ən ɪˈkɒnəmɪst | ɪz ə ˈpɜːsn̩ hul ˈnəʊ təˈmɒrəʊ | ˈwaɪ ðə ˈθɪŋz i prɪˈdɪktɪd ˈjestədeɪ | ˈdɪdn̩ ˈhæpən təˈdeɪ
Key at bottom of page.
an: When unstressed, as it usually is, the indefinite article an has the weak form /ən/.
person: Phonemically, the final syllable of person is /ən/. When this syllable is preceded by /s/, however, the schwa /ə/ often isn't pronounced. Instead the articulators move directly from the position for /s/ to the position for /n/. This is relatively easy to do because /s/ is a fricative, a category of sound which involves making a very narrow stricture in the vocal tract. It is possible, therefore, for the articulators to move from such a position to the complete closure required for /n/ (accompanied by the lowering of the soft palate to allow air to escape out through the nose) without passing through the position for a vowel and thereby avoiding an intervening schwa /ə/.
Note that in English, syllabic /n/ is not a phoneme in its own right, but merely a special way of realising the syllable /ən/. This means that when we use a special symbol [n̩] for it in transcription, it makes our transcription non-phonemic (because we are now using more than one symbol for each phoneme and introducing a special symbol to show a particular phonetic detail).
who’ll: The symbol u represents the same vowel phoneme as the symbol uː. We use u in unstressed syllables and uː in stressed syllables. This distinction isn't very helpful for TEFL purposes and learners should simply treat the two symbols as the same. Because we are using two different symbols for one phoneme, this means our transcription isn't truly phonemic (phonemic transcription = one symbol for each phoneme).
When unstressed, as it usually is, the modal verb will has the form /l/ when it is preceded by who. This weak form combines with who to form the contraction who’ll /huːl/ when who is stressed and /(h)ul/ when who is unstressed (note that the version without /h/ is only possible when who is a relative pronoun).
the: When unstressed, as it usually is, the definite article the has the weak form /ðə/ when the following word begins with a consonant.
things: Plural s has three pronunciations depending on the sound at the end of the noun:
- /ɪz/ after /s z ʃ ʒ ʧ ʤ/
- /s/ after the remaining voiceless consonants
- /z/ after vowels and the remaining voiced consonants.
The same pattern applies to third person singular s, possessive s and the contraction of is.
he: When unstressed, as it usually is, and not immediately preceded by a pause, he has the weak form /i/. After a pause, unstressed he is pronounced /hi/ (e.g. He knows he did it. /hi ˈnəʊz i ˈdɪd ɪt/ He said he could. /hi ˈsed i ˈkʊd/ He thought he was. /hi ˈθɔːt i ˈwɒz/).
predicted: When a word begins with the unstressed prefix pre-, it can be pronounced /prɪ/, /prə/ or /pri/. When dictionaries such as the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.) give these three alternatives, it isn’t made clear that the third variant is much less common than the first two variants in General British.
The regular -ed ending has three pronunciations:
- /ɪd/ after /t/ or /d/
- /t/ after all other voiceless consonants
- /d/ after vowels and all other voiced consonants
didn’t: Although function/grammatical words are generally unstressed in English, negative contractions such as didn’t (and don’t, won’t, can’t shouldn’t, etc.) are usually stressed.
Although /t/ isn’t usually elided when it is preceded by /n/ (e.g. in bent nail /ˈbent ˈneɪl/, front door /ˈfrʌnt ˈdɔː/), the negative contractions, because of their high frequency, are an exception and their final /t/ can be elided before both consonants and vowels (e.g. I couldn’t say /aɪ ˈkʊdn̩ ˈseɪ/. He didn’t ask /hi ˈdɪdn̩ ˈɑːsk/.), but not before a pause. This is much more common in the case of disyllabic negative contractions (e.g. didn’t, doesn’t, haven’t, hasn’t, hadn’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, etc.). In the case of monosyllabic negative contractions (won’t, can’t), elision of /t/ is only usual in rather casual speech.
Phonemically, the final syllable of didn’t is /ən(t)/. When this syllable is preceded by /d/, however, the schwa /ə/ often isn't pronounced. Instead the articulators move directly from the position for /d/ to the position for /n/. This is relatively easy to do because the only difference in the articulation of /d/ and /n/ is that the soft palate is lowered for /n/. It is possible, therefore, for the articulators to move from the position for /t/ to the position for /n/ merely by lowering the soft palate, without passing through the position for a vowel and thereby avoiding an intervening schwa /ə/. This is known as nasal release.
happen: Although it is possible for /ən/ to be realised as a syllabic /n/ when preceded by /p/, this is the less usual variant and can be ignored for TEFL purposes.