HEAV'NS & POW'RS pronunciation

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Pincadilly, Sep 18, 2009.

  1. Pincadilly Senior Member

    Hello everybody,
    I'm having troubles with a chorus song in which some contracted words appear, and I really do not know how to pronunce them:

    heav'ns (standing for "heavens")
    pow'rs (standing for "powers")

    I only know that they must be pronunced as if they were only one syllable each.
    Could anybody help?
    Maybe they could sound something like /hens/ and /pours/, respectively?

    Thank you!
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Heav'n(s) has always puzzled me. Did they actually say non-syllabic [vn] and, worse, [vnz]? Most of the examples in the OED are clear iambic metre, and it's definitely one syllable. A medial [v] was dropped in some words as used in poetry, such as e'en and o'er, but we never see hea'n or hea'en, so presumably it can't be [hen].

    Pow'r(s) is at least pronounceable in a rhotic accent, where you can distinguish [pauər] from [paur] - though in my accent you can't, so there's no way of saying pow'r distinctly.
  3. MichaelW Senior Member

    English (British)
    I pronounce them as one syllable (singing in the choir as a kiddie, reading poetry aloud) hevns and powrs.

    It is probably easier to hear (reading silently) than to say aloud.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2009
  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Here's a previous thread on heav'n, Pinca:)
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This kind of contraction is common in any choral context.
    It's a matter of squeezing all the consonant sounds onto the end of a single syllable ... or perhaps I should say, trying to. Naturally, the listeners don't hear most of them but they manage to understand just the same.

    Seriously, there's not a great deal of difference between a rushed speaking voice saying heavens and a choir member singing heav'ns
  6. manon33 Senior Member

    English - England (Yorkshire)
    I think that if a difference is discernible, it must consist in a swallowing of the schwa sound normally heard in both words.

    I'm not sure why the pronunciation 'vnz' should be 'even worse' than anything - why should moral opprobrium attach to these things?
  7. As it comes from a song, the words with which they rhyme (it it's a rhyming song) may help you.
  8. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Are you the choir master, who wants to make a practical decision of how to pronounce it in the song? Two alternatives:

    (a) if you really don't want to pronounce those words as single syllables, you can slip in a quick extra syllable on the same note - I have heard this done before;
    (b) try to get your choir to pronounce them as /hevnz/ and /paʊəz/ (or /paʊrz/ if you are using a rhotic pronunciation) - I think you will get more success for 'pow'rs', and if /hevnz/ is too difficult, you might need to try /heənz/, but probably NOT /henz/ as you suggested.

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