pronunciation - literally

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Egoexpress, Feb 4, 2010.

  1. Egoexpress

    Egoexpress Senior Member

    Hungary, Hungarian
    Hi there,

    No matter how hard I try, I have difficulty pronouncing the word "literally", my tongue always get twisted everytime I try to pronounce it rapidly.

    Have a listen to the following:

    As far as I remember people say it differently then the above speaker.

    Would you help me with the pronunciation of it?

    Thank you
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    My version is not quite so clearly articulated.
    It is like the word litter with -ly attached, no hint of a vowel or schwa in between.
  3. Jam on toast

    Jam on toast Senior Member

    British English
    In my BE accent, I pronouce it "LIT-uh-ruh-lee", where the bold type is emphasised.
    Often, if I'm speaking quickly, I'll drop the vowel after "LIT" and it would be "LIT-ruh-lee".

    [Note to self: must familiarise myself with IPA!]

    This word is one of my favourites in the language, as it's responsible for so many howlers, when people say it without thinking about what it means, usually when they're angry.

    EDIT: Panjandrum: Interesting! Indeed, that sounds right for a Northern Irish accent. Might I ask if you use a flap-T in that word? Apologies if that's deviating from topic; if so, please ignore :).
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010
  4. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Present-day English doesn't like three weak (unstressed) syllables in a row. So what was once four syllables LIT-er-al-ly is probably going to be reduced or changed somehow. In some words the stress might be shifted (CON-tro-ver-sy becomes con-TROV-er-sy), in others a middle unstressed syllable becomes stressed (TEMP-o-ra-ry becomes TEMP-o-RAR-y), but neither of those is likely here. The third possibility is omitting one of the syllables. I say it as three syllables LITR-al-ly. For me this isn't a 'casual' or fast pronunciation, it's the only possible one.

    (I can't listen to sound clips so I don't know how that one sounds.)
  5. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    I always pronounce it as four syllables: LI-tuh-ruh-lee. In most American dialects, a /t/ in between vowels becomes a flap (so it's not aspirated like in "ton"), so in IPA my "literally" would be something like ['lɪɾəɹəli]. In some British dialects, that /t/ is aspirated, especially (and by necessity) when the first schwa is dropped.

    I have never heard this pronunciation. :eek:
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
  7. ><FISH'> Senior Member

    United Kingdom
    British English
    Don't worry about it. English has enough varied pronunciation that you're sure to find a way to say it that works for you.

    To add my version in:

    Lyh-rully (my dialect misses the "ter" sound completely).
  8. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    LITCH-ruh-lee is how I most often say it. (Influenced by LITCH-ruh-chuh for literature) Sloppy, but fast and easy.
  9. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    This pronunciation is what I was talking about here:

    ...because what you're doing is dropping the schwa syllable (between "t" and "r"), so you get LI-truh-lee, but the "tr" of "truh" is pronounced just like in "try" - i.e. it sounds like a "ch."

    But you're not British, so that's interesting. :)
  10. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I am a dual citizen who spent the first half of my life in southern England and learnt that pronunciation, along with parquet and khaki like tomato :D There are only a few things that remain of my original accent and those are 4 of them!
  11. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    My pronunciation varies between that, and the standard "lit-er-ally".
  12. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    I think the voice in the link provided is over-enunciating, and the only circumstance in which I would pronounce all 4 syllables is if I were deliberatley over-enunciating. In everyday speech, I think most people use a 3-syllable "litrallee" - I certainly do.
  13. Ann O'Rack Senior Member

    UK English
    Indeed, liliput, very well put. I also would only use four syllables if I were duh-lib-rut-lee over-enunciating. Dropping one of a pair of unstressed schwas isn't rare at all, in relaxed spoken English (as in, general conversation).
  14. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    It has four distinct syllables for me and for many AE speakers, unless we are in one helluva hurry to get to the punch line.
  15. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    It's the same for me. There are four distinct syllables for me. Although they might get muddy if I'm in a hurry, the rhythm is still the same: Duh-duh-duh-Duh.
  16. Ann O'Rack Senior Member

    UK English
    I suspect that may be because of how you pronounce the first "t", guessing from your location. A BE accent would normally aspirate it (is that the correct term?) whereas a lot of AE accents pronounce it like a soft "d". (Sorry, don't know the terms for how the sounds differ). With the AE way of saying "t" in that word, it would actually (ac-cher-lee, a-cher-lee, or even ach-lee if you're being really lazy) be quite difficult to swallow the second syllable, whereas it's very easy to swallow if you have a BE "t".
  17. Judica Senior Member

    East Coast, US
    AE (US), Spanish (LatAm)
    LIT -ur- ah-ly.

    Since you are Hungarian - "liter - alli".

    If you say it fast, it will come out perfect with your accent.
  18. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    East Cornwall? ... no, South Lincolnshire ... or is it County Armagh? ... Caithness? ... okay, I give up.

    Definitely three syllables for me: LIT-ruh-li.

    (All three of those pronunciations at EE's link sound like robots to me, especially the two at the top, which sound like robots on speed.)
  19. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    See my post #5 above. The words you're looking for are "flap" and, yes, "aspirated." :)

    The main reason the BE "t" is aspirated is because the schwa vowel is dropped, thus resulting in a "tr" onset combination, i.e. "tr" as the first sound segment of a new syllable, just like the word "try," where the "t" is aspirated to give you a "ch" sound.

    In other words, the "t" is aspirated precisely because the schwa vowel is dropped, not the other way around, in my opinion! (But it could depend on the dialect.)
  20. Egoexpress

    Egoexpress Senior Member

    Hungary, Hungarian
    I wish there was a pronunciation function of the which would make the site even more complete!

    Thank you for your help anyway!

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