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  1. #1
    post is offline Newbie
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    Default "ə" used for two different voices, why?

    Hi

    For a long time I have had a problem with letter "ə" and now found a word suitable for the purpose of this question. Check the word "Cinema" at MW or OALD:

    merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cinema
    oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/cinema

    Both of them give this Phoneticfor it: \ˈsi-nə-mə\ . From what I hear I am certain that "ə" shouldn't be used twice. One of these "ə"s must be replaced with anther phonetic letter because the audio says differently.

    Am I the only person that hears 2 different sounds here?

    Please somebody relieve me by either telling me that they have the same problem or give me an explanation that explain it.

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: "ə" used for two different voices, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by post View Post
    For a long time I have had a problem with letter "ə"
    Your problem appears to be with the sound(s) represented by the symbol /ə/
    Check the word "Cinema" at MW or OALD
    Both of them give this Phonetic for it: \ˈsi-nə-mə\ . From what I hear I am certain that "ə" shouldn't be used twice. One of these "ə"s must be replaced with anther phonetic letter because the audio says differently.

    Am I the only person that hears 2 different sounds here?
    The second sound is marginally different from the first, but both sounds fall well within the range of /ə/

    Standard BrE vowels and diphthongs are represented by twelve phonemic and three or four non-phonemic single symbols for vowels, and eight or nine double symbols for diphthongs. AmE requires fewer symbols.

    There is an almost infinite number of slight variations in each sound, most of which cannot be detected by the untrained ear. To take one simple example the /i:/ sound heard in bead is longer than that heard in beat in the speech of most speakers, but my beat may be longer than your bead.

    A trained phonetician making a narrow transcription of the two schwa sounds in cinema might use two different symbols, or at least add subscript or superscript symbols. For most students, learners and users of dictionaries, one symbol per phoneme is sufficient.

  3. #3
    post is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: "ə" used for two different sounds, why?

    Thanks fivejedjon

    Does this mean that even if I fully learned phonetic I would still need hearing the word and cannot rely on my judgment on interpreting the phonetic?

    To explain my question lets say I have never heard of the word "Cinema" and try to figure out its pronouciation just by studying the phonetic. It is possible that I assume that the second /ə/ has the exact same sound as the first one which in this case I believe that my pronouciation would be completely out of range of "acceptable". Am I right?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: "ə" used for two different sounds, why?

    If you pronounced the second schwa exactly the same as the first, it would be perfectly acceptable. That is why the dictionaries note it that way.

    When I wrote, "The second sound is marginally different from the first" I was merely confirming your impression of what you heard in those recordings. I certainly did not mean to imply that those were the absolutely correct versions that you must imitate perfectly in order to speak correct English.

    My wife two children, some of my colleagues and I all think that we say the word in the same way with two identical schwas. A trained phonetician, particularly if s/he used a spectogram, would be able to discern slight differences.

  5. #5
    thatone is offline Member
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    Default Re: "ə" used for two different sounds, why?



    Used the first sample here. Obviously nothing ultra-accurate.

  6. #6
    post is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: "ə" used for two different voices, why?

    Well, good news for me.

    Apparently I am not the only one who hears different sounds here. Collins English Dictionary believes that the phonetic should be: [ˈsɪnɪmə]
    as it is understood from Collins the sound after "n" is definitly different from the one after "m".

    From this address: thefreedictionary DOT com/cinema (scroll down a bit)

  7. #7
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    Default Re: "ə" used for two different voices, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by post View Post
    Apparently I am not the only one who hears different sounds here.
    I didn't say you were. I said in my post, "The second sound is marginally different from the first".
    Collins English Dictionary believes that the phonetic should be: [ˈsɪnɪmə] as it is understood from Collins the sound after "n" is definitely different from the one after "m".
    There is no 'definitely' about it, as far as the accepted pronunciations of the word are concerned.

    Both John Wells and Roach et al give the main pronunciation "(recommended as a model for learners of English)" as /ˈsI-nə-mə/, with /I/ as an alternative for the first schwa, and /ɑː/ as an alternative for the second.
    Fifty years ago, Gimson did the same.

    For those who pronounce the first letter e as/I/, those who pronounce the second letter e as /ɑː/, and those who do both, then clearly the sounds are different. For those who pronounce the two es as /ə/, the sound may or may not be practically identical.


    Jones, Daniel (1917), Everyman's English Pronouncing Dictionary [13th edition (1967) revised by A C Gimson], London: Dent.
    Jones, Daniel, (1917), English Pronouncing Dictionary [16th edition (2003), edited by Roach, Peter, Hartman James, & Setter, Jane], Cambridge: CUP
    Wells, J C (1990) Longman Pronunciation Dictionary [3rd edition (2008), Harlow: Pearson Longman.

  8. #8
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: "ə" used for two different voices, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    ...
    Jones, Daniel (1917), Everyman's English Pronouncing Dictionary [13th edition (1967) revised by A C Gimson], London: Dent.
    Jones, Daniel, (1917), English Pronouncing Dictionary [16th edition (2003), edited by Roach, Peter, Hartman James, & Setter, Jane], Cambridge: CUP
    Wells, J C (1990) Longman Pronunciation Dictionary [3rd edition (2008), Harlow: Pearson Longman.
    In the fulness of time (no rush) could you start review threads for those two?

    b

  9. #9
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    Default Re: "ə" used for two different voices, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by post View Post
    Well, good news for me.

    Apparently I am not the only one who hears different sounds here. Collins English Dictionary believes that the phonetic should be: [ˈsɪnɪmə]
    as it is understood from Collins the sound after "n" is definitly different from the one after "m".

    From this address: thefreedictionary DOT com/cinema (scroll down a bit)
    Yes, the sounds are different the way I say them.
    Be aware that MW doesn't use the IPA system. The schwa does have more than one sound in their phonetic system.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: "ə" used for two different voices, why?

    Incidentally, post, I think in your title you may mean '"ə" used for two different syllables, why?'. People have voices; words don't.

    b

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