Consonants /d/ versus //, 68 pairs     [denthen.html]

The /d/ sound may be spelled with <d>, <de> or <dd>. The // sound is spelled <th>.

Most languages have a close equivalent of the English voiced alveolar plosive /d/, but very few have an equivalent of the voiced dental fricative of then. This sound may be replaced by /s/, /z/, /d/, /t/ or even /v/. When the contrast occurs finally, as in breed/breathe, and even more so within a post-vocalic cluster, as in breeds/ breathes, the articulatory difference may be very small; many speakers will simplify both breeds and breathes in rapid speech so that they become homophones of breeze. If learners try too hard to articulate the sounds in this environment, they may create a problem where none exists.

Interesting pairs include:

udder other
wordy worthy

The mean density value is 0.7%, but there is a very large discrepancy in frequency between the two sounds, with /d/ occurring in over 19,000 words while /Ɵ/ occurs in just under 600. The list makes 44 semantic distinctions, a loading of 67%.

 
bards baths
bayed bathe
bladder blather
  bladders blathers
booed booth
breed breathe
  breeds breathes
  breeding breathing
breeder breather
  breeders breathers
cede seethe
  cedes seethes
  ceding seething
D thee
D's these
dale they'll
Dan than
dare their
  dares theirs
Dave they've
day they
den then
dense thence
dhow thou
Di thy
die thy
dye thy
dine thine
dither thither
doe though
does those 
dough though
doze those
header heather
  headers heathers
hide Hythe
lade lathe	
laid lathe
larder lather
  larders lathers
lied lithe
load loathe
  loading loathing
  loads loathes
loud Louth 
odes oaths
udder other
  udders others
ride writhe
  rides writhes
  riding writhing
seed seethe
  seeds seethes
  seeding seething
side scythe
  sides scythes
  siding scything
suede swathe
swayed swathe
teed teethe
tide tithe
  tides tithes
tied tithe
wordy worthy
  wordier worthier
  wordiest worthiest
  wordily worthily
wording Worthing

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, February 2010.