pronunciation: tern -- cistern [stressed/unstressed -er]?

Hi everyone,

Although I’m well over the age limit for a competitive ‘phonetic gymnast’, I’d like to know how a native speaker differentiates the pronouncing nuance between the following pair of words:

tern/cis-tern

Both the –er parts are ‘/ər/’s, to stress the former and stress not the latter, so there’s no need to use a ‘tense’ vowel (like /ɜːr/) for the former?

By the way, I think there’re two things about pronouncing a sound, the one is duration, and the other intensity (pitch or stress). Can I (used to be a number-lover) get an X-Y chart for every sound? Thanks for any comment.

Atom 2013-09-19
 
  • Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo, Loaf.

    My impression is that in RP (Received Pronounciation) the two words contain vowels which differentiate for
    1. quality
    2. quantity (length):

    /tɜːn ˈsɪstə(r)n/

    The fact that the first word is monosyllabic has no influence on the length of the vowel. Think of girl, bird, urn, turn, burn, etc., all with a long /ɜː/.

    GS
     
    Last edited:

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Loafaway - When asking about pronunciation, it is important to be aware that this varies by region. It is often the case that American English is different from, e.g. the English of England.

    Although se16teddy pronounces 'tern' exactly like 'ton', this is not the case for American speakers - they would pronounce the two words very differently from one another. This is mainly because AE is rhotic speech (they sound the letter 'r' in the middle of words) whereas most English speech is non-rhotic. Note that in Scotland the speech is mostly rhotic.

    For this reason, you should always specify which version of English you wish to learn. You may be interested in this article:

    Choosing between American and British pronunciation

    by Tomasz P. Szynalski
    http://www.antimoon.com/how/pronunc-american-british.htm
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I think I pronounce the second syllable of cistern exactly as a I pronounce ton.
    Does this mean that your cistern rhymes with piston?

    Or do you mean ton​ as the unit of weight? (That would sound a little strange to me.)
    This is mainly because AE is rhotic speech (they sound the letter 'r' in the middle of words)
    There is non-rhotic AmE speech too - eg Boston, working class New York, Southern, traditional African American.
     
    Last edited:

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Last edited:

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo.

    "Yes, for me cistern rhymes with Histon, piston... "

    Which means that, at least as far as this type of words is concerned, se16's pronunciation — exactly like mine — is traditional RP.

    GS
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hullo.

    "Yes, for me cistern rhymes with Histon, piston... "

    Which means that, at least as far as this type of words is concerned, se16's pronunciation — exactly like mine — is traditional RP.

    GS
    Well yes, but I don't think any amount of repetition will help Loafaway. :) We haven't heard which version of English Loafaway wishes to learn. Also we haven't heard from any AE speakers.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In 'standard' AE the sounds would be as follows:

    \stərn\

    \'sis-tərn\
    [As you can see, the 'r' is pronounced and the stress is on the first syllable.]
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo.

    When I wrote /tɜːn ˈsɪstə(r)n/, the (r) was meant to represent the presence of "r" in GA rhotic pronunciation.

    GS :)

    Loaf, do you mean "tern" (the seabird) or "stern" (the adjective)?
     
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