pronunciation: strong and weak forms

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Art Kelly, Oct 14, 2007.

  1. Art Kelly Senior Member

    Costa Rica
  2. Art Kelly Senior Member

    Costa Rica
    I know that there are strong forms and weak forms for some English words. However, I don't know when I should speak saying a strong form or weak form for those words.

    Does anyone any advice?
  3. Christhiane Senior Member

    Simply put, the weak forms are generally used, unless you want to ephasise something. The forms are always strong at the end of phrases, except if it is a pronoun.

    'That' used as a demonstrative pronoun (e.g., that house) is generally weak, otherwise you use the strong form.

    This is a complex issue with exceptions, so what I've written above is just general guidelines.
  4. Art Kelly Senior Member

    Costa Rica
    Thank you Christhiane. I also think it should be complicated.
  5. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Apparently, this is an issue of pronunciation and not dealing with strong and weak verbs.

    As an aside, neither my wife nor as lifelong native (AE) speakers recall having been taught "strong" or "weak" in terms other than conjugation of verbs, which is why I was mystified by the Cambridge links.

    Note, however, that our university studies were in the colonies, as well as back in the previous millennium.
  6. Christhiane Senior Member

    If you have phonetics, you will learn about it. As a non-native speaker majoring in English the Univerity of Oslo, I had to take phonetics since it is required as to ensure that you know how to pronounce things propperly, this includes learning everything from when to use voiced s's and to the general tones.
  7. Heilagr New Member

    Polish - modern dialect (West)
    From what I know, the most common rule concerning when to use the stong forms, is: when the word is stressed. It occures naturally if the word is of any interest for you, if it carries the meaning of the sentence, if it's emphasised.
    Emaple with the verb "have":
    It has a strong form if it's an important, stressed verb itself (indicates posession), and not an auxiliary (helping) verb, used eg. when building past participle.
    I don't HAVE a car, I'm PLANNING TO buy one. - strong form (stressed)
    I think I have seen it before. - weak form (the actual verb is "to see", "have" is only a helping verb in the Present Perfect)
  8. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    It’s normally the words that carry information which are stressed (strong forms), all the other ones are ‘packed’ (weak forms) while people pronounce them.

    Due to the fact that English is a stress-timed language, i.e. its stressed words are at approximately even intervals, content words are stressed and function words are not.
    Content words are those which convey meaning, these are: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, numerals, negative forms, interrogative, demonstrative, possessive, emphatic and indefinite pronouns, and interjections.
    Functional words are those which have no meaning or whose meaning is ambiguous, they serve very often a grammatical function, these are: articles, auxiliary verbs, monosylabic conjunctions and prepositions, personal, rlative, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns.

    Since the function words aren’t stressed, because they lead to the other words, content ones which are stressed, English speakers have started to pronounce them quickly which resuls in weak forms, i.e. forms which are a sort of abbreviated pronunciaiton of the full pronunciation, i.e. strong form. It is also interesting to note that function words have often a few weak forms, for instance, ‘have’ has the following weak forms: [h3v], [3v], [v] (3 stands for shwa). These are often contingent upon the surrounding sounds.

    I can imagine your problem with that, being a speaker whose mother tongue is syllable-timed, we have a great deal of trouble getting to grips with the pronunciation of a stress-timed language. Usually, telegram type of senteces are used to make it easier to learn a stress-timed pronuntiation. Here’s an example from the book I used to learn English pronuntiation:
    I shall be arriving at Banford station on Saturday at noon. Please can you meet me? With love from Jane.

    Also note that, as it has been already said, it is also possible to stress functional words especially when you want to emphasise them.
  9. zoltankr Member

    Hi, could you please tell me how Americans pronounce the 'are' in 'How are you'? Do they use the weak /ər/ (schwa + r) sound or the strong /ɑr/ sound? Any suggestion appreciated. Thank you!
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014
  10. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    In a simple greeting, the weak form. There are contexts where the strong form would be used, to emphasize the word.
  11. zoltankr Member

    Thank you. I'm not sure if I understand correctly, are linking verbs used with weak form and auxiliary verbs with strong form?
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014

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