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Weak and Strong Vowels (again)                       

Weak and strong vowels have already been discussed (see Weak vowels, second week).

Now we return to this subject.

When a vowel occurs in an unstressed syllable in English, it often becomes REDUCED to schwa or the KIT vowel or the FOOT vowel .

This is shown in the following diagram.

In this diagram, the vowel chart divided into three regions: high front (the region), high back (the region) and non-high (the region). When reduced, vowels in each region become

,   ,    or   
according to their position on the vowel chart.

In the following table, the words accept, obtain, Brighton, brighten are firstly transcribed INCORRECTLY, with STRONG vowels, and in the third column with their correct weak vowels:


Lenin and Lennon

In RP and many other accents, weak and weak are in contrastive (overlapping) distribution - they can differentiate between minimal pairs such as:



The weak vowel schwa is quite a tough character. It seems to be taking over from the other two weak vowels, and . Unstressed structural words like 'to' and 'you' are very often pronounced and (see weak forms). In many accents of English - in Australia, NZ and S.Africa, much of the North of England and widely in the USA and Canada - vowel reduction also turns the KIT vowel into schwa. In these accents, 'Lenin' and 'Lennon' are homophones, and so are 'accept' and 'except':

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