Buy a pie for the spy - pronunciation
...Why does the ‘p’ in spy sound somewhat different from the ‘p’ in pie, and in fact, for Chinese speakers, the same as ‘b’ in buy?
The answer is simple: because they are different.
In IPA, the three words buy, pie and spy are represented as [baɪ], [pʰaɪ] and [spaɪ] respectively. In other words, they are three different sounds. This distinction also exists in other plosive/stop triplets, namely d, t, (s)t (dear [diɚ], tear [tʰiɚ], steer [stiɚ]) and g, k/c/q, (s)k/c/q (gill [gɪl], kill [kʰɪl], skill [skɪl]). Putting it differently, p, t, k/c/q are normally pronounced as [pʰ], [tʰ], [kʰ], but when they are preceded by an ‘s’, they are pronounced as [p], [t], [k]. Here are some more examples:
beer [biɚ] dink [dɪŋk] gate [geɪt]
pear [pʰiɚ] tink [tʰɪŋk] Kate [kʰeɪt]
spear [spiɚ] stink [stɪŋk] skate [skeɪt]
Regarding these these triplets, a few questions arise. For simplicity, we will only talk about the triplet b, p, sp below, but the principle ...