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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 9:41 pm 
Avisaru
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This thread is to continue the discussion on syllabification that started in the "How do You Pronounce X" thread around here: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=38407&start=2300#p1130518

I agree with Imralu that it would be nice to have a separate thread for this topic. If a mod agrees, maybe some of the old posts can be merged into this thread.

Here is my summary of what I understand at the moment.

  • Some people believe in the concept of "ambisyllabicity" (that a consonant can belong to two syllables simultaneously) and favor analyzing the middle consonant of words like "letter", that have a single intervocalic consonant after a stressed short vowel, as ambisyllabic. I haven't found much support for this concept in the linguistic literature I've read, though.
  • Some people believe in the principle of maximizing onsets. It seems that valid onsets are generally defined by looking at what consonant clusters can occur at the start of words.
  • Some people believe the constraint against word-final stressed short vowels in English is part of a wider constraint that forbids short vowels without any following coda consonants in stressed syllables. This implies the syllabification /ˈlɛ.tər/ is not possible, since /ˈlɛ./ would not be accepted as a valid syllable. As far as I know, everyone agrees that short vowels can occur without following coda consonants in unstressed syllables: the most obvious examples of this are reduced vowels and word-final /ə/ (also word-final /ɪ/ in accents where the "happy" vowel is not tense), and there are also words like "tattoo" where if we reject ambisyllabicity, it seems clear we must divide the syllables as /tæˈtuː/.
  • John Wells in particular not only adopts this analysis, but goes even further and has argued that consonants in English are preferentially syllabified with stressed syllables, subject to most of the usual restrictions on valid codas and onsets, so he would not only have /ˈlɛt.ər/ for "letter" but also /ˈbiːt.ər/ for "beater". Some of his arguments can be viewed online on the following web page: "Syllabification and allophony"
I think I understand Wells's view pretty well. I'm interested in learning more about maximizing-onset approaches; I enjoyed reading the following analysis by Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero that seeks to explain some of the same phenomena Wells discusses in a way that respects the maximizing-onsets principle: http://www.bermudez-otero.com/amphichronic.pdf (from page 5 on is most relevant). Incidentally, Bermúdez-Otero argues that English regularly resyllabifies word-final consonants to the start of the next word, as in "hit Ann" which he gives as "hɪˈɾæn".

Some random things I've been wondering about:
  • how to divide "transfer". Morphologically it's trans.fer, but I think I divide transport as tran.sport (the /p/ is definitely not aspirated) so morphology doesn't seem to be relevant. It's clear /sf/ is a possible initial consonant cluster in modern English; pretty much everyone has it in "sphere" etc, and I believe I also assimilate "sv" in foreign names like "Sven" to /sf/. I can't perceive nts-epenthesis in my pronunciation of this word, but I also don't really perceive it in my pronunciation of "trance" or "dance". Then again, for some reason I kind of feel like my prints-prince merger is more a matter of deleting the [t] in "prints" rather than adding a [t] to "prince". I do definitely feel like I have mps-epenthesis though in words like "glimpse", though that might just be an artifact of the spelling.
  • Related to that, what about "hamster"? I think I can have epenthetic p here, but also the /t/ is clearly not aspiratable for me which I think in Well's system would count as evidence that it is in the same syllable as the preceding /s/. If plosive epenthesis between nasals and fricatives only applies within syllables (as Wells argues) this means the word should be syllabified as /hæm(p)st.ər/, which doesn't seem right to me at all. I guess I would be inclined to conclude from this that Wells is wrong and this type of epenthesis can occur between syllables.


Last edited by Sumelic on Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 11:04 pm 
Sumerul
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Salmoneus wrote:
Incidentally, Bermúdez-Otero argues that English regularly resyllabifies word-final consonants to the start of the next word, as in "hit Ann" which he gives as "hɪˈɾæn".

Just as an offhand comment, I believe this is frequently the case in the dialect here - final lenis obstruents which are devoiced in isolation are frequently voiced if the next word begins with a vowel, and final fortis plosives that are preglottalized or glottalized in isolatiom are frequently non-preglottalized or glottalized if the next word begins with a vowel. Furthermore, final /t d/ are frequently flapped if the next word begins with a vowel.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:06 am 
Sumerul
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KathTheDragon wrote:
Travis B. wrote:
KathTheDragon wrote:
I don't understand why on earth things should be utterly universal in order to be a phonetic mechanism. Which is why I want a source that isn't you.

