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In the words like "splatter", "splash", "split" and "explain" should I make an aspirated or an unaspirated "p" sound? I can't decide which way is correct. I need your help.

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In most varieties of English, voiceless plosives (/p/, /t/, /k/) are aspirated when they are the whole of the onset of a syllable, but not when they are in a cluster at the onset of a syllable.

So /p/ is not aspirated in any of your examples. It is aspirated in "patter" (but not "platter" or "spatter") and "passion", "pit", and "impound".

For me (British English), it is not normally aspirated in "expand" though, and I think that is because I effectively pronounce it as "ek-spand"

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  • Thank you. But this doesn't apply when /p/, /t/ and /k/ are the first letters in a cluster like in "secret", right? I should make an aspirated "k" sound in this word as far as I know. But in the word "excuse", I should make an unaspirated sound at the second "k" according to what you said, right? I always pronounce both "k"s in "excuse" as aspirated sounds actually. I need to change my way then. Also as far as I know if there is "r" after "t" like in "street", "stream" etc, we make an aspirated "t" sound as far as I can remember. Am I wrong? – Fire and Ice Dec 18 '17 at 12:07
  • Also for example in "hatred" the "t" is pronounced as an aspirated sound despite being a part of a cluster. Btw "street" sounds better to me when I don't aspirate the "t". But as I said I think I heard before that if there is "r" after "t", the "t" should be aspirated. What I heard seems to be wrong. – Fire and Ice Dec 18 '17 at 12:21
  • I also should aspirate the voiceless stops in the words like "apply", "atrocious" "apron" etc. too, shouldn't I? I hope somebody answers these. :) – Fire and Ice Dec 18 '17 at 12:51
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    Hmm, that's a bit misleading. Aspiration is just a period of devoiced vowel after a plosive. It's caused by a lag in the vocal fold vibration starting up. There is no aspiration in platter, but there is of course devoicing of the /l/, which is basically the same thing - we just reserve the term aspiration for devoiced vowels. However, this does not happen when a plosive is preceded by an /s/ at the beginning of the syllable. In other words there'll be no aspiration in spatter and no devoicing of the /l/ in splatter. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Dec 18 '17 at 14:36
  • @Araucaria Shouldn't the /p/ in "platter" be aspirated since it is the first letter of the syllable? – Fire and Ice Jan 10 '18 at 23:57
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Voiceless plosives /p/, /t/, & /k/ are not aspirated:

  • after /s/ sound: "splatter," "splash," "split," and "explain"
  • at the end of words: fat, back

Aside from that, they are usually aspirated but not as strong as in Received Pronunciation (British).

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