A (ei/ə) Ghost --pronunciation

LQZ

Senior Member
Mandarin
Dear all,

While listening to a children's story, I came across the following sentence.

In that dark, dark box, there was A (pronounced [ei], not [ə] ) Ghost.

I am curious about this pronounciation. Could you please explain to me why it isn't prounced "ə"? thanks.



LQZ
 
  • Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I would normally say [ə] in this position. Sometimes when people are reading very slowly and deliberately they pronounce the indefinite article as [ei], but I wouldn't encourage learners to do this.

    There is a case where we emphasise the article:
    "This is A [ei] book, but not the one that I want".
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    You often hear A [ei] from people who are reading or speaking from memorized text. I personally find it off-putting. I think it might be some form of "hypercorrection."
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    You often hear A [ei] from people who are reading or speaking from memorized text. I personally find it off-putting. I think it might be some form of "hypercorrection."
    It's the indefinite parallel to people who say "thuh end". :D

    In this case, it might be a very young children's book where identification of the letter as an A plays a role as they start to learn their alphabet. We don't say our ABCs as ə bee sees!
     

    Manuel2P

    New Member
    Spanish
    I'm talking about Adele's song Rolling in the Deep. At the beginning, Adele says: "There's /eɪ/ fire..."

    I had never heard this before; "a" as an article pronounced as /eɪ/. I thought it was only that way when it is pronounced in isolation (letter a). Has it anything to do with stress and syllables? Could it be because Adele uses a single syllable in its pronunciation an therefore emphasizes it?

    Then my question is: does it sound right, weird... or what? For native speakers, I mean. Is it a matter of choices or accents?
     

    yuechu

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    Most people would pronounce it as a schwa in this context. However, it is also common to pronounce it /eɪ/ for clarity. A lot of people use them interchangeably.

    I must admit that this pronunciation also stood out for me when I heard it too (because of the style of song.. ).
     

    Manuel2P

    New Member
    Spanish
    Wow, that's quite interesting. Interchangeably... well, I had always hear the "schwa" form. What I really wanted to know is how usual is the other form. For example, car and vehicle. Of course people always say "car" and few times would they use "vehicle" in an informal context (I guess they'd only do technically speaking), is it the same with "a"?
     

    yuechu

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    Just in additional comment: ESL learners might be confused, since it does not necessarily follow "a" pronunciations which are often taught (that "a" = schwa in front of consonant; /eɪ/ in front of a vowel).

    Here is an example of /eɪ/:
    << YouTube links are not allowed.>>
    Transcription:
    "Well I would say this: that certainly /eɪ/ certain degree of physical well-being is important to the service Miss X delivers... " (despite the "umm" after /eɪ/)

    Mod note: I have reinstated the text in blue, which had been edited out by baosheng. This is because it has been quoted in post 14.
     
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    yuechu

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    "Interchangeably" was probably not the best word to use. In reality, I think most speakers will, in certain circumstances, use both pronunciations depending on formality.

    I feel that when English speakers are more conscious of their pronunciation, they will pronounce it as /eɪ/. It is relatively uncommon though, when compared to how often one will pronounce it as a schwa, at least for North American English...

    Personally, I have a habit of pronouncing it /eɪ/ more often than perhaps would most speakers simply because it is a clearer pronunciation.
     
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    It is relatively uncommon though, when compared to how often one will pronounce it as a schwa, at least for North American English...
    Given how common "a" is in ordinary speech, that's probably true, but /ei/ for "a" is pretty common in public settings. For example, Barack Obama uses (some might say "overuses") it frequently, even in off-the-cuff remarks.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Mod note: I have merged the thread opened by Manuel (No. 7) with an earlier one on the same topic. There are two more mentioned in panj's post (No. 2).
     

    Lyndon

    Banned
    N/A
    Just in additional comment: ESL learners might be confused, since it does not necessarily follow "a" pronunciations which are often taught (that "a" = schwa in front of consonant; /eɪ/ in front of a vowel).

    Interesting. I always thought the pronunciations which are normally taught are "a" = schwa in front of consonant; and an /eɪ/ in front of a vowel sound.

    I would pronounce ["a" as /eɪ/ regardless of whether a consonant or vowel follows] more often in formal contexts or public speaking.

    Do you really mean that you would deliberately say /eɪ/ apple, /eɪ/ egg, /eɪ/ inch, etc, in formal contexts or public speaking? (That's what you appear to be saying.)
     
