Now hear this! The lesser known phonemes of English


Let’s take a little tour. Let’s take ‘little’ on a tour of the UK… First stop, as it is for so many coming to the Isles of green and grey, London. A typical Londoner would more often than not demonstrate the glottal stop over the ‘TT’ of ‘little’. However London is a big place and another famous English speaker there, QE2, would be more likely to pronounce the /t/ phoneme as Sweet intended when he developed the International Phonetic Alphabet. Other poshos from the capital, such as David Cameron and his hellfire club of Etonians are much more likely to soften it to a /d/ sound. A liddle polidical trick to sound more approachable? Perhaps.
Okay, heading north now. In Scottish pronunciation styles, the main pronunciation of the letters ‘TT’ in little would be quite similar to those of London, depending on where you are and who you’re talking to. The vowels in the word morph more and are less recognisable. /le’l/ and /letl/ are widely used but that doesn’t exclude the use of heavy schwa sounds eclipsing both vowel sounds in some regional variants.
Ireland gave us the AmE middle place ‘T’ to /d/. It did the same with the pronounced /r/ in the end position that  Brad and Debbie fry so extensively over in the land of opportunity. Anyway, as such, we would be most likely to hear /lidl/ in Ireland.
Finally, we travel to the dark ‘ell of Wales. Yep, Wales really does have a dark ‘L’ sound in the word little. You will hear a person say it in the second position of the ‘L’. It’s darkened by being said at the back of the oral cavity.
Thus ends our trip around the gob shapes of the British Isles. However, it does not complete the set of sounds that English speakers find hard to detect in their own language. The Week’s James Harbeck reveals many more in this fascinating article.