Second, third, hundredth chances...

I feel like when these two sounds "th" and "ch" meet, it is almost impossible for me to get them smooth.

On top of that, I also found when "sh" and "s" sound are together, my tongue gets tangled, just can't make it sound natural as native speakers.

Is it common to have difficulty to pronounce these combinations? What's the linking technique?

  • 2
    s and sh aren't allowed in the same syllable. In different syllables as in this shop, the s is usually assimilated to a sh sound. //// Is it common to have difficulty to pronounce these combinations? What's the linking technique? Re: Yes! Even native speakers have difficulties pronouncing such difficult clusters. //// In hundredth chance, the th or the d (which is pronounced t in this instance) is usually left out. In hundre[tθt͡ʃ]ances, there are three consonants including one of the most difficult sounds (th) and a complex segment—the affricate, so yeah, it's difficult. – Void Dec 15 '20 at 11:05
  • So the technique to link the cluster is to kinda leave out one consonant? – HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy Dec 15 '20 at 11:23
  • 1
    Quite right. There's no easy way to link all these consonants. The th sound is pretty rare cross-linguistically because it's one of the hardest consonants. And in hundredth chance, it's flanked by two other consonants, the second of which is a complex consonant. – Void Dec 15 '20 at 11:34
  • If I was trying to do this in a very precise way I would have to make a small pause between them to let my mouth recover. It is bad enough having to say hundredth without having to follow it with chances. – mdewey Dec 15 '20 at 11:46

Hundredth is usually pronounced [ˈhʌndrət̪θ]; the d has been assimilated to a [t̪] in anticipation of the following voiceless dental fricative [θ]. [t̪] is a dental stop, meaning the airflow is blocked behind the top teeth and the released.

In hundredth chance, we have three consonants in a row, including one of the most difficult consonants, [θ], and the complex segment [t͡ʃ].

Hundredth chance → hundre[t̪θt͡ʃ]ance

In the song, Taylor Swift pronounces it something like [ˈhʌndɹət̪θt͡ʃænsɪz]. She does pronounce the [t̪], but it's almost imperceptible.

The first thing you need to do is to practise this slowly. If you're still having problems, then you can do the following things in order to cope with this:

  • if you skip the [t̪], you'll end up with [θt͡ʃ], which is understandable.
  • if you skip the [θ], you'll get [t̪t͡ʃ], again, it's understandable and barely anyone will notice

Native speakers skip consonants in complex clusters all the time. For example, I've never heard anyone pronounce "king XYZ sixth's throne" as [sɪksθsθɾəʊn]—ideal pronunciation (try it! lol). Most native speakers will reduce it to [sɪksθɾəʊn]. (I can pronounce [sɪksθsθɾəʊn], though.)


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