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Goran on aspiration

> I don't understand you, people... It seems that my ideas on English are
> a bit skewed... I believed that English aspirates a voiceless plosive if
> and only if it is the first consonant in the word and is followed by a
> vowel. I don't know whether it also happens to the voiced plosives, I
> think not. So if I am right, it doesn't have any distinctive function,
> and replaces its unaspirated pair only in one special case:
> kill [k'ill] vs. gill [gill],
> but:
> leak [li:k] vs. league [li:g],
> plot [plot] vs. blot [blot],
> staple [steipl] vs. stable [steibl]
> (apostrophe here signifying aspiration). paupei?

Not exactly. You get these:

   [kh]ill "kill" vs [k]ill "gill"
   [pL]ot "plot" vs [pl]ot "blot" (where L is voiceless lat fric)

As for leak/league and staple/stable, the difference is signalled
partly by shortening of the vowel before /p/, and partly by whisper,
in that for /b/ the glottis narrows without vibrating.

/b/s can be fully voiced, but often aren't.

In a sense, the "true" distinction is not voiced v. voiceless but
wide v. narrow glottis; voicing is one realization of narrow glottis,
as is whisper, while aspiration (= relatively late voice onset time)
is an effect of wide glottis. Vowel shortening is probably a
consequence of narrow glottis too.