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I was told that for the word 'spin', 'p' should be pronunciated as 'b';
for 'stick', 't' should be pronunciated as 'd'.

I'd like to know if it's true and whether there's a general rule for this pronunciation.
What is it called? Thanks.

Ricky
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Comments  (Page 2) 
Ricky,

The English speaker hears the difference between 'b' and 'p' as the difference between a voiced and an unvoiced consonant.
The Chinese speaker hears the difference between 'b' and 'p' as the difference between an unaspirated and an aspirated consonant.

Initial 'p' as in 'pot' is an aspirated, unvoiced consonant. The English speaker hears this as 'p' because the English speaker has learned to call that unvoiced consonant 'p'. The Chinese speaker hears this as 'p' because the Chinese speaker has learned to call that aspirated consonant 'p'.

But 'p' after initial 's' is an unaspirated, unvoiced consonant. The English speaker hears this as 'p' because the English speaker has learned to call that unvoiced consonant 'p'. (He is not paying attention to whether the sound is aspirated or unaspirated.) The Chinese speaker hears this as 'b' because the Chinese speaker has learned to call that unaspirated consonant 'b'.

Another way of putting it is like this. When you were advised to pronounce the 'p' in 'sp' as a 'b', you were being asked to say a Chinese 'b' for that 'p', not an English 'b'. The English 'b' is voiced; the Chinese 'b' is not voiced. The differences are extremely difficult to hear for many students, so don't obsess about it!

The only way you can convince yourself that the correct English spelling is "sp" is to take the viewpoint of the English speaker and classify the difference between 'p' and 'b' on the basis of voicing, not on the basis of aspiration, as the Chinese do.

The same observations apply to the pair 't' and 'd' and to the pair 'k' and 'g'.

I hope that helps. But if not, then you will have to accept it on faith until you study phonetics in greater detail.

CJ