pronunciation: about "ə"

  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Sorry, I just see a lot of goobledygook.

    Are you asking for the difference between /ə/ and /ɜ:/? If so, the latter is used for long vowels whereas the former is a short neutral vowel.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Now that you've fixed it, I can understand what you mean. In accents such as General AmE where 'hour' and 'fire' end in an [r] sound, there are two slightly different possible pronunciations after a diphthong ([au] or [ai] here). The diphthong can be followed directly by the [r], or there can be a short [ə] between them: so 'fire' could be [faiər] or [fair]. It's only a very small difference. The small upper symbol is called a superscript, and here it means the sound is optional.
     

    HOUYI

    Member
    Chinese
    The small upper symbol is called a superscript, and here it means the sound is optional.
    Do you mean that fire/faɪər/ have two pronunciations, /ə/ a superscript is optional here, when we read it, we can read out /ə/, sounds like /faɪər/, and also we can don't read out /ə/, sounds like /faɪr/, while fire/faɪr/ only have one pronunciation.
    So hour /aʊər/, /ə/ a superscript is optional here, it can be pronounced like /ˈaʊər/ and /ˈaʊr/. And idea/aɪˈdiə/, /ə/ a superscript is optional here, it can be pronounced like /aɪˈdiə/ and /aɪˈdi/.
     
    Last edited:

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It's optional between a diphthong (that is, [aʊ] or [aɪ]) and AmE [r]. But it's not optional in 'idea'. That always has [iə] in AmE. The [ə] symbol should be written on the line for that, not superscript. The difference is that 'idea' has no following [r].

    Now in BrE the situation is slightly different, as all three of these words end in [ə]: [faɪə], [aʊə], and [aɪˈdiə]. When the next word begins with a vowel, an [r] is added between them: 'fire and ice' is [faɪər ənd aɪs], and 'idea of it' is [aɪˈdiər əv ɪt]. In this position, we can do the same thing, that is leave out the [ə] between the other vowel and the [r], so these could be [faɪr ənd aɪs] and [aɪˈdi:r əv ɪt].
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I suppose the difference is not really between BrE and AmE but between rhotic and non-rhotic accents more generally. It would be possible to represent the pronunciations of many Scottish speakers as [faɪr], and of Southern American speakers as [faɪə].
     
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