Hostname: page-component-7d8f8d645b-xmxxh Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-05-27T10:06:42.836Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

New perspectives on an ol' variable: (t,d) in British English

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2005

Sali Tagliamonte
University of Toronto
Rosalind Temple
University of York


A quantitative analysis of -t,-d deletion in contemporary British English reveals that preceding and following phonological contexts are significant, indicating that there is a universal constraint on -t,-d deletion consistent with universal phonetic and phonological properties of segments. However, in contrast to previous research, morphological class is not significant. Furthermore, our results do not support the hypothesis that -t,-d deletion is a variable rule that applies both lexically and postlexically. In sum, -t,-d deletion is a robust phenomenon in contemporary British English, but there are striking differences between British and North American varieties. Such differences suggest that -t,-d deletion is an ideal case study for further investigation of the phonology-phonetics interface, and adds to the available evidence from which an explanatory account of -t,-d deletion can be constructed.The first author acknowledges with gratitude the generous support of the Economic and Social Research Council of the United Kingdom (the ESRC) for research grant #R000238287, Grammatical Variation and Change in British English: Perspectives from York. We are also grateful to Ms. Heather A. Davies, who made it possible for us to work for a time in the same geographical location, as a result of which our original conception of the article was transformed. We would like to thank members of the phonetics/phonology research group at the University of York and our audiences at the following conferences for their comments and suggestions: VIEW 2000, University of Essex; NWAV 30, North Carolina State University, 2001; and the Biennial Meeting of the British Association of Academic Phoneticians, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne 2002. Our anonymous reviewers deserve special mention as their insights prompted exacting revisions to our original manuscript. The result, we believe, is a stronger article; however, if points of contention remain, we welcome further discussion.

Research Article
© 2005 Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Bayley, Robert. (1994). Consonant cluster reduction in Tejano English. Language Variation and Change 6:303326.Google Scholar
Clements, George N. (1990). The role of the sonority cycle in core syllabification. In J. Kingston & M. E. Beckman (eds.), Papers in laboratory phonology I. Between the grammar and physics of speech. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 28333. Also published in Working Papers of the Cornell Phonetics Laboratory 2:1–68.
Docherty, Gerard J. (1992). The timing of voicing in British English obstruents. Berlin: Foris.CrossRef
Docherty, Gerard J., Foulkes, Paul, Milroy, James, Milroy, Lesley, & Walshaw, David. (1997). Descriptive adequacy in phonology: A variationist perspective. Journal of Linguistics 33:275310.Google Scholar
Fasold, Ralph. (1972). Tense marking in Black English. Arlington, VA: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Guy, Gregory. (1977). A new look at –t, -d deletion. In R. W. Fasold & R. W. Shuy (eds.), Studies in language variation. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. 111.
Guy, Gregory. (1980). Variation in the group and the individual: The case of final stop deletion. In W. Labov (ed.), Locating language in time and space. New York: Academic Press. 136.
Guy, Gregory. (1988). Advanced varbrul analysis. In K. Ferrara, B. Brown, K. Walters, & J. Baugh (eds.), Linguistic change and contact. Austin, TX: Department of Linguistics, University of Texas at Austin. 124136.
Guy, Gregory. (1991). Explanation in variable phonology: An exponential model of morphological constraints. Language Variation and Change 3:122.Google Scholar
Guy, Gregory. (forthcoming). Language variation and linguistic theory. Oxford: Blackwell.
Guy, Gregory, & Boberg, Charles. (1997). Inherent variability and the obligatory contour principle. Language Variation and Change 9:149164.Google Scholar
Guy, Gregory, & Boyd, Sally. (1990). The development of a morphological class. Language Variation and Change 2:118.Google Scholar
Labov, William. (1989). The child as linguistic historian. Language Variation and Change 1:8598.Google Scholar
Labov, William. (1997). Resyllabification. In F. Hinskens, R. van Hout, & L. Wetzels (eds.), Language variation and phonological theory. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 145180.
Labov, William, Cohen, Paul, Robins, Clarence, & Lewis, John. (1968). A study of the nonstandard English of Black and Puerto Rican speakers in New York City. (Cooperative Research Report no. 3288). Washington DC: United States Office of Education.
McCarthy, John (1986). OCP effects: Gemination and antigemination. Linguistic Inquiry 17:207263.Google Scholar
Mohanan, Karavannur P. (1986). The theory of lexical phonology. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Nesbitt, C. F. (1984). The linguistic constraints on a variable process: /t,d/ deletion in Sydney speech. B. A. Honours thesis, University of Sydney.
Neu, Hélène. (1980). Ranking of constraints on /t,d/ deletion in American English. In W. Labov (ed.), Locating language in time and space. New York: Academic Press. 3754.
Poplack, Shana, & Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2001). African American English in the diaspora: Tense and aspect. Malden: Blackwell.
Rand, David, & Sankoff, David. (1990). GoldVarb: A variable rule application for the Macintosh. Version 2. Montréal: Canada. Centre de recherches mathématiques, Université de Montréal.
Santa Ana, Otto. (1992). Chicano English evidence for the exponential hypothesis: A variable rule pervades lexical phonology. Language Variation and Change 4:275288.Google Scholar
Santa Ana, Otto. (1996). Sonority and syllable structure in Chicano English. Language Variation and Change 8:6389.Google Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A. (1998). Was/were variation across the generations: View from the city of York. Language Variation and Change 10:153191.Google Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2001). Come/came variation in English dialects. American Speech 76(1):4261.Google Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A., & Lawrence, Helen. (2000). ‘I used to dance, but I don't dance now’: The habitual past in contemporary English. Journal of English Linguistics 28(4):324353.Google Scholar
Temple, Rosalind A. M. (2000). Now and then: The evolution of male–female differences in the voicing of consonants in two varieties of French. Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics and Phonetics 8:193204.Google Scholar
Wolfram, Walt. (1969). A sociolinguistic description of Detroit Negro speech. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Wolfram, Walt. (1993). Identifying and interpreting variables. In D. Preston (ed.), American dialect research. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 193221.
Yip, Moira. (1988). The Obligatory Contour Principle and phonological rules. A loss of identity. Linguistic Inquiry 19:65100.Google Scholar