Abstract: There are no unaspirated voiceless plosives in English, only unaspirated voiced plosives and aspirated voiceless plosives. All voiceless plosives in English are aspirated.
The standard theory we all learnt as undergrads tells us that English prevocalic voiceless plosives come in two flavors, aspirated when syllable initial and unaspirated otherwise. The standard theory we all learnt as undergrads can’t be right: it entails that voiced plosives cannot occur in syllable-second position. Such a prohibition a) has no justification and b) is absurd — the unaspirated voiceless plosives that the standard allophonic theory predicts do occur in that position sound just like voiced plosives. I’ve got two replacement theories to offer, neither perfect but both better than the standard. (more…)