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  1. #1
    The apprentice is offline Member
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    Default Schwa sound in main verbs that also function as auxiliary verbs.

    Dear members and teachers:


    As to my knowledge, Schwa sound does not occur in verbs unless they are auxiliary verbs in a sentence. I would like to know why sometimes the verb TO BE is reduced to Schwa, even though it is acting as main verb. I find that TO BE is reduced to Schwa in these sentences.

    a) I am happy to hear about he. /əm/

    b) They were in the city for a tour. /r/

    c) She was the first to know it. /wəz/

    d) You are an English and Spanish teacher. r/

    1) In which cases does the verb TO BE has to be reduced to Schwa sound when it is not an auxiliary verb?


    Hoping for you assitance and help in this matter.

  2. #2
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    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Schwa sound in main verbs that also function as auxiliary verbs.

    Quote Originally Posted by The apprentice View Post
    Dear members and teachers:


    As to my knowledge, Schwa sound does not occur in verbs unless they are auxiliary verbs in a sentence. I would like to know why sometimes the verb TO BE is reduced to Schwa, even though it is acting as main verb. I find that TO BE is reduced to Schwa in these sentences.

    a) I am happy to hear about he. /əm/

    b) They were in the city for a tour. /r/

    c) She was the first to know it. /wəz/

    d) You are an English and Spanish teacher. r/

    1) In which cases does the verb TO BE has to be reduced to Schwa sound when it is not an auxiliary verb?


    Hoping for you assitance and help in this matter.
    I am not sure I understand your question, but I think I disagree with your statements.

    1. You will hear "am" pronounced as both "am" (as in yam) and "em" (as in hem).
    2. The pronunciation of "were" (as in "her") is not a schwa. It is normal.
    3. I don't often hear "was" pronounced with a short e sound. "Was" rhymes with "fuzz".
    4. I don't often here "are" pronounced with a short e sound. "Are" rhymes with "car".

    I am not proficient in phonetic symbols so I hope I have not misinterpreted your symbols.

  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Schwa sound in main verbs that also function as auxiliary verbs.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    1. You will hear "am" pronounced as both "am" (as in yam) and "em" (as in hem).
    In normal conversation in BrE, I am is contracted to I'm. If it is not contacted, am is normally pronounced as /əm/ unless it is stressed; when stressed, it is /æm/.We do not hear /em/ in BrE.
    2. The pronunciation of "were" (as in "her") is not a schwa. It is normal.
    That is not true of BrE. The normal pronunciation in conversation is /wə(r)/. We hear /wɜ:(r)/ only when the word is stressed.
    3. I don't often hear "was" pronounced with a short e sound. "Was" rhymes with "fuzz".
    Once again, this is not true of BrE. Was is normally pronounced /wəz/ (The schwa is not a 'short e'). When stressed, it is pronounced /wɒz/, which does not rhyme with fuzz in BrE.
    4. I don't often here "are" pronounced with a short e sound.
    As I said before, schwa is not a ''short e'.
    "Are" rhymes with "car".
    It does in BrE when stressed. Otherwise it is /ə(r)/.
    Quote Originally Posted by The apprentice View Post
    In which cases does the verb TO BE has have to be reduced to Schwa sound when it is not an auxiliary verb?
    BE never has to be contracted or pronounced with a schwa, but it normally is in everyday conversation, unless it is stressed.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Schwa sound in main verbs that also function as auxiliary verbs.

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    In normal conversation in BrE, I am is contracted to I'm. If it is not contacted, am is normally pronounced as /əm/ unless it is stressed; when stressed, it is /æm/.We do not hear /em/ in BrE.That is not true of BrE. The normal pronunciation in conversation is /wə(r)/. We hear /wɜ:(r)/ only when the word is stressed.Once again, this is not true of BrE. Was is normally pronounced /wəz/ (The schwa is not a 'short e'). When stressed, it is pronounced /wɒz/, which does not rhyme with fuzz in BrE. As I said before, schwa is not a ''short e'. It does in BrE when stressed. Otherwise it is /ə(r)/.BE never has to be contracted or pronounced with a schwa, but it normally is in everyday conversation, unless it is stressed.
    Somehow I knew BrE would be different.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Schwa sound in main verbs that also function as auxiliary verbs.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Somehow I knew BrE would be different.
    I stressed 'in BrE' in my post, because that is the variety I know best. However, I believe that what I wrote is true of many speakers of AmE. I have frequently heard contracted forms or schwa from the Americans that I know, and rarely heard, in normal conversation, the forms that you mentioned.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Schwa sound in main verbs that also function as auxiliary verbs.

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I stressed 'in BrE' in my post, because that is the variety I know best. However, I believe that what I wrote is true of many speakers of AmE. I have frequently heard contracted forms or schwa from the Americans that I know, and rarely heard, in normal conversation, the forms that you mentioned.
    And I hear them all the time. I respect your knowledge of phonetic symbols, but people argue about them. I was taught in a simpler fashion.

    "Was" as in fuzz or buzz.
    "Were" as in her or cur.

    That works in an environment in which everyone uses the same pronunciation. It is probably not the best.

    I agree with the schwa in "am", but I hear no change in "are" and "were", for example.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Schwa sound in main verbs that also function as auxiliary verbs.

    MikeNewYork.

    Thanks for replying.

    As far as my phonetics knowledge, FUZZ and BUZZ have the short ''u'' sound /ʌ/. I have also heard WAS pronounced with the short ''o'' sound /ɒ/, and when reduced, with the Schwa /ə/, but I do not disregard that WAS can be pronounced with a short ''u'' sound too.

    This is the short ''e'' sound
    /ɛ/ as in SEND; TENDER;

    In my country - Dominican Republic -, due to geographical position, american English (AmE) is predominant.
    Last edited by The apprentice; 13-Feb-2014 at 04:06.

  8. #8
    The apprentice is offline Member
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    Default Re: Schwa sound in main verbs that also function as auxiliary verbs.

    Dear 5jj:


    Very good your explanation, but please, may you teach me in which sort of sentences I should reduced the verb TO BE to the Schwa sound?

    I would - as always -appreciate your assistance and help.


    My best regards.
    Last edited by The apprentice; 13-Feb-2014 at 04:06.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Schwa sound in main verbs that also function as auxiliary verbs.

    Quote Originally Posted by The apprentice View Post
    MikeNewYork.

    Thanks for replying.

    As far as my phonetics knowledge, FUZZ and BUZZ have the short ''u'' sound /ʌ/. I have also heard WAS pronounced with the short ''o'' sound /ɒ/, and when reduced, with the Schwa /ə/, but I do not disregard that WAS can be pronounced with a short ''u'' sound too.

    This is the short ''e'' sound
    /ɛ/ as in SEND; TENDER;

    In my country - Dominican Republic -, due to geographical position, american English (AmE) is predominant.
    Thanks for the explanation. As I said, phonetic symbols mean little to me.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Schwa sound in main verbs that also function as auxiliary verbs.

    Quote Originally Posted by The apprentice View Post
    may can you teach me in which sort of sentences I should reduced the verb TO BE to the Schwa sound?
    As I have already said, BE never has to be contracted or pronounced with a schwa, but it normally is in everyday conversation, unless it is stressed.

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