No, MW does not use the IPA. The schwa however means the same as in IPA, the only difference being that it's also used for the vowel in cut, tough etc.Anyhow, I like a schwa to have its traditional sound. But M-W might not even be using IPA. Perhaps it's an American schwa?
Here's their pronunciation guide. [PDF]
The schwa, before being an IPA symbol, is a letter from the Latin alphabet.
MW uses other letters from that alphabet, like /ä/ [IPA:ɑ] or /ü/ [IPA:u] that the IPA doesn't use (or, in /ä/'s case, uses the two points above the a to indicate that it's a central vowel) .
I have another problem with these sounds. I can't say fast such combinations of the words where one word ends with "th" and the other starts with "s". It just makes my tongue go crazy, it can't move so fast Any advice?
2006: I know I am being pessimistic, but I will practice the sounds. I have lived in America for over five years and I have spoken English the entire time so I am just starting to feel that this sound is not one that I am physically able to make. I have the same problem with the rolling "R" in Italian. I have had to accept that, in my case, a regular "R" will have to do.
But I am not giving up on my English yet. I know there are many foreign teachers at the universities here, and that their English isn't always perfect, but I would like to be able to set a good example for my students even though English is not my subject.
TheNewOne: If you read the first couple of posts in this thread I think that you will find some really good tips on how to pronounce the "th" followed by an "s." If you are having problems with the "th" sound by itself, then I would suggest that you practice that first and move on to words like "months" after you feel that you have mastered words like "the."
If you need help with the phonetic spellings you can use this link to wikipedia:
International Phonetic Alphabet chart for English dialects - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I have read the whole thread and it did help me with this months thing because I have problems with this word as well, but my problem is that I can't pronounce 2 different words fast when it comes to combination of th+s or s+th. My tongue makes a little pause before I say the next word...maybe it's ok and I shouldn't pay attention to this "problem"?
I think my /θ/ and /ð/ sound OK
I use IPA Typewriter
It sounds like we have the same problem then. Although I will still practice getting the sound right I am just going to say "munce" instead of "months" as someone suggested here. For me, that is the easiest way to fake it.
If I slow my speach down enough I can get the sound right (like you) but this just sounds too strange when I am having a conversation.
But if you can speak Russian, I am sure that your tongue will eventually get it right. Personally, I can't imagine speaking any language as fast as Russian sounds to me.
Let us just be thankful that we can both pronounce /θ/ and /ð/ okay. Those sounds are hard for many people who speak English as a foreign language.
Other than that all we can do is practice. If you don't have any native speakers to practice with, you can try finding someone on Skype and video chat with them.
When you say 'munce', you are not faking it - you are getting it right!