emphatic 'a' - pronunciation

wolfbm1

Senior Member
Polish
Hello.

A: Do you have a set of spanners?
B :Well I have a spanner.



I wonder how an emphatic 'a' can be pronounced. Is it 'a' as in 'ace' or 'a' as in 'apple' or is it either of these?

I believed that it was 'a' as in 'ace' but I got a bit confused when I saw the strong forms of 'a' and 'an' in a table of a contemporary coursebook of English.
They were /ˈæ/ as in 'apple' and /ˈæn/ as in android.



Thank you.
 
  • sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    A: Do you have a set of spanners?
    B :Well I have a spanner.
    If I were B and wanted to emphasize "a", I would make it a schwa as usual, but pronounce it louder and with a higher pitch than the other sounds in the sentence. I would also insert a short pause before and after this "a". In this way I make it clear that I have only one spanner, not a set.
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    If I were B and wanted to emphasize "a", I would make it a schwa as usual, but pronounce it louder and with a higher pitch than the other sounds in the sentence. I would also insert a short pause before and after this "a". In this way I make it clear that I have only one spanner, not a set.
    Is there an instance where you would pronounce the article 'a' as in the name of the letter?
    For example:
    A: What is it?
    B: It's a Jaguar. (a Jaguar car)
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    You have to be a bit suspicious of a book teaching English that uses 'android' as an example of how to pronounce the far more common 'an'. However, it is indeed /æn/ as in 'ant, Andrew, band, candle, android'. /æ/ is pronounceable before a consonant, but not at the end of a syllable.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I see no reason to pronounce the article 'a' as in the name of the letter in your Jaguar example. In any case, B would not wish to emphasize the article 'a' in that example because he/she is giving a simple answer to a question.
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    You have to be a bit suspicious of a book teaching English that uses 'android' as an example of how to pronounce the far more common 'an'. However, it is indeed /æn/ as in 'ant, Andrew, band, candle, android'. /æ/ is pronounceable before a consonant, but not at the end of a syllable.
    It is me who came up with the word 'android' as an example of a strong 'an'. In the book it says:
    Word: a, an
    Strong form: /æ/, /æn/
    Weak form: /ə/, /ən/
    Examples of weak forms in sentences: "I've got a new car. Did you bring an umbrella."

    Source: Mark Foley and Diane Hall. Total English Elementary. (Pronunciation bank. Page 147.) Pearson Education Limited 2011.
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo.

    Is there an instance where you would pronounce the article 'a' as in the name of the letter?


    In the majority of languages which have definite and indefinite articles, these are "proclitic", ie they're always pronounced together with the following word, without any pause or break in continuity, as if the two words were just one. In the case of Englis in particular, these articles will have a "weak" pronunciation: / ə, ən, ðə, ðɪ /.

    Hence, the answer to the question above is "no".

    GS :)

    Mind you, the strong form of "a" is / /
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I see no reason to pronounce the article 'a' as in the name of the letter in your Jaguar example. In any case, B would not wish to emphasize the article 'a' in that example because he/she is giving a simple answer to a question.
    What if I wanted to pronounce the isolated phrase 'a Jaguar' as in a list of famous products (a Jaguar, a Nokia, a Harley-Davidson ...) or say "It's a Jaguar, one of many Jaguar cars."
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hullo.

    Is there an instance where you would pronounce the article 'a' as in the name of the letter?


    In the majority of languages which have definite and indefinite articles, these are "proclitic", ie they're always pronounced together with the following word, without any pause or break in continuity, as if the two words were just one. In the case of Englis in particular, these articles will have a "weak" pronunciation: / ə, ən, ðə, ðɪ /.

    Hence, the answer to the question above is "no".

    GS :)

    Mind you, the strong form of "a" is / /
    But the term 'proclitic' applies to an indefinite article used in a sentence, e.g.: It's a Jaguar.

    It doesn't apply to an emphatic 'a', as in "It's a Jaguar, one of many Jaguar cars.", does it.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I would use the ace vowel if I wanted to emphasize the a in the original sentence.

    In a situation where I wanted to say something like "It's not just a Jaguar it's the Jaguar from Skyfall": that would be a as in ace and the as in thee, both articles emphasized.
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I would use the ace vowel if I wanted to emphasize the a in the original sentence.

    In a situation where I wanted to say something like "It's not just a Jaguar it's the Jaguar from Skyfall": that would be a as in ace and the as in thee, both articles emphasized.
    So the emphatic 'a' should be pronounced as in 'ace'.
     

    amateur.jf

    Member
    English - S.Ontario, Canada
    For me (as a Canadian, for what it's worth), I would say we could use any of the following pronunciations for the emphatic 'a':
    - 'a' as in 'ace'
    - 'a' as in 'apple'
    - the schwa - or this is perhaps closer to 'u' as in "up", rather than a true 'schwa'

    The key is, of course, to pronouce it emphatically (louder and longer).
    There isn't really one considered "correct" above the others.

    The "a as in ace" is maybe less common, or sometimes more "affected" sounding, but plenty of people do say it.

    Similarly, emphatic "the" can be said with either long-E or schwa.
     
    Last edited:

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    So the emphatic 'a' should be pronounced as in 'ace'.
    There's no 'should' about it, Wolf.
    Some people pronounce it that way*; others don't. Like SoundShift [#4], I never pronounce it that way ~ I just have a fractional pause before (and after) the word, and then put extra emphasis on the schwa:
    Normal: /aɪhævəsetəvˈspænəz/
    With emphasis on a: /aɪhæv ˈə setəvˈspænəz/

    *And others, of whom there are very very many, seem to believe that the word should always be pronounced /eɪ/. These people are benighted idiots and should be shot. But that's a separate rant.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Phew, that was close - from someone who lives in the land of guns!
    For a typical situation the indefinite article a is a schwa for me (ə). When I want to emphasize it (as above) I say ei.
    (Analogous to thə and thee)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    There's no 'should' about it, Wolf.
    Some people pronounce it that way*; others don't. Like SoundShift [#4], I never pronounce it that way ~ I just have a fractional pause before (and after) the word, and then put extra emphasis on the schwa:
    Normal: /aɪhævəsetəvˈspænəz/
    With emphasis on a: /aɪhæv ˈə setəvˈspænəz/

    *And others, of whom there are very very many, seem to believe that the word should always be pronounced /eɪ/. These people are benighted idiots and should be shot. But that's a separate rant.

    This is probably why the British are not allowed to carry handguns... ;)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    There's no 'should' about it, Wolf.
    Some people pronounce it that way*; others don't. Like SoundShift [#4], I never pronounce it that way ~ I just have a fractional pause before (and after) the word, and then put extra emphasis on the schwa:
    Normal: /aɪhævəsetəvˈspænəz/
    With emphasis on a: /aɪhæv ˈə setəvˈspænəz/
    I have a friend who says an emphasized "a" with the bright "a" sound of "apple". :)
     
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