pronunciation: been / seen

pldclcc

Member
Italian
Topic question: Why is the vowel in 'been' different from 'seen'
Copied from original title. Cagey, moderator

Also, why is the weak form of been /ˈbiːn/ in ipa, if iː is supposed to be the tense vowel.
 
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  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I don't quite understand the question. 'Been' does not have a weak version, it is always the same whatever its position in a sentence. But some people pronounce it /biːn/, same as 'bean' (and rhyming with 'seen'), and others pronounce it /bɪn/, same as 'bin'. Both versions are common across the various accents.
     

    pldclcc

    Member
    Italian
    I don't quite understand the question. 'Been' does not have a weak version, it is always the same whatever its position in a sentence. But some people pronounce it /biːn/, same as 'bean' (and rhyming with 'seen'), and others pronounce it /bɪn/, same as 'bin'. Both versions are common across the various accents.
    According to this wordreference page it does have a weak version, in Southern British variants at least, and it is /biːn/. That's weird to me because usually the weak version is more centralized.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I'm a fairly standard Southern British speaker and I don't have variant forms. I say /bi:n/ wherever it occurs. Typically, for words that have strong and weak forms, the strong form is used at the end of a clause:

    You can't do it, but I can.
    You weren't there, but I was.

    These have their full vowel, /kæn/ or /wɒz/, just like their emphasized forms: 'I was there!' even though they are normally unstressed in this position. But in the middle of a clause, when unstressed (the usual situation), the vowel is weakened to schwa: 'I can do it' and 'I was there' have /kən/ and /wəz/.

    'Been' doesn't have these variations. It's the same in both kinds of unstressed position:

    I've been there already.
    You haven't been there, but I have been.

    I don't think I've ever heard anyone who uses /bɪn/ as the weak form and /bi:n/ as the strong form - though this is a possibility that would seem natural for English.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    < Comment no longer needed. Cagey, moderator >
    Why is the vowel in "been" different from the vowel in "seen"?
    In my dialect, they are simply different vowels (/bɪn/, /sin/) used in different words.

    Why should they be the same? Because of spelling? English is not phonetic. The spelling does not define the pronunciation.
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There is a third pronunciation of been used in parts of the U.S. and Canada. It rhymes with ten. It's the same in all positions.
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    SSBE (Standard Southern British English)
    Why is the vowel in paid different from said?
    Why is the vowel in blood different from food?
    Why is the vowel in bead different from head?
    Why is the vowel in cow different from low?
    Why is the vowel in cut different from put?

    Because it is....... Unfortunately.
    English has a long, rich and complex history and the spoken language evolved differently from the written language.
    There's no point in asking why. We just have to accept things the way that they are.

    Also, why is the weak form of been /ˈbiːn/ in ipa, if iː is supposed to be the tense vowel?
    It isn't. 'Been' doesn't have a strong and weak form. Auxiliaries and modals have weak and strong forms, but past participles don't. The pronunciations /biːn/ and /bɪn/ are just alternatives - as are the three variant pronunciations of "ate". (And that's before we even start on the question of regional accents). Language is a messy business.
     
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    pldclcc

    Member
    Italian
    I'm a fairly standard Southern British speaker and I don't have variant forms. I say /bi:n/ wherever it occurs. Typically, for words that have strong and weak forms, the strong form is used at the end of a clause:

    You can't do it, but I can.
    You weren't there, but I was.

    These have their full vowel, /kæn/ or /wɒz/, just like their emphasized forms: 'I was there!' even though they are normally unstressed in this position. But in the middle of a clause, when unstressed (the usual situation), the vowel is weakened to schwa: 'I can do it' and 'I was there' have /kən/ and /wəz/.

    'Been' doesn't have these variations. It's the same in both kinds of unstressed position:

    I've been there already.
    You haven't been there, but I have been.

    I don't think I've ever heard anyone who uses /bɪn/ as the weak form and /bi:n/ as the strong form - though this is a possibility that would seem natural for English.
    Check the page been - WordReference.com Dictionary of English . /bi:n/ is listed as the WEAK form, the opposite of what you're trying to dispute in your last paragraph.

    < Response to deleted comment removed. Cagey, moderator >

    Why should they be the same? Because of spelling? English is not phonetic.
    know that English is not phonetic, I just don't know why the 'diverging' /bɪn/ pronunciation is the 'strong' one, if there is also a "weak" pronunciation with a long E vowel, in UK English, at least according to the wordreference English definition page, which is unusual.

    Why is the vowel in paid different from said?
    Why is the vowel in blood different from food?
    Why is the vowel in bead different from head?
    Why is the vowel in cow different from low?
    Why is the vowel in cut different from put?

    Because it is....... Unfortunately.
    English has a long, rich and complex history and the spoken language evolved differently from the written language.
    There's no point in asking why. We just have to accept things the way that they are.

    Also, why is the weak form of been /ˈbiːn/ in ipa, if iː is supposed to be the tense vowel?
    It isn't. 'Been' doesn't have a strong and weak form. Auxiliaries and modals have weak and strong forms, but past participles don't. The pronunciations /biːn/ and /bɪn/ are just alternatives - as are the three variant pronunciations of "ate". (And that's before we even start on the question of regional accents). Language is a messy business.
    Check the wordreference page "been" under "English definition". For UK English two different pronunciations are listed, a 'strong' and a 'weak' form, the latter being the /biːn/ version. Why is that?
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    No. It's common in the north. The pin-pen merger is common in the south.

    Screenshot_20220808-225823.png

    I can't personally vouch for the fact that it's said in Canada or how often, but it's definitely how I say it and I was born in one of those blue areas far away from the Southern states.
     
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    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    SSBE (Standard Southern British English)
    Check the wordreference page "been" under "English definition". For UK English two different pronunciations are listed, a 'strong' and a 'weak' form, the latter being the /biːn/ version. Why is that?
    A mistake, perhaps?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I think it's an error. It makes no sense to me. Here is Lexico, for instance:
    1660034555287.png

    It just gives one recommended version for BrE, and it can be used for all contexts.
     
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