where in turn the T is pronounced). So this is my theory why you confuse sometimes both sounds.
  5. MichaelM

    MichaelM Well-Known Member

    Just to make you feel better, I am also taking the Pimsleur CD course and have had the same question so I am very glad you asked it. I also hear it as a 'K' sound in k piti.

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