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I was very impressed when my teacher told me what "beautiful" word pronounced like beauRiful and not beauTiful.

I looking on the internet and everyone pronounced like beauTiful.

Where I can actually listen to the pronunciation of that word?

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    Listen to these: There is no hint of an 'R' in any of them. forvo.com/word/beautiful/#en – Jim Nov 9 '13 at 20:51
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    This is definitely a case of "Your teacher is in the wrong job" (and/or she's Japanese, which is the only credible explanation I can think of for why she would say this). – FumbleFingers Nov 9 '13 at 21:21
  • @FumbleFingers In comments on an answer below, the OP mentions that his teacher is a native English speaker. I'm now perplexed; I agree with Matt's answer that the t can sound like a d or be eliminated entirely in certain accents, but I'm still perplexed at where this r could be coming from. I've never heard anything like it! – WendiKidd Nov 9 '13 at 23:09
  • @WendiKidd - See new answers by StoneyB and Alex, both of which address the mystery in enlightening ways. – J.R. Nov 10 '13 at 4:20
  • At least where I live (mid-western United States) "beautiful" is pronounced "byoo'-tih-full". No sign of an 'R' anywhere in the word. – Bob Jarvis Oct 1 '14 at 18:07
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The critical question here is How does your teacher pronounce intervocalic /r/?

In some quite prestigious dialects—including the Stage British I was taught—/r/ falling between two vowels is pronounced as a voiced tip-flap. That is, the tongue does not curve backward toward the roof of the mouth but touches the back of the upper teeth, or the alveolar ridge immediately above that point, once, very briefly.

The sound which this produces is virtually indistinguishable from the alveolar flap which most Americans use for intervocalic /t/, as in beautiful. Indeed, I am not at all confident that these are two different sounds. The alveolar flap is notated in IPA with the 'fish-hook r', /ɾ/.

Wikipedia notes—I have no idea whether this is directly relevant to your situation—that

This sound is often analyzed (and therefore transcribed) by native English speakers as an 'R-sound' in many foreign languages. For example, the 'Japanese R' in hara, akira, tora, etc. is actually an alveolar tap. In languages where this segment is present but not phonemic, it is often an allophone of either an alveolar stop ([t] or [d]) or a rhotic consonant like the alveolar trill or alveolar approximant.


Note Wikipedia's assertion that “The terms tap and flap may be used interchangeably”.

  • If I've grokked that properly what you're saying is that if someone rolls their Rs with a 'single' roll and then pronounces beautiful with an 'r' instead of a 't' it will sound just like beautiful with a t. I suppose that's true. But I hope it just sounds the same, and it's not how they actually think of the word. – Jim Nov 10 '13 at 5:10
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    Thanks for answer. I have to improve my english for catch it. – Mediator Nov 10 '13 at 7:25
  • @Jim I suspect the point here is that a pedagogic explanation ("intervocalic /t/ is pronounced the same way as RP intervocalic /r/") has been misunderstood as an identification. – StoneyB Nov 10 '13 at 11:54
  • In many American dialects, intervocalic /t/ sounds just like like RP (or Spanish, etc.) intervocalic /r/: both come out as [ɾ]. The phoneme is /t/, but when it falls between two vowels in a word like "beautiful", you are unlikely to hear an actual [t] in everyday speech. If it's not an [ɾ], it's more likely to be a [ʔ] or [d] than a [t]. – Mark Reed Dec 30 '13 at 1:59
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What your (NS) teacher reportedly said does not reflect standard English pronunciation - the one that is usually taught in an L2 setting. However, Wells 1984 reports a similar phenomenon in the same intervocalic position but between words in northern (UK) dialects:

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    It's quite true that /t/ changes to /r/ in many BrE contexts - particularly but not exclusively in the Midlands and North... – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '13 at 2:48
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    Another common one is the aggressive "Worra you gonna do about it?", which wouldn't be (linguistically) out of place in a South London pub. I think what's at bottom of it is a sense that clearly enunciated /t/ is "affected/sissy" - so tough guys don't, except if it's the first element in a word (actually, group of words slurred together without pause)). In my example, about it might be enunciated as abardiʔ by "Cockneys", replacing the first /t/ with a /d/, and the final one with a glottal stop. – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '13 at 2:48
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Beautiful is traditionally pronounced /bjuːtɪfʊl/ (link), but native English speakers often replace /t/ sounds with /d/ sounds, so it often sounds like /bju:dɪfʊl/.

With further elision due to omission of the glottal stop in some accents, this can sound like /bju:ɪfʊl/ or even /bjur:ɪfʊl/ - especially in the southern states of America and some North Eastern parts of England and Cockney English in London, which is possibly what you're hearing in this case.

That said, in my experience, most English speakers will pronounce beautiful as /bju:dɪfʊl/:

  • Eminem - Beautiful and Union J - Beautiful Life clearly '/bju:rɪfʊl/' – Mediator Nov 9 '13 at 22:06
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    I just listened to it: youtube.com/watch?v=6Me2Uutpacs#t=1m00s and he pronounces the 't' /bju:dɪfʊl/ as Matt suggests- No 'R' – Jim Nov 9 '13 at 22:58
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Your teacher is mistaken. It is pronounced with the "T" sound rather than the "R" sound.

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    My teacher is native speaker. She lived in the British and USA. I'n looking for a reason. – Mediator Nov 9 '13 at 19:41
  • @Mediator: "she lived in Britain and America" or "she lived in Britain and the USA" :) – Matt Nov 9 '13 at 20:16
  • Perhaps the reason is a speech impediment (or a mishearing) – Jim Nov 9 '13 at 20:53
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    @Mediator I would love for you to ask your teacher to further elaborate on this, and to come back and share her thoughts with us. I can't think of any reason why a native speaker would suggest an r sound in beautiful. Did she specifically say there was an r sound, or did you simply hear her say it with what you thought was an r sound? – WendiKidd Nov 9 '13 at 23:13
  • Also, could you ask your teacher about his/her educational background? – Alex B. Nov 9 '13 at 23:14
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It is also possible that the pronunciation is where the 't' is a merely a glottal stop (common in British English, especially in the London area) rather than having been transformed into a 'd' sound (which is more likely the American version).

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Here is another video of a large number of AmE native speakers using the word beautiful. Give it a try! From the mouth of babes...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHWPYJuDuZQ

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It depends what language you're learning from as well. The way Americans pronounce the T in this word actually sounds a lot like a Japanese/Spanish (I'm guessing there are more) R. It works if it's got that slight roll. The English would pronounce it like a simple T though.

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