The final process that we will consider in Connected Speech 101 is similar to the previously discussed processes in that it is arises owing to the effects of rapidly articulated connected speech. However, whereas the previously discussed processes (assimilation, liaison, elision) operate at word boundaries, the process of reduction does not.
Consider the word of. If this is transcribed phonemically as it would sound when spoken in isolation, it would be represented as:
However, when it occurs in rapid speech we often notice a vowel change, e.g.
|man of means||/mæn əv minz/|
Here, the back vowel /ɒ/ has been replaced with the central vowel /ə/. In fact, in rapidly articulated speech, it is common for the /v/ to disappear altogether:
|man of means||/mæn ə minz/|
Now consider how the word have would be pronounced in isolation:
Once more, though, we can typically identify a vowel change when this word appears in brisk connected speech, e.g.
|they have gone||/ðeɪ əv gɒn/|
As well as elision of word-initial /h/, the front vowel /æ/ is replaced, again, with the central vowel /ə/. This substitution of front or back vowels with centralized vowels in connected speech is known as reduction. In the above example, it would also not be uncommon for the vowel to be so reduced that it disappears completely:
|they have gone||/ðeɪv gɒn/|
Reduction is a common feature of rapidly articulated speech. Monosyllabic function words (words that have a grammatical function and which serve to bind language together, such as of, have, a, he, she, is, and) are particularly prone to reduction, e.g.
|lots of money||/lɒts ɒv mʌnɪ/||→||[lɒtʰs əv ɱʌ̃nɪ̃] or [lɒtʰs ə mʌ̃nɪ̃]|
|should have played||/ʃʊd hæv pleɪd/||→||[ʃʊd əv̥ pʰl̥eɪːd