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    #1

    dessert, /ə/

    My OSX Lion built in OED is telling me: dessert |dəˈzərt|

    However, I think the first e in dessert is actually /ɪ/. Am I right/wrong?

    I understand /ə/ is the mid central vowel, and the way I remember the sound is with of /əv/.

    But just to be sure, can /ə/ be used to represent something else than this sound?, the mid central vowel.

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    #2

    Re: dessert, /ə/

    In many unstressed syllables there is wide variation between /ɪ/, /i/ and /ə/ . CPD gives both versions for dessert, LPD gives /i/ and /ə/.

    /i/ is the final vowel in happy.

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    #3

    Re: dessert, /ə/

    I am not sure I understand your reply and I think I am missing something crucial here.

    I know that /ɪ/ like in it, /i/ like in these and /ə/ are different phonemes, right?

    My current understanding is that all unstressed syllables are sounded like /ə/, the mid central vowel.

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    #4

    Re: dessert, /ə/

    Quote Originally Posted by pizza View Post
    I know that /ɪ/ like in 'it', /i/ like in 'these' X That one is /i:/ and /ə/ as in 'the'.are different phonemes, right? Yes

    My current understanding is that all unstressed syllables are sounded like /ə/, the mid central vowel.
    As you noted yourself, they are not, Vowels in syllables that bear neither primary nor secondary stress are commonly uttered as /ə/ but there are other 'weak vowels. The initial vowel of dessert, like the initial and final vowels of deserted may be pronounced as /ɪ/, /i/ (the happy vowel) and /ə/. To take another example: the vowel in the unstressed syllable I have underlined in the sentence below is often /u/ (not the stressed /u:/).

    I am going to Africa tomorrow.
    Last edited by 5jj; 14-Oct-2011 at 20:57.

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    #5

    Re: dessert, /ə/

    Forgive my lack of accuracy, I omitted the long vowels because the short counterpart seems to be less common in AmE, my OED dictionary ignores it anyway. Thanks for the fixes.

    Back to my question / statement: "My current understanding is that all unstressed syllables are sounded like /ə/, the mid central vowel." Clearly the answer is: No, given your example in which /u/ is the unstressed form of /u:/.

    Now, just to be sure beyond doubt, /ə/ is a distinct phoneme as described here and sounded like in the provided example, correct?

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    #6

    Re: dessert, /ə/

    Both /d/ and /s/ are alveolars. Therefore, your hearing /ɪ/, instead of a schwa, is reasonable. What is heard is not /ɪ/, but a high central vowel, which is between /i/ and /u/.

    Close central unrounded vowel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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    #7

    Re: dessert, /ə/

    How do I know to stress or 'unstress' a vowel?

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    #8

    Re: dessert, /ə/

    Quote Originally Posted by raindoctor View Post
    Both /d/ and /s/ are alveolars.
    That makes no difference. The same vowel is heard in, for example, before. For some speakers, that vowel is indeed /ɪ/.

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    #9

    Re: dessert, /ə/

    It is for Dictionary.com but I still prefer OED, that's why I asked here.

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    #10

    Re: dessert, /ə/

    Some dictionaries make finer distinctions than others. Of course, some dictionaries use different symbols, or use some symbols in different ways, so you always need to check their pronunciation key.

    When I comment on the pronunciation of a word in this forum, I always check my answer in both the LPD and CPD. These are very sound guides to the pronunciation of words in BrE and AmE, covering all commonly heard variations.

    Roach, Peter; Hartman, James and Setter, Jane (2003): Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary,(17th edn), Cambridge: CUP
    J C Wells (2008) Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd edn), Harlow: LongmanPearson

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