Mr Trump comes from Bristol, though I must say his accent doesn’t sound stereotypically Bristolian. In this clip he produces several striking, noisy, and somewhat palatalized velar ejectives for k when before a pause. Notice think at about 2:00 and again at about 3:09, and back at 2:50 and more strikingly at 3:20.
Is this phenomenon to be analysed as ejectives, evidently developed from plosive aspiration, or have I made a mistake? Might this be characteristic of British English, perhaps of some of its particular dialects?
Good question. What’s the answer?
• The segments in question do indeed appear to be ejective, i.e. produced with an airstream mechanism that is glottalic rather than the usual pulmonic.
• Rather than having developed directly from aspirated plosives, I would say that kʼ developed from the glottal reinforcement that is frequently found with English voiceless plosives and affricates in this environment. Reinforcement involves making a glottal closure just before the oral closure and overlapping in time with it, ʔp ʔt ʔtʃ ʔk. If the glottal closure is held until after the oral release, it masks the latter, giving Cantonese-style no-audible-release plosives pʔ tʔ tʃʔ kʔ. If it is held throughout the oral articulation, ʔpʔ ʔtʔ ʔtʃʔ ʔkʔ, the further step of raising the glottis to compress the air in the oral cavity is straightforward: pʼ tʼ tʃʼ kʼ.
• Yes, it is characteristic of some British English. I don’t think anyone really knows just who does it and who doesn’t. Cruttenden mentions it several times in his revision of Gimson’s Pronunciation of English, claiming (p. 167 in the 7th edition) that it is
rather more common in some dialects (e.g. South-East Lancashire) than in RP.
I discussed this matter briefly in my Accents of English (1982), where I wrote (vol. 1, p. 261)
Preglottalization is not particularly associated with the south of England rather than the north. Indeed, my subjective impression is that in [the prepausal] environment it is at least as common in northern accents as in southern (thus [stɒʔp, kwaɪʔt, lʊʔk]). An emphatic articulation of the glottal component will readily convert this into an ejective, thus [stɒpʼ, kwaɪtʼ, lʊkʼ]; both northerners and southerners may be found who use these forms under appropriate stylistic conditions.
When explaining ejectives in Practical Phonetics (Pitman, 1971), I said (p. 3)
Some people use ejectives in English when words ending in p, t, k, or tʃ … come at the ends of sentences.
The ejective variants do seem to be confined to pre-pausal position: you don’t get them in the middle of a fluent utterance. They are occasional, optional variants of the usual pulmonic stops. Impressionistically, ejectives are more frequent with k than with p, t, or tʃ, but that may just be because the two words think and back are particularly frequent in pre-pausal position.
Graham Pointon wrote on the topic in his blog some years ago. He thinks it’s a rather recent phenomenon. I wonder.