pronunciation: desert [unstressed short 'i' sound ]

< Previous | Next >

stephenlearner

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

In an unstressed syllable, vowels would become a schwa in many cases.

However, in the word DESERT, the short e sound (as in bet) in stressed syllable becomes short I sound (as in bit) in unstressed syllable. dEz-irt vs dI-zirt.

So is the short I sound (as in bit) acting as the schwa?

I don't know if I make sense to you. Sorry for that.

In other words, in an unstressed syllable, the vowel would become the short I sound instead of the schwa in some cases. Is that correct?
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Hi,

    In an unstressed syllable, vowels would become a schwa in many cases.

    However, in the word DESERT, the short e sound (as in bet) in stressed syllable becomes short I sound (as in bit) in unstressed syllable. dEz-irt vs dI-zirt.

    So is the short I sound (as in bit) acting as the schwa?

    I don't know if I make sense to you. Sorry for that.

    In other words, in an unstressed syllable, the vowel would become the short I sound instead of the schwa in some cases. Is that correct?
    The dictionary givesˈdɛzɚt dɪˈzɜrt for the noun and verb respectively, (corresponding to DEZ-irt and diz-IRT in your post)

    The initial e is the bet vowel in the first one and the i in bit in the second. It would sound strange to me if it were a schwa.
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    There are two possibilities for the pronunciation of "desert." "Desert" (e.g. Sahara),a noun, and "dee zert," a verb meaning "to leave." The first uses the e in bet and is stressed on the first syllable. The second uses the "e" in "see" and is stressed on the second.
    As you know, "rules" are not always followed in English. But "in some cases" is a valid statement.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Yes, in some accents. Traditionally in RP BrE the unstressed vowel was definitely [ɪ] as in 'did'. It is that in a Cockney (London) BrE accent too. In Australian it is always schwa. Younger speakers' Southern BrE ('Estuary' etc.) has largely changed to schwa there. Other accents might have either; I don't know enough to say.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I don't pronounce it that way. Mine is much more like dessert·ed. Like after dinner cake (or pie) + ed. As it's pronounced here:

    How to pronounce deserted in English

    To me (not an expert), the first e sounds like it might be a schwa.
    (Antoher non-expert here:))
    The UK sounds a bit closer to an ɪ than a schwi while the US definitely shows less i component and I'd call it a schwi

    (Thanks for the link to another good pronunciation tool. The UK and US pronunciation of luminous shows the difference between a schwa and and a ɪ/schwi for the i. Similarly for perilous in the WRF entry.)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    For the noun and adjective meaning "hot sandy", AE speakers all use short E (as in bet) for the first vowel. For the verb (run away) some AE speakers still use short E. I do. Others use long I (as in beet). Apparently others use short I (as in bit), as BE does.

    Either of the short vowels can change into a schwa during fast or careless speech.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I always use the short i (as in bit) for the verb desert (ie as indicated in the dictionaries /dɪˈzɜːt/). I don't recall hearing the long vowel from AmE speakers.

    I'm now hearing the Rick Astley song in my head:
    Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down,
    Never gonna run around and desert you.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I just watched a video of Rich Ashley singing that song. He says "dee-sert" (long I, not short I).
    In singing, is the length of a vowel not determined by musical considerations rather than linguistic ones?

    Then, Rick Astley is from Lancashire, and my feeling is that accents from northern England tend to be more reliant on vowel length than the standard. For example, in Yorkshire met and mate are often distinguished strictly by vowel length, not vowel quality - /mɛt/ - /mɛ:t/
     
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top