Do not blog the aisles

blog_the_aislesOn a recent flight I was told not to blog the aisles; but recklessly I’m going to blog anyway.

Of course the intended phrase was Do not block the aisles. The flight attendant was Polish, though the phonetic phenomenon in question is also characteristic of Russian and other Slavic languages, as well as Dutch. But don’t click away if your mother tongue is different, because the challenge which English presents is one that applies widely, in fact to a clear majority of those I teach.

Pronouncing block‿the as blog‿the is a phenomenon known to specialists as ‘anticipatory voicing assimilation’. The final sound of block anticipates the voicing of the first sound of the. The first sound of the is voiced (has vocal cord vibration); the voiceless k of block assimilates to it, becoming voiced g.

This process affects huge numbers of words and phrases, creating foodball, tegzbook, fazebook, etc. The is the most common word in English, and speakers with native voicing assimilation will tend to voice any sound that precedes it, turning put‿the, got‿the, not‿the, let‿the etc into pud‿the, god‿the, nod‿the, led‿the etc.

One of the things that makes English so tricky is its large number of contrasting consonants in final position. The majority of those I teach find this challenging. For example:

  • Poles and Russians tend to assimilate final voicing to what follows, so block‿the can become blog‿the
  • Spanish speakers often weaken or lose final consonants, so that block the can become blo’ the, potentially sounding like blow the
  • Germans tend always to devoice final consonants like g, so that blog tends always to sound like block
  • Italians often add an extra vowel to final consonants, so that block and blog can sound like blocker and blogger
  • In other words, pay attention to the final consonants of English, and practise the difference between


    1 reply
    1. robert kohler
      robert kohler says:

      What about:
      Block ke aisles.
      “The “assimilates to /k/.
      In informal and very fast speech.
      By the way:
      You do a fantastic job !

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