The Glottal Stop Hotel

I am tempted to hoist a /ʔ/ into the gap:

The glottal stop, which you hear between the vowels in uh-oh and in some pronunciations of water, is a sound familiar to most people but seldom referred to outside of linguistic contexts.

David Brett has a helpful introductory page about it, including audio files, while Carl Zimmer’s Science Tattoo Emporium has a lovely example of a glottal stop tattoo.

The glottal stop is not bad for you, and its IPA symbol is attractive, but all things considered the hotel owners would probably prefer a true or flap /t/.

[Photo is from Salthill, Galway, Ireland.]

12 Responses to The Glottal Stop Hotel

  1. Ah that would be an ideal holiday place for many Romfordonians and other speakers of what sounds like Hypercockney

  2. Stan says:

    Hypercockney? That’s a good one, Jams. They could go the whole hog and call it The Glottal Stop Inn.

  3. Laura Payne says:

    I love it.

    Also, whether pronounced with a /ʔ/ or /t/, the /l/ and /r/s are attributively fitting phonemes for the hotel name.

  4. Anne says:

    The glo?al stop hotel?

  5. Stan says:

    Laura: It could lose a few more letters and remain phonetically sound.

    Anne: Yes! (Though it’s ʔ rather than ? — the missing dot makes all the difference.)

  6. Claude says:

    I’m glad it says: not recommended for learners of English! :-)

  7. Aidan says:

    Really nice one Stan!

    Actually I have a question for you relating to the glottal stop and other aspects of phonology. I am studying English Language at the moment so I read David Crystal’s “The Stories of English” and I am working through my OU course (U214 Worlds of English).

    One thing that strikes me again and again is that I think (perhaps mistakenly) that the Hiberno-English dialects come a lot closer to pronouncing words as they are written than many British accents do. In my own accent I don’t think that the glottal stop features prevalently at all. Another example that came up in my book was pronouncing the r (is that /r/ in phonetics) in words like car. I do pronounce the r whereas I have read that it Standard British English drops it! Another think is the pronouncing wh words as hw (Wales and whales are not homonoym). Again I read that the standard British pronounciation has dropped the hw prounuciation and replaced it with w.

    My conclusion is that Hiberno-English seems to match the spelling of English in lots of cases. My questions are:
    i) Am I imagining this or is this a grounded idea?
    ii) If it’s true do you think that it is because of Irish people over-compensating? Even though English is our first language there is an improvement culture which makes many people try to rid themselves of the Irish ‘th’ pronunciation and other perceived faults. Maybe that makes people focus more closely on the spelling of words resulting in an extra careful pronunciation of letters that are not pronounced in other dialects.

    I am not sure if my idea is based too much on my own idiolect so I am grateful for your ideas on this.

  8. Stan says:

    Claudia: I like my t‘s too much to drop so many of them. :-)

    Aidan: Thanks! I don’t know whether Hiberno-English accents are phonetically closer to writing than British accents are, and if so, why this would be. It’s a good question, but I wouldn’t infer much from a couple of isolated examples. Wikipedia has a short history of /hw/. Hiberno-English is unusual but not unique in having retained the distinction; it seems most English accents experienced a “wine–whine merger”.

    Accents that pronounce the r, including most Hiberno-English accents, are known as rhotic; those that don’t, non-rhotic. Macmillan Dictionary Blog recently had two posts about their shifting distribution: from Ben Trawick-Smith and John Wells (who coined the word rhotic). As far as I know, rhoticity originally reigned, but has given way to non-rhoticity here and there.

  9. johnwcowan says:


    The distribution of post-vocalic /r/ and /hw/ are conservative features of Irish and North American accents: they reflect the way that the English language was spoken when English settlers came to Ireland and North America in the 1600s. In countries settled later, like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, the accents of the settlers mostly lacked these features, and they are rare or nonexistent there. More recent sound changes have eliminated /hw/ in most of North America; there is a relic area in the Middle South where some speakers still have it.

    In addition, both the Scots language and the English spoken in Scotland preserve /r/ and /hw/, and there was of course plenty of Scottish settlement in the north of Ireland and from there to the central eastern U.S., as well as direct Scottish settlement in the U.S., Canada, and the extreme south of New Zealand. The combination of those factors made /r/, at least, the dominant usage in North America. The exceptions are the East Coast cities, which (except Philadelphia) stayed in close enough contact with the mother country to lose /r/.

  10. Stan says:

    Aidan: The following is from a paragraph on the /f,v, hw,w/ group in Séamas Moylan’s Southern Irish English: Review and Exemplary Texts (2009):

    the present younger (under 40) age-group […] tends to ignore the phonemic distinction between pairs such as whether-weather, which-witch, whale-wail, whine-wine and level the two sounds under /w/. Thus, the historical development of the group in SIE has been from maximum deviation (from an EModE standard) to conformity with the prevailing current international norm.

  11. Aidan says:

    Thanks ever so much for the background information on this. I am sad to hear that the hw is on the way out. My own children only have me (and television to a lesser extent) as an accent model and they do not pronounce hw (yet!).

    The Irish accents in English are fascinating because of the mix of features from the language shift together with some dialectal aspects retained from the English of colonial settlers in different waves. The thing that is most surprising for me is that the target model of English I grew up with was Standard British English. There were no Hiberno-English dictionaries to refer to, pronouncing -th as -d and -t was something we were encouraged to unlearn. I guess that Hiberno-English has never been given the status it would have had if there were not an alternative national language in which to invest patriotic energy.

  12. I rember reading a while back that the cockney accent has lost its home base. No surpsie as the East End was always a starting place for immigrants in London. It has moved east as the cockneys move east into Essex. Romford is a resting place for the upwardly mobile Eastender

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