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Unstressed Syllables, Schwa and Syllabic Consonants

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1 Unstressed Syllables, Schwa and Syllabic Consonants

2 Unstressed Syllables Weak (reduced) vowel → shorter, weaker in energy and closer to schwa /ә/ in place of articulation Vowels of weak syllables: Schwa /ә/ /i/ (finally or before a vowel): happy, react /ɪ/ (before a consonant): panic, elect /(j)u/ (before a vowel or before a a stressed syllable): intuition, regulate, united /(j)ʊ/ (before a consonant plus an unstressed syllable): stimulus, soluble No vowel, just a syllabic sonorant /m n l r/: final, recent /ɪ/ and /ʊ/ may also function as full vowels

3 Unstressed Syllables Before the stressed syllable: never more than 2 weak syllables e.g. if the stressed syllable is the fourth syllable: justifi'cation halluci'nation After the stressed syllable: may be 3 weak syllables (in words with certain endings) e.g.: candidacy impenetrable harvest, biggest, family Weak vowels: often free variation

4 Schwa No prevocalic schwa in English Preconsonantal schwa Often interchangable with /i/ (spelling: usually /i/ or /e/ not followed by r) Word-initial schwa: a- or o- Word-final schwa – almost /ʌ/

5 Syllabic Consonants Schwa followed by a sonorant (/n, l/ and less frequently /m, ŋ, r/) → /ә/ often drops out → the sonorant becomes syllabic [l] [n] [r] Word-final pedal, quarrel button, dozen (not possible) Preconson.: bottled, penalty hadn’t, certainly (rare:) literal [ -r l] Prevocalic crystallize, traveller listening, definition cigarette, cemetery

6 Syllabic Consonants Syllabic /l/: always dark
Examples with syllabic [m]: prism, handsome Examples with syllabic [ŋ]: bacon, we can go Syllabic: acts as the “vowel” of the syllable Only occur in unstressed syllables How are syllabic consonants indicated in transcription?

7 Sources Baloghné Bérces Katalin, Szentgyörgyi Szilárd. Az angol nyelv kiejtése -The Pronunciation of English. Available from: Kreidler, Charles W. The Pronunciation of English: A Course Book in Phonology. Oxford; Cambridge: Blackwell, 1999. BBC Learning English webpage Nádasdy, Ádám. Practice Book in English Phonetics and Phonology. Budapest: Nemzeti Tankönyvkiadó, 2003.

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