Because why should one believe that speakers of different languages have fundamentally different mouths or brains?

Why should one believe that it affects things? Is it really too much to ask for a source? I've already decided that your claims are unlikely, and unless you can produce some credible evidence, I'm unlikely to change my mind. Further rhetoric isn't helping.

Also, it would be best to continue this in the new syllabification thread.

See, you have already decided that you're right, and the matter is that I am not going to dig through piles of journals, many of which I would have to pay for to access, to find some "credible evidence", either on my work machine, at work, or on my dinky tablet (the WiFi is broken on my computer at home), just to convince you, when you probably will never be convinced anyways.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:16 am 
Sumerul
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Really, "citation needed" is the resort of people incapable of defending their own arguments, so they attempt to shift the burden onto the other person, even when the burden should really be on themselves, and they combine this with an appeal to authority, as if something really is more valid because it is cited from some journal, which makes this burden very impractical to meet, because trying to track down relevant citations is never practical to people who do not have inordinate amounts of time on their hands (e.g. they have jobs) and who do not have access to university libraries (journal articles are expensive for us muggles) and like.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 12:30 pm 
Avisaru
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OK, you want us (i.e. saying syllables are phonetic) to give you a proof. I can't give you any scientific proof like a spectrogram or anything else, but I have randomly asked my younger brother (9 years) what a syllable is. His answer was "It's the smallest part of speech which can be said all in one, shortest as possible, moment" (he said in Polish "najmniejsza część mowy, która może być powiedziana na raz", I can't find a translation of "na raz"). Sorry, I don't want humiliate you, Travis, but it's sad that even children "feel" syllables and you don't.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 12:41 pm 
Sumerul
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ˈd̪ʲɛ.gɔ kɾuˑl̪ wrote:
OK, you want us (i.e. saying syllables are phonetic) to give you a proof. I can't give you any scientific proof like a spectrogram or anything else, but I have randomly asked my younger brother (9 years) what a syllable is. His answer was "It's the smallest part of speech which can be said all in one, shortest as possible, moment" (he said in Polish "najmniejsza część mowy, która może być powiedziana na raz", I can't find a translation of "na raz"). Sorry, I don't want humiliate you, Travis, but it's sad that even children "feel" syllables and you don't.

You are missing the point. Of course the vast majority of languages, except possibly some Salishan ones, have syllables. I am not disputing this.

What I am disputing is the universality of syllable realization at a phonetic level, because the rules that make syllable boundaries audible are language-dependent. For instance in the example of mistake versus mis-take mentioned in the other thread, syllable boundaries are audible here because of their effect on aspiration of /t/ - but this is purely a rule of English phonology, and is not universal whatsoever.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 12:50 pm 
Smeric
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Travis B. wrote:
See, you have already decided that you're right, and the matter is that I am not going to dig through piles of journals, many of which I would have to pay for to access, to find some "credible evidence", either on my work machine, at work, or on my dinky tablet (the WiFi is broken on my computer at home), just to convince you, when you probably will never be convinced anyways.

Uh, no. No, no, and a big side order of nope. What I've decided is that on the available evidence, you simply aren't credible enough to change my mind that the viewpoint that syllables exist on a phonetic level (which is something that everyone everywhere seems to understand). Were your credibility to increase, you would be able to convince me. How dare you.

By the way, this works both ways. You insist that we have to prove that syllables do exist? We would also have to trawl through piles of journals, many of which we would have to pay for to access.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 1:19 pm 
Avisaru
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Travis B. wrote:
ˈd̪ʲɛ.gɔ kɾuˑl̪ wrote:
OK, you want us (i.e. saying syllables are phonetic) to give you a proof. I can't give you any scientific proof like a spectrogram or anything else, but I have randomly asked my younger brother (9 years) what a syllable is. His answer was "It's the smallest part of speech which can be said all in one, shortest as possible, moment" (he said in Polish "najmniejsza część mowy, która może być powiedziana na raz", I can't find a translation of "na raz"). Sorry, I don't want humiliate you, Travis, but it's sad that even children "feel" syllables and you don't.

You are missing the point. Of course the vast majority of languages, except possibly some Salishan ones, have syllables. I am not disputing this.

What I am disputing is the universality of syllable realization at a phonetic level, because the rules that make syllable boundaries audible are language-dependent. For instance in the example of mistake versus mis-take mentioned in the other thread, syllable boundaries are audible here because of their effect on aspiration of /t/ - but this is purely a rule of English phonology, and is not universal whatsoever.

So, you want us to find a minimal pair of words in existing language differing only by placement of syllable boundaries, don't you?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 1:33 pm 
Sumerul
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KathTheDragon wrote:
Travis B. wrote:
See, you have already decided that you're right, and the matter is that I am not going to dig through piles of journals, many of which I would have to pay for to access, to find some "credible evidence", either on my work machine, at work, or on my dinky tablet (the WiFi is broken on my computer at home), just to convince you, when you probably will never be convinced anyways.

Uh, no. No, no, and a big side order of nope. What I've decided is that on the available evidence, you simply aren't credible enough to change my mind that the viewpoint that syllables exist on a phonetic level (which is something that everyone everywhere seems to understand). Were your credibility to increase, you would be able to convince me. How dare you.

By the way, this works both ways. You insist that we have to prove that syllables do exist? We would also have to trawl through piles of journals, many of which we would have to pay for to access.

I am not questioning the existence of syllables - I am questioning a universal phonetic realization of syllabification, and thus am implying that syllables are a phonological phenomenon, albeit a practically universal one - and I am not asking you to trawl through journals to defend yourself. I would prefer a well-reasoned argument over a citation to a journal I myself would have to pay for anyways.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 3:18 pm 
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For...

Look, if you want to have a serious debate, define your terms.

So far as I can see, both sides are saying things that are obviously true, but are simply defining core terms differently.

Begin with: what do you understand by "phonetic"?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 3:27 pm 
Sumerul
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Salmoneus wrote:
Begin with: what do you understand by "phonetic"?

That pertaining to physical speech sounds, and by extension the physical speech apparatus.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:03 pm 
Sanci
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I'm going to have to agree with Salmoneus here. My general impression of the argument dominating this thread is one of semantics, not content.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 5:23 pm 
Smeric
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Then I shall repeat what I said earlier - I can distinctly hear the difference between the syllabification of the s in "mistake" and "mis-take" before the t even gets articulated. How does that not qualify as evidence?


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 6:10 pm 
Sumerul
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KathTheDragon wrote:
Then I shall repeat what I said earlier - I can distinctly hear the difference between the syllabification of the s in "mistake" and "mis-take" before the t even gets articulated. How does that not qualify as evidence?

Now that I think of it, that is irrelevant - because my point isn't really that the two words are only distinguished by aspiration - they very well could be distinguished some other way. My point is that how languages distinguish syllabification is not universal, and is all dependent upon a particular language's phonology, and even if you did establish that English distinguished syllabification in this case by some means other than aspiration alone, that would not refute my actual point. To refute my point you would need to establish that syllabification is phonetically distinguished in a uniform manner in a broadly crosslinguistic fashion.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 6:19 pm 
Sumerul
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(Just for the record, mistake versus mis-take is probably not the best of examples; I at least have a stress distinction between the two words in addition to an aspiration one.)

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:56 pm 
Smeric
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I'm aware of the stress issue, but even when I move the stress in 'mistake' to the initial syllable, the distinction persists in exactly the same way.

So what you're saying is that we have no way to successfully refute your claims based on the information we have available to us, and we should just go home and accept you as the source of all truth? Ok, maybe not that last part, but you're striking out firmly into the realms of unfalsifiability, which itself is cause for concern.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:10 pm 
Sumerul
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KathTheDragon wrote:
I'm aware of the stress issue, but even when I move the stress in 'mistake' to the initial syllable, the distinction persists in exactly the same way.

So what you're saying is that we have no way to successfully refute your claims based on the information we have available to us, and we should just go home and accept you as the source of all truth? Ok, maybe not that last part, but you're striking out firmly into the realms of unfalsifiability, which itself is cause for concern.

