American English has Got A Lot og Glottal Stops: Social Diffusion and Linguistic Motivation


American English, glottal stop, word-final


In word-final, prevocalic position (e.g., it is) there are various possible phonetic realizations of /t/ in American English (e.g., [t], [Q], [?]). The present study examines the linguistic and social factors associated with the use of the glottal stop in American English in 1,101 instances of word-final, prevocalic /t/ from the Santa Barbara Corpus. The glottal stop occurred in 24% of the cases. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors that favor glottaling of /t/. Our findings concur with previous research in that age and region were significant: Westerners in their teens and 20s glottalized more than non-Westerners in the same age groups; speakers who are 30 and older, both Westerners and non-Westerners, glottalize to a much smaller degree. We also found that glottaling is favored by a following stressed syllable; however, gender and following vowel quality were not influencing variables, which contradicts previous experimental findings. If prevocalic glottaling is uncommon word-internally in American English, why is it apparently spreading word-finally? We provide evidence that word-final /t/s are more often followed by word-initial consonants than vowels, which places them in a glottalizing context. Instances with a glottal realization are stored in the mental lexicon and are available as possible pronunciation choices even in prevocalic position.

Original Publication Citation

2010. “American English has Got a Lot of Glottal Stops.” Article coauthored with Caitlin Channer. American Speech 85.338-351.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



American Dialect Society







University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor