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Thread: ɪ vs i

  1. #1
    keannu's Avatar
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    ɪ vs i

    I know that "ɪ" as in "it[ɪt]" is a relaxed sound with lips, tongue, teeth all relaxed, so it sounds between "i"and "e". while "i" as in "eat[i:t]" is a tensed sound.
    But sometimes when I hear native speakers pronounce some "ɪ"s, there doesn't seem to be any difference between the two. So does it all depend on individual difference or something?

  2. #2
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    Re: ɪ vs i

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    I know that "ɪ" as in "it[ɪt]" is a relaxed sound with lips, tongue, teeth all relaxed, so it sounds between "i"and "e". while "i" as in "eat[i:t]" is a tensed sound.
    But sometimes when I hear native speakers pronounce some "ɪ"s, there doesn't seem to be any difference between the two. So does it all depend on individual difference or something?
    (Seem to whom? Anyone's ability to hear a difference depends on training. A native speaker's training is informal, but a young child learning its mother tongue learns not to be able to hear phonetic distinctions that have no phonemic relevance to what they're learning (the mother tongue). It is possible to unlearn this programmed obliviousness, but not many people do.

    b
    Last edited by BobK; 05-Dec-2012 at 15:26. Reason: Original was a bit too gnomic - well ICONIC

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: ɪ vs i

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Anyone's ability to hear a difference depends on training.
    Among other things- I would add age to this. In Khmer, they have three letter Ks, each with its own sound, but they all sounded the same to me. (I repeat myself)

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    Re: ɪ vs i

    I saw this response in another thread. No, it's because you didn't pay full attention to each of those - there must be differences among the three. I think everyone has difficulty understanding foreign languages' pronunciation.

    Back to my original question, I was wondering if native speakers switch ɪ and i sometimes, but it seems I still haven't got the answer or maybe I'm not still perfectly trained to distinguish the two.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: ɪ vs i

    The fact that there are differences does not mean that they are capable of being distinguished by a learner of a certain age. Attention is not the problem when you're fifty- I had my teacher say the sounds over and over and could not hear the difference.

    Please don't expect me to participate in any more of your threads.

  6. #6
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: ɪ vs i

    I know of no native speakers who do not distinguish between these two sounds.

  7. #7
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    Re: ɪ vs i

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    I saw this response in another thread. No, it's because you didn't pay full attention to each of those - there must be differences among the three. I think everyone has difficulty understanding foreign languages' pronunciation.

    Back to my original question, I was wondering if native speakers switch ɪ and i sometimes, but it seems I still haven't got the answer or maybe I'm not still perfectly trained to distinguish the two.
    Probably the latter. There may be dialects that fail to distinguish these sounds, but I find that improbable; I've certainly never been aware of one ... although 'turnips' are 'neeps' in Scotland.

    But it's not a question of lack of attention as you suggest. When Tdol says 'In Khmer, they have three letter Ks, each with its own sound...' he's over-simplifying a bit: 'In Khmer, they have three unvoiced velar and alveolar stops, each with its own sound'? But I'm sure he knows what he means, and is the best judge of what degree of simplification is appropriate here.

    b

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    raindoctor is offline Member
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    Re: ɪ vs i

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    I know that "ɪ" as in "it[ɪt]" is a relaxed sound with lips, tongue, teeth all relaxed, so it sounds between "i"and "e". while "i" as in "eat[i:t]" is a tensed sound.
    But sometimes when I hear native speakers pronounce some "ɪ"s, there doesn't seem to be any difference between the two. So does it all depend on individual difference or something?
    With a fixed jaw setting, yes, /ɪ/ is half-way between /i/ and /ə/. Yes, the tongue is relaxed. French /i/ is more tensed than English /i/. French /i/ is closer to the cardinal vowel 1. The tensing/relaxing has to do with inferior longitudinal muscles, since we are talking about the upper half of the vowel space with a fixed jaw setting. Henry Sweet talks about this tense-relax distinction between /i/ and /ɪ/.

    I don't know how to relax teeth. The way you use lips and/or buccinator muscle changes the vowel quality: IPA vowel chart does not capture all these differences except for back rounded (protruded lips) and front rounded (compressed lips).

    Unstressed /ɪ/'s vowel quality (happy lexical set) is not same as that of KIT lexical set. There are many variables at play because 'speech' is not a string of idealized sounds. One way to discuss these things is to capture the speech sample you are interested in, then you can ask the same questions.
    Last edited by raindoctor; 06-Dec-2012 at 18:38.

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    Joe Rodrigues is offline Newbie
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    Re: ɪ vs i

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    sometimes when I hear native speakers pronounce some "ɪ"s, there doesn't seem to be any difference between the two.
    Can you hear and produce the difference between "pit" and "peat", "sit" and "seat", "chip" and "cheap"?

    I know two situations where native speakers will confuse the two.

    First, at the end of a word in an unstressed syllable, like "happy". In BrE and sometimes in New England dialects, we say /ɪ/, otherwise it's /i/.

    When I (from Maine) say "she's got a pretty face," "pretty face" is [prɪtɪ feɪs].

    Second, some American West-Coast accents pronounce /ɪŋ/ as [iŋ]. There are no /iŋ/ words in English, but if there were, they would become homophones with words like "sing" or "king."

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    Re: ɪ vs i

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Rodrigues View Post
    I know two situations where native speakers will confuse the two.

    First, at the end of a word in an unstressed syllable, like "happy". In BrE and sometimes in New England dialects, we say /ɪ/, otherwise it's /i/.

    When I (from Maine) say "she's got a pretty face," "pretty face" is [prɪtɪ feɪs].
    Native speakers do not confuse the two sounds. We always distinguish between 'pit' and 'peat' - which does not mean that we all pronounce those two distinct words in the same way. My 'peat' may sound a little like someone else's 'pit', but it will still be different from my 'pit'.The sound at the end of 'happy' is different again. Different speakers may produce this in a variety of ways. Some speakers may produce it with the 'peat' vowel, usually shortened, others with the 'pit vowel'.
    Last edited by 5jj; 13-Dec-2012 at 12:51.

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