while I am learning the American pronunciation, I find that the American pronounce the word "shorter" quite differently from the British. Specifically, the "t" sound in the word is pronounced like the "d" sound. Therefore, could somebody help me to explain this? Is there a rule behind this? Thank you in advance and have a nice day.

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    I don't think this is just the word shorter; you'll hear this difference in words like water and patty, also, and sometimes on the second "t" in potato, too. – J.R. Aug 24 '14 at 10:31
  • Thank you for your reply. However, I do know why the "t" sound in water, patty, and potato are pronounced as "d" sound. It is called "flap t". Nevertheless, the word "shorter" is different from those words above. Therefore, I want to know the rule behind it so the next time I see the similar cases I know how to pronounce them correctly. – NeverGiveUp1989 Aug 24 '14 at 12:41
  • If you already know what "flat t" is, I believe you will find these pages interesting: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhotic_and_non-rhotic_accents, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhoticity_in_English. – Damkerng T. Sep 13 '14 at 21:48
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    Laziness has absolutely nothing to do with it. – snailcar Oct 13 '14 at 22:29
  • There’s an excellent (and somewhat advanced) discussion of a similar case here and a less excellent but perhaps more applicable discussion here. – Tyler James Young Oct 14 '14 at 0:33

I believe the answer has to do with how the "r" that precedes the consonant "t" is being produced in American English (EDIT: when saying the word shorter as distinct from saying the word carton).

The American "r" can be produced with lips nearly pursed (imagine a goldfish), and that constricted mouth position causes the "t" to move from unvoiced dental [t] towards voiced dental [d].

The british "r" is produced with the cheeks tauter and drawn slightly back, and that mouth position is more amenable to an unvoiced dental [t].

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    Do any Americans pronounce the first "r" in shorter with lips nearly pursed? I certainly don't; it's almost impossible for me to pronounce that "r" that way. I think we only use the lips-pursing for "r"s that start syllables (or at least ones that come before vowels. – Peter Shor Oct 14 '14 at 2:54
  • They do in my neck of the woods, Peter (southeastern Pennsylvania). The phenomenon occurs (to a varying degree) throughout the US: the lips protrude when the first [r] in shorter is pronounced, whereas in England the word can be pronounced with a tight, slightly retracted lower jaw that causes the lips to be tenser. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 14 '14 at 15:46
  • Your surname here in SE PA would not sound anywhere close to "Shawr" (not an open vowel) but would be very close to "sure". We say "droor" when we see "drawer". drawers rhymes with doors here. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 14 '14 at 15:51
  • Drawers rhymes with doors here, too. And Shor isn't Shawr here, either. But I don't purse my lips for 'r's after vowels. – Peter Shor Oct 14 '14 at 16:06
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    I don't produce an "r" after a vowel at all - the two "r"s in shorter are both entirely unvoiced; this is common in my part of England (the south-east). – ClickRick Dec 3 '15 at 9:18

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