Do you happen to know what the difference is between /pænts/ and /pæns/ or /faɪ.næns/ and /faɪ.nænts/? Whenever I look up the IPA of of words like these, ending in either /-ns/ or /-nts/, they seem to fit with the actual spelling of the word. For example, finance doesn't have a T in it, so the IPA shows /faɪ.næns/, and pants does, so therefore you get /pænts/. In my mind, (I'm from Massachusetts, USA) I don't hear or make any sort of difference between the two. I feel like I always say /ns/, but I could be wrong. I can't seem to find any sound clip online that shows the difference between the two, and I can't really imagine what the difference would be. I feel like putting the /t/ in there would be to cumbersome to do in everyday speech.
In my reply I explained that essentially it’s a question of the timing of the articulatory movements. To go smoothly from [n] to [s] you have to release the tongue tip before creating the velic closure (= raising the soft palate). Conversely, if the soft palate movement is completed first (thus preventing nasal escape), before the tongue tip leaves the alveolar ridge, there is a moment during which no air can escape: this is then perceived as [t].
So it all depends on which moves first, the tongue tip or the soft palate. (The cessation of vocal cord vibration can take care of itself.)
I natively make a firm distinction between the two possibilities. My
prince has [ns], my prints has [nts] (or [nʔs]). But I know that many people don’t make any such distinction.
In my experience Americans usually pronounce both words like my prints.
Speakers who have this epenthetic plosive normally do so whenever a nasal is followed by a voiceless fricative within the same syllable. If the nasal and fricative are in different syllables (e.g. inside, uncertain, consider — you have to buy into my views on syllabification here), there is no epenthesis. So Dan can get a model for plain -ns- by considering his consider.