Mark Liberman had a post at the Log quoting a correspondent as follows:
I read your article on the alphabet olympics yesterday and followed one of the links, and then one of its links, and so on. I was merrily traipsing thru the internet when I came upon a page that threw me: “The Rules and Misrules of English Spelling“.
The note on “th” (note (f)) gives a list of words with the “this” sound (what I’d call “voiced th” — ð rather than θ) that includes the word “with”. I was surprised — I have always used unvoiced as the pronunciation of that word, and had never noticed anyone doing otherwise. Sure, voicing gets *added* sometimes due to context, but surely unvoiced is the target — right? Apparently wrong. My Pocket Oxford gives only the voiced pronunciation, and my Houghton Mifflin Canadian gives the voiced version first, as does my New Lexicon Websters. The two pronunciation sites I found online also gave voiced pronunciations.
I asked my wife to pronounce the word slowly and carefully, and she likewise gave an unvoiced pronunciation, and was surprised that anyone aimed for the other (tho’ she did point out that Bono has a buzzy version when he sings “with or without you”). (I grew up in Nova Scotia, and my wife grew up in southern Ontario.) OK, so I’ve got a non-standard (or less standard) pronunciation — it’s not the only one I have. I’m interested in what the distribution of this variant is, but I’m having a hard time finding it online.
I thought “Yes, I’ve heard people use a voiceless final in that word”; I checked with my own wife, and what do you know, she had a voiceless final herself. Well, today Mark posted a followup citing John Wells’s phonetic blog to the effect that 84% of Americans use a voiceless final (/wɪθ/), only 16% sharing my voiced /wɪð/. (In the UK, the proportions are reversed: /wɪð/ 85%, /wɪθ/ 15%—though /wɪθ/ is heavily favored in Scotland.) Eighty-four percent! Rarely have I been so astonished to find myself in a small minority (though I’m used to that situation in general).
Incidentally, John Wells is annoyed that people aren’t using his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, but the damn thing costs $42.57. As Mark says, wouldn’t it be nice if Pearson made it available online? But they may feel that not enough people would pay a fee to use it to make it worth the trouble.