absolutely [UK pronunciation]

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dreamlike

Senior Member
Polish
Hello everybody,

For a long time I've only heard the word 'absolutely' pronounced in full, as /ˌæbsəˈluːtli/, and wondered why native speakers of BrE do not seem to have a tendency to shorten this word in rapid speech, a word that lend itself so readily to being shortened. Then the other day while listening to some recording I've heard a British woman in her 30s reduce the word in question to /ˌæbsəˈtli/ or something to that effect. I'm pretty sure I was not imagining things and I haven't misheard the woman. I thought I'd ask you about this.

Is it common for some speakers of BrE to use a shortened pronunciation of "absolutely"? I'd say it's not, as it's been the first time I've heard somebody do that. If some people use a shorter way of saying it, what sounds do they most commonly leave out?
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I've rarely heard it shortened in normal conversation. Of course, I've heard it lengthened/exaggerated with insertions like abso-bloody-lutely and so on :D
    There is a TV show, Absolutely Fabulous, where the first word was often sounded like apsley* ('æpsli) on occasion (and even down to Ab Fab as the "abbreviated" name). There are probably some people for whom that is the usual pronunciation.

    * airpsley fair billis = quite pleasant, is an entry under "Strine" (caricature of Australian accent) although it may also show up in "Fraffly Well Spoken" (caricature of upper class English accent)in the books of Afferbeck Lauder (wiki)
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    On consideration, it might be the case that my ears were playing tricks on me and that the [luː] part was simply pronounced very quickly and not in a very prominent way. But it sounded as though the woman sort of "swallowed" these sounds, if you see what I mean. It was definitely not the usual way of pronouncing this word, one that I hear all the time.
     

    Szkot

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I think it is not inconceivable that the l might be inaudible as a consonant, but I would still expect two distinct vowels between the s and the t.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank you very much for all your answers.

    I notice you've changed your mind, JS, from never hearing it shortened to rarely hearing it shortened. You mentioned /'æpsli/ in your post. Come to think of it, that might have been what I heard. I'm not quite sure, the recording is nowhere to be found, but the people I was listening to it with, among them an experienced academic teacher, also noticed this peculiar pronunciation.

    Sound Shift, but have you ever heard any variation in pronunciation of this word?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Thank you very much for all your answers.

    I notice you've changed your mind, JS, from never hearing it shortened to rarely hearing it shortened. You mentioned /'æpsli/ in your post. Come to think of it, that might have been what I heard. I'm not quite sure, the recording is nowhere to be found, but the people I was listening to it with, among them an experienced academic teacher, also noticed this peculiar pronunciation.
    Yes, I realized I had never been in a conversation where I had heard it, but recalled the Strine and Fraffly caricatures after I'd posted. Both apsly and fraffly simply omit some middle portion of the word, but I don't know anyone personally who speaks like that.
     

    Wandering JJ

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hi Dreamlike,

    Are you able to say if the woman sounded uneducated or 'educationally challenged' from the rest of her speech? Why I ask is that you may have witnessed an example of Malapropism – the use of an incorrect word in place of one that is similar in pronunciation. In this case, the speaker may have said 'absently' rather than 'absolutely'. Without hearing the recording, this is only a wild guess, but I agree with others that the pronunciation you give is very strange and not something I have ever heard, even in rapid speech.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Contrary to some of the other suggestions here, the only shortening I think I may have heard occasionally from BrE speakers is the suppression or minimising of the o (or rather of the schwa that is usually there), so that it comes close to /absˈluːtli/ (/æ/ being a minority pronunciation among BrE speakers these days).

    As to why it's rarely shortened, dreamlike, I would suggest that's because it's a word that's often given strong emphasis; so it tends to to be spoken more slowly, or at least with each syllable fairly clearly articulated.

    Ws:)
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, the reduced pronunciation given by Wordsmyth sounds familiar to me. Perhaps with the /b/ pronounced more like a /p/, therefore: /apsˈluːtli/?
    As to why it's rarely shortened, dreamlike, I would suggest that's because it's a word that's often given strong emphasis
    Especially if it is a single word as a response to what someone else has said. The reduced version can be used when it used to modify an adjective or a sentence.
     
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