pronunciation: "uh" / "ih" reductions AE (America, crevice, perilous, etc.)

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Xerses

Member
Spanish - Spain
Hey!

I would like to know if in General American people are supposed to use the uh reduction in words like America: uh-ME-ruh-kuh.... or is it standard to pronounce it as uh-ME-rih-kuh? What is more spread?

Thing is, lately I've heard some people on TV say "crevice" as "KREH-vuhs" instead of "KREH-vihs" or "buh-FOR" instead of "bih-FOR" for "before"

Thanks!
 
  • Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    I'm not sure what is considered standard, but actual pronunciation depends on the person and the region. My pronunciation of "America" is probably like uh-ME-rih-kuh.
     

    Xerses

    Member
    Spanish - Spain
    Do you happen to know what regions use only the "uh" reduction? North, south, east, west....?
     

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    Sorry, I don't know.
    It is probably better to ask where a certain pronunciation is common, rather than where it is the only one used. Not everyone living in a certain place has the same pronunciation.
     

    Xerses

    Member
    Spanish - Spain
    I thought it could be a common feature belonging to a certain area of the USA, like the typical pronunciation of "high" in the South.
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    Some pronunciations are very specific to a region, but I don't think that's the case for something as subtle as that third syllable in America. With a lot of people, it's difficult to even say exactly how they're pronouncing it. I favor "uh-ME-rih-kuh" as a general rule, but even so, I couldn't swear that I never pronounce that 3rd syllable like "ruh" instead.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The unstressed i in Amerian English frequently goes all the way to a schwa (uh) while in British English, far less frequently, and the residual i has been called a schwi by some. I have heard the US national anthem sung hundreds of times since I moved to the US and only once have I heard the word "perilous" sung with a schwi. The syllables are usually separated and distinct as peh - ruh - luss. Many other words also go frequently to a schwa. In the word America, in contrast, the i more often stays as a schwi, but still often goes to a schwa. I've not noticed any regional variation in this...
     
    Last edited:

    Antoine Meyer

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Hey!

    I would like to know if in General American people are supposed to use the uh reduction in words like America: uh-ME-ruh-kuh.... or is it standard to pronounce it as uh-ME-rih-kuh? What is more spread?

    Thing is, lately I've heard some people on TV say "crevice" as "KREH-vuhs" instead of "KREH-vihs" or "buh-FOR" instead of "bih-FOR" for "before"

    Thanks!
    Which type of pronunciation is standard differs from word to word. "Uh-meruhkuh," "krevuhs," and "buh-for" are the standard pronunciations of "America," "crevice," and "before" respectively.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Which type of pronunciation is standard differs from word to word. "Uh-meruhkuh," "krevuhs," and "buh-for" are the standard pronunciations of "America," "crevice," and "before" respectively.
    I believe this claim to be incorrect. Aside from my own experience, the dictionary and the previous posts indicate the contrary.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    This is called the weak vowel merger in this Wikipedia article:
    The weak-vowel merger is a phonemic merger of /ə/ (schwa) with unstressed /ɪ/ (sometimes transcribed as /ɨ/ or /ᵻ/) in certain dialects of English. As a result of this merger the words abbot and rabbit rhyme; in accents without the merger they are distinct. The merger is nearly complete in the Southern Hemisphere accents and General American, and complete in Hiberno-English.
    They also mention how the vowel disappears altogether in Latin in General American, resulting in a syllabic /n/.
     
    Last edited:

    Antoine Meyer

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    I believe this claim to be incorrect. Aside from my own experience, the dictionary and the previous posts indicate the contrary.
    Which dictionary and claim are you referring to?

    The types of pronunciation of many words does differ: a large amount of English words are borrowed from various different languages, in all of which the standard pronunciation is different, and there are many words whose pronunciations are not anglicized. There are various other reasons why this claim is true.

    The pronunciations I found are certain to be correct because I found them from a very authoritative resource. You should have looked for the answer first instead of simply stating your opinion or information from resources that are not very reliable.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Which dictionary and claim are you referring to?

    The pronunciations I found are certain to be correct because I found them from a very authoritative resource. You should have looked for the answer first instead of simply stating your opinion or information from resources that are not very reliable.
    I apologise for not deleting the first line of the post I quoted. The claim I was referring to was the standard pronunciations of the words. The dictionary to which I was referring is this site's. Since we are actually an annex of the WordReference dictionary many of us don't bother to specifically mention this if we talk about "the dictionary" or "our dictionary. I will ignore for the second time your accusation that I am stating my unresearched opinion : it has not been the case either time.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I use four kinds of schwa sounds: /ə/, which some dictionaries confusingly call "ʌ" but is definitely not the "u" of "butt" (I think this is your "uh"); /ɘ/, which for me is almost /ɪ/ but not quite (I think this is your "ih"); /ə˞/, the well-known r-colored one always spelled as a vowel + r except for the a in comfortable and comfortably, and a special one /ɤ/ just for the last part of "ou" as in "house", the simultaneous vowel with a dark "l", and for the main vowel in a limited number of words ("one"/"won", "want", "wanton", but not in "wonder", "wonton").

    I don't generally mix these up, but I should mention I do use a rounded versions of "uh" and "ih" in certain environments. I say "KREH-vihs" (rounded "ih"), "bih-FOR" (rounded "ih"), "uh-MEHR-ih-kuh", "PEHR-ih-luhs" or "PEHR-l-uhs" (with a dark "l"), and "LAT-n".

    I sing "PEHR-ih-luhs" in the National Anthem (we learned it this way in school, with no particular meaning ascribed to it), but I say "PEHR-l-uhs" when I need an adjective based on "peril".
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Because of the weak vowel merger thing that natkretep referred to, there isn't any "supposed to" about this in many American regional dialects. Both pronunciations - the more "uh" sounding schwa and the more "ih" sounding schwa - are considered the same, so the same person might use one of them one time and another another time, and not even notice they are doing it. So you will definitely hear both, and many people will not notice they are different unless you point it out to them.

    Can happen with pretty much any schwa sound in any word, too. I hear "the" pronounced with both even in the same sentence by some of my neighbors. There's a third nearly nonexistent schwa sound (not sure if it is one of Forero's four or not) that is almost not even there, it's almost an omitted vowel sound; I heard this one often too is exchanged for the more audible uh and ih versions. Depends how fast the person is speaking and how clearly they are trying to enunciate vs how much of a hurry they are in to say what they're saying.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    My experience in "America" :D, okay, the USA, is like Truffula's in #16.

    If you are maybe singing "I Want To Live In America (West-Side Story)", instead of the Star-Spangled Banner, then it's a "rih" sound. ;)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    If you are maybe singing "I Want To Live In America (West-Side Story)", instead of the Star-Spangled Banner, then it's a "rih" sound. ;)
    That is typically sung in a Puerto Rican accent, though, and I think I hear 'ree' there together with the Spanish 'a' for the first and last syllables.
     
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