Well demonstrating a universal phonetic realization of syllabification anywhere near exhaustively is highly impractical if not prohibitive, but you could at least mention examples from a number of unrelated languages to demonstrate that there are apparent universals at work rather than simply throwing up your hands and giving up.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:22 am 
Smeric
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This would require me to find information on the syllabification of near-minimal pairs in a variety of unrelated languages. Somehow, that strikes me as even more impractical. The only reason I know of the mistake - mis-take pair in English is because I saw it in a paper on PIE syllabification.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:58 am 
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Proof is important in debates. If someone days for example, that most murderers hate albinos, I would want confirmation for it because of the unlikeliness. (My example is ridiculous, and I would probably ignore such a remark in real life, but I wanted something non-political.) That doesn't mean that proof is always necessary, or that people should be expected to be able to bring proof when proof is required. But, in the latter situation, it makes your argument look weak.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 11:37 am 
Avisaru
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I emphasise I'm not a native speaker of English but I think I may have found a proof - "inner" versus "in her (e.g. eyes)" with the stress on the first syllable in the latter. The first can be [ˈɪ.nə(ɹ)] and the second can be [ˈɪn.ə(ɹ)], can't they?

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:08 pm 
Avisaru
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ˈd̪ʲɛ.gɔ kɾuˑl̪ wrote:
I emphasise I'm not a native speaker of English but I think I may have found a proof - "inner" versus "in her (e.g. eyes)" with the stress on the first syllable in the latter. The first can be [ˈɪ.nə(ɹ)] and the second can be [ˈɪn.ə(ɹ)], can't they?

Setting aside the possibility of /h/ or hiatus in the latter, I don't see a clear basis for syllabifying these differently. Wells would say they are both /ˈɪn.ə(ɹ)/ (due to the stressed syllable preferentially attracting intervocalic consonants), and Bermúdez-Otero would say they are both /ˈɪ.nə(ɹ)/ (due to the principle of maximizing onsets + resyllabification across word-boundaries).

My own introspection doesn't give any strong results about the difference between these two phrases. Bizarrely, it seems possible to me to use a longer /n/ in "inner" than in "in her", which I guess could be interpreted in two ways: syllable-initial consonants tend to be more fortis, so that could indicate "inner" has a syllable-initial /n/, but it also might just be an effect of the spelling or even some kind of compensatory lengthening thing due to the preceding short vowel (which would point towards an ambisyllabic analysis, I think). By default, I would assume my perception about possible lengths is just an orthography-induced illusion; even if it's not, I don't know what significance it has.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:14 pm 
Sanci
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I second the longer /n/ in 'inner'.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:23 pm 
Avisaru
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Ok, so the really only argument left is that in Polish when I have two different consonants between vowels they (almost?) always belong to separate syllables, even when there are words beginning with a cluster containing them ("hopsa", an exclamation meaning "jump!", is for me [ˈxʌ̙p.sä] and there is "psa", a genitive of "dog", [ˈpsä]), and you are said to have a rule of maximal onset when such exists word initially. I don't have time to look around for a (near-)minimal pair, so if you will have a reasonable counterargument and not require a minimal pair, I will give up.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:50 pm 
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Sumelic wrote:
My own introspection doesn't give any strong results about the difference between these two phrases. Bizarrely, it seems possible to me to use a longer /n/ in "inner" than in "in her", which I guess could be interpreted in two ways: syllable-initial consonants tend to be more fortis, so that could indicate "inner" has a syllable-initial /n/, but it also might just be an effect of the spelling or even some kind of compensatory lengthening thing due to the preceding short vowel (which would point towards an ambisyllabic analysis, I think).

A third possibility is that this is a byproduct of stress: IMD, inner is stressed, but in 'er + N is not[*]. Stress is a combination of duration, loudness, pitch, and possibility fortition. So I think the /n/ in inner is slightly lengthened (definitely not geminated) compared to the /n/ of in, but of course you'd need a spectrogram in order to demonstrate this.

[*] Stressing either in or her would result in restoration of /h/. YMMV.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:29 pm 
Avisaru
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Absolutely no difference in connected speech as far as I can tell, both "inner" and "in her" are identical with a nasalized flap. I can artificially "lengthen" (de-flap) the /n/ of "inner," but as linguoboy says if I try the same thing with "in her" the /h/ obligatorily appears.


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