I was confused by the pronunciation of consonant cluster 'ths' at the end of the word.

For example: the cluster 'ths' in word months, according to ESL teaching videos on Youtube,video for months' pronunciation on youtube can be pronounced as /ths/(which is the pronunciation listed in most of the dictionaries), /ts/ and /s/. As for word baths, I could not find a video explanation by searching internet. But I assume that the word baths should be pronounced as /baths/ or /bas/, but not /bats/(As I couldn't think of any rules for this pronunciation)

I'm not sure whether the above descriptions are correct or not, so please correct me if there are any mistakes or exceptions. Thanks in advance.

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    You should provide a link to these videos, or at least one that makes this claim. – Em. Sep 24 '16 at 8:06
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    In NAmE, it's bæθs. In BrE, it's bɑːðz . – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Sep 24 '16 at 8:14
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    In nearly 70 years as a North American native English speaker, and having travelled throughout the world, I have never heard baths pronounced without the th sound, but @HenryWang should bear in mind that anyone (in the free world) can create and publish a video that demonstrates any pronunciation they choose. I could create and publish a video demonstrating that the word is pronounced Bartz, and would be no one to stop me. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Sep 24 '16 at 10:39
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    @P.E.Dant (and everyone), I don't think her idea that we pronounce months with a schwa (i.e., /mənθs/ or /məns/, which is transcribed as "muhnths" and "muhns" in the video) is very realistic. (I can't decide whether her "s" in "muhns" is an /s/ or a /z/, but I think it's more like an /s/.) If it were really a schwa, month won't rhyme with once like in the children's song Max mentioned. – Damkerng T. Sep 24 '16 at 10:51
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    I am going to reopen this question. Dictionaries generally present what is called a careful pronunciation, not necessarily taking into account fast speech rules, consonant cluster reduction, assimilation, and so on. It is clear to me from the title that the OP wants to know about the actual pronunciation, not the careful pronunciation we use in theory. They might be the same in this particular case, but that information belongs in an answer, not in a close reason. – snailplane Sep 24 '16 at 23:39

You're right that "baths" would not be expected to ever be pronounced with a [t] sound.

It's only possible to have [t] in "months" because of the "n" preceding the "th." When a nasal consonant such as /m/, /n/ or /ŋ/ (the "ng" sound in "sing") precedes a voiceless fricative consonant such as /f/, /s/ or /θ/ (the "th" sound in "thin"), many speakers introduce an epenthetic voiceless plosive. The identity of this plosive depends on which nasal consonant is present: we get [p] after /m/, [t] after /n/, and [k] after /ŋ/.

This means that "month" (most commonly transcribed /mʌnθ/) may be pronounced as [mʌntθ]. Both variants, [mʌnθ] and [mʌntθ], are generally considered to be standard English.

I've never noticed the plural being pronounced as [mʌnts] or [mʌns], but that wouldn't surprise me too much as [mʌntθs] has a rather awkward four-consonant cluster that seems like it would be prone to simplification in a similar way to /siksθs/. This pronunciation is mentioned in another, related question: Do most Americans pronounce 'months' as 'mons', and 'clothes' as 'clos'?

In the word "bath," there is no nasal consonant preceding the /θ/ sound, so you cannot insert an epenthetic [t]. (Speakers of some varieties of English might outright replace the /θ/ in this word with a [t] sound, a phenomenon called "th-stopping", but this is not standard and would not be taught to ESL learners.)

The plural "baths" may be subject to another process however: fricative voicing. In English, words that end in a voiceless fricative sometimes have voiced fricatives in their plural forms. The voiceless fricatives /f/, /s/, /θ/ correspond to the voiced fricatives /v/, /z/, /ð/ respectively.

In cases where the voiceless fricative is voiced, the plural suffix "-s" is also pronounced as a voiced consonant /z/.

For the word "baths," voicing the fricative is optional. So you may hear it pronounced with either /ðz/ or /θs/.

I don't have enough knowledge of phonetics to say if these clusters are ever reduced in fast speech to single consonants [z] or [s]. But I would say your target pronunciation for the word "baths" should end in a cluster of two consonants.

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Not all words that end in ths reduce this cluster in the way that it is often done for months. Baths is not reduced in this way.

\ˈbathz, ˈbaths, ˈbäthz, ˈbäths\ (Merriam-Webster)

For further information about the reduced pronunciation of months, see How to distinguish 'month' and 'months' in pronunciation?

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