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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    Can /ɪ/ and /ə/ be used interchangeably in unstressed syllables?

    E.g. "believe", "delete", "define"....I looked up the word "define" in dictionaries. One says /də-'fain/, the other one says /dɪ-'fain/. So, can I use either /ɪ/ or /ə/ for these words ? I tried listening to speakers, but the unstressed syllable is pronounced so fast; sometimes, it's hard to tell which one.

  2. Piscean's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Can /ɪ/ and /ə/ be used interchangeably in unstressed syllables?

    You can.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 26-May-2017 at 08:26.

  3. Skrej's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Can /ɪ/ and /ə/ be used interchangeably in unstressed syllables?

    It very common for the vowels in the unstressed syllables in English to revert to the /ə/, which is known as a schwa. This is especially true when speaking rapidly.

    It's critical that you have the correct vowel sound in a stressed syllable (in terms of comprehension), but if your unstressed syllable vowels are a little off, it doesn't make as much difference for this reason.

    English is stress-timed, meaning the stressed syllables are uttered at roughly equal intervals, and the unstressed syllables are shortened to maintain that pacing. One way we shorten them is to revert to a schwa vowel, because it's short and quick to utter.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

  4. CommuniKate's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Can /ɪ/ and /ə/ be used interchangeably in unstressed syllables?

    That's an interesting question. I don't think so. Is there an example you're thinking of?

  5. VIP Member
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    #5

    Re: Can /ɪ/ and /ə/ be used interchangeably in unstressed syllables?

    They can (such as in the examples you give -- delete/define/believe) but not always.

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