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    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    When I started teaching English in Italy I found that my students had learnt at school to say /eɪ/ in all cases. The Italians also tend to simplify this diphthong to a single sound (they pronounce Matt Damon to rhyme with lemon), so my students said things like "/e/ book". I had a hard struggle to make them change to the schwa, which is why I generally discourage the /eɪ/ pronunciation of the article, except in special cases.
     

    yuechu

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    @Lyndon
    You are absolutely correct... I must have been thinking of the pronunciation rules for "the", since they change in a similar way phonetically (yet not always in the same context, since "a" becomes "an" before a vowel). Sorry to any people if I misled you in the previous posts.

    "A" does indeed become "an" in front of a vowel sound and never /eɪ/ (at least, in standard English).
     

    RosyIvory

    Member
    Arabic - Egypt
    Hi,

    Are there more than one way to pronounce the Indefinite Article "A"?

    The one I know of is pronounced like the "a" in "aid". Is it right to pronounce it like "a" in "bad"? if that's true, what are the cases or the rules that determine the pronunciation and are there any ways to pronounce it?

    Thanks in advance
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Mod note: RosyIvory's thread (post 17) has been merged with an earlier thread.

    I've never heard it pronounced with the 'a' of bad.
     

    RosyIvory

    Member
    Arabic - Egypt
    So, there's no ''a book'' where's 'a' as in bad or hat; and it's only pronounced as in ate or gate. and if there's something else it'd only be stressing it to be 'ay' (like pronouncing the alphabetical letter itself), right?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    So, there's no ''a book'' where's 'a' as in bad or hat; and it's only pronounced as in ate or gate. and if there's something else it'd only be stressing it to be 'ay' (like pronouncing the alphabetical letter itself), right?
    Hi RosyIvory

    No, it's never* pronounced like the vowel sound in bad or hat. The choice is between schwa (when it's unstressed) and the sound of the letter 'A' - like the vowel sound in gate - when for some reason you want to stress it.

    The earlier posts in the now-merged thread are helpful:).
    _____

    *At least, not in the varieties of English I'm familiar with.
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    it's only pronounced as in ate or gate
    The vowel I use in gate /geɪt/ is different from the vowel I use in ate /et/, and obviously I would only use the former for a stressed 'a'. RosyIvory, have you heard people saying 'a' with the vowel in bad​ before?
     

    RosyIvory

    Member
    Arabic - Egypt
    Sorry for late reply..

    So 'ate' for regular 'a' and 'gate' for stressed one or as I read somewhere in here if I stop speech after the 'a' like I'm thinking of something..
    As for bad-a actually a lot say it like that here in Egypt.. It's like an accent drop.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Sorry for late reply..

    So 'ate' for regular 'a' and 'gate' for stressed one or as I read somewhere in here if I stop speech after the 'a' like I'm thinking of something..
    As for bad-a actually a lot say it like that here in Egypt.. It's like an accent drop.
    I'm sorry, RosyIvory: no, the indefinite article "a" is not pronounced like the "a" in "ate" - assuming that by the "a" in "ate" you're thinking of the same vowel sound as in "bed".

    Unstressed "a" has a schwa. It's closer to the "u" in "bud":).
     

    RosyIvory

    Member
    Arabic - Egypt
    mmm.. it's completely diffident from what I've been saying and what I've imagined right

    So just to make it sink in more :)
    Hearing how the letter A is pronounced in any English Alphabet video, I dived it into two parts: how the mouth is shaped in the beginning of the pronunciation and the enlonging of the pronunciation by adding 'ay'.
    the complete pronunciation of the letter IS the stressed way, right? what about the first part?
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Hi RosyIvory

    No, it's never* pronounced like the vowel sound in bad or hat. The choice is between schwa (when it's unstressed) and the sound of the letter 'A' - like the vowel sound in gate - when for some reason you want to stress it.

    The earlier posts in the now-merged thread are helpful:).
    _____

    *At least, not in the varieties of English I'm familiar with.
    I would have said the same thing. I would like to point out, however, that the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary does show /'æ/ as a pronunciation for this indefinite article when used in a stressed position:

    From http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a[2]

    2a indefinite article \ə, (ˈ)ā, Canada ˈa\
    The symbol \'a\ here is that dictionary's symbol for /'æ/, as in, for example, \'hat\ for /'hæt/.

    I have not been able to find this pronunciation of this stressed indefinite article in Canadian English referenced anywhere else, however.
     

    jarabina

    Senior Member
    English - Scotland
    2a indefinite article \ə, (ˈ)ā, Canada ˈa\
    The symbol \'a\ here is that dictionary's symbol for /'æ/, as in, for example, \'hat\ for /'hæt/.

    I have not been able to find this pronunciation of this stressed indefinite article in Canadian English referenced anywhere else, however.
    /æ/ is commonly used for the indefinite article in some Scottish accents, so it seems quite possible that it might feature in Canadian English.
     
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