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  1. #1
    Aivaras is offline Newbie
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    Default Pronunciation of were (where)

    Could you comment this?

    were /wɜr; unstressed wər; Brit. also wɛər/
    where /ʰwɛər, wɛər/
    dictionary.reference.com

    In other words, can "were" be pronounced like "where"? In what cases?
    Is it an error? Or is it a matter of prescriptive/descriptive use of English?

  2. #2
    2006 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of were (where)

    Quote Originally Posted by Aivaras View Post
    Could you comment on this?

    were /wɜr; unstressed wər; Brit. also wɛər/
    where /ʰwɛər, wɛər/
    dictionary.reference.com

    In other words, can "were" be pronounced like "where"? not as far as I'm concerned
    The "w" and the "wh" have different pronunciations, and the "ere" pronunciations are different in the two words.

    "were" rhymes with 'fur' and 'stir'.
    "where" rhymes with 'there' and 'fair'.

    "where" is often pronounced the same as 'wear', but that is a lazy nonstandard pronunciation.
    2006

  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of were (where)

    2006: The "w" and the "wh" have different pronunciations
    5jj: This is true in a number of dialects, but most speakers begin both words with the same /w/

    2006: "where" is often pronounced the same as 'wear', but that is a lazy nonstandard pronunciation.
    5jj: I don't think many people would agree with that opinion these days.

  4. #4
    Aivaras is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of were (where)

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    In other words, can "were" be pronounced like "where"? not as far as I'm concerned
    The "w" and the "wh" have different pronunciations, and the "ere" pronunciations are different in the two words."were" rhymes with 'fur' and 'stir'.
    "where" rhymes with 'there' and 'fair'.

    "where" is often pronounced the same as 'wear', but that is a lazy nonstandard pronunciation.
    I was sure that the pronunciation of "where" and "wear" is the same (at least for EFL speakers)... My question was about pronouncing "were" the same as "where" (I know the standard difference fir/fair etc.). When does it happen? If it does...

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of were (where)

    Quote Originally Posted by Aivaras View Post
    My question was about pronouncing "were" the same as "where" (I know the standard difference fir/fair etc.). When does it happen? If it does...
    In Liverpool there is no contrast between // and /ɜː/. The phoneme produced in that part of England is close to [śː]

  6. #6
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of were (where)

    2006, merging "wh" and "w" is not nonstandard.

  7. #7
    thatone is offline Member
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of were (where)

    * On the were-where issue
    From Wikipedia:
    The square-nurse merger is a merger of /ɜː(r)/ with /ɛə(r)/ that occurs in some accents (for example Liverpool, Dublin, and Belfast) that makes homophonous pairs such as fur/fair, spur/spare, and curd/cared.
    It is possible that the merger is found in at least some varieties of African American Vernacular English.
    ...
    Labov (1994) also reports such a merger in some western parts of the United States 'with a high degree of r constriction.'
    So the standard pronunciation of were is /wɚ/ and where is /weɚ/ (using rhotic IPA). Pronouncing them the same is dialectal.

    * On the /w/ - /hw/ issue
    Again from Wikipedia

    The wine-whine merger is a merger by which voiceless /hw/ is reduced to voiced /w/.
    ...
    The merger is essentially complete in England, Wales, the West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and is widespread in the United States and Canada.
    ...
    According to Labov, Ash, and Boberg (2006: 49),[2] while there are regions of the U.S. (particularly in the Southeast) where speakers keeping the distinction are about as numerous as those having the merger, there are no regions where the preservation of the distinction is predominant. Throughout the U.S. and Canada, about 83% of respondents in the survey had the merger completely, while about 17% preserved at least some trace of the distinction.
    ...
    While some RP speakers still use /hw/, most accents of England, Wales, West Indies and the southern hemisphere have only /w/.
    Therefore pronouncing them differently is dialectal/characteristic of a conservative dialect.

    Also as a pedantic side note, there's no such thing as /ɜr/ or /ər/ in English. There's either /ɜ:/ and /ə/ for non-rhotic dialects or /əɹ/ - /ɚ/ for rhotic ones (/ɝ/ can also be used for a stressed /ɚ/, but it's technically incorrect since /ɜ/ doesn't really exist in rhotic dialects, except for when it replaces /ʌ/)
    Last edited by thatone; 20-Feb-2011 at 14:42.

  8. #8
    2006 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of were (where)

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    2006, merging "wh" and "w" is not nonstandard.
    That's a matter of opinion.
    In standard pronunciation 'weather' and 'whether' are different, and students should be aware of that.
    Last edited by 2006; 20-Feb-2011 at 19:32.

  9. #9
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of were (where)

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    That's a matter of opinion.
    In standard pronunciation 'weather' and 'whether' are different, and students should be aware of that.
    It is a matter of opinion, but major dictionaries have an opinion different from yours. AH, MW, Collins, OALD all give the pronunciation you call nonstandard (none of them calls it nonstandard) and two of them (the British ones) give only this one.
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 20-Feb-2011 at 19:45.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of were (where)

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    That's a matter of opinion.
    In standard pronunciation 'weather' and 'whether' are different, and students should be aware of that.
    NO.

    BC is correct.

    As thatone showed, "pronouncing them differently is dialectal/characteristic of a conservative dialect."

    I'll add another voice:

    "WH

    … the pronunciation is most cases is w, as in white waɪt. An alternative pronunciation, depending on regional, social and stylistic factors, is hw, thus hwait. This h pronunciation is usual in Scottish and Irish English, and decreasingly so in AmE, but not otherwise. (Among those who pronounce simple w, the pronunciation with hw tends to be considered ‘better’, and so is used by some people in formal styles only). Learners of EFL are recommended to use plain w."

    Wells, J C, (2008), Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd edn), Harlow: PearsonLongman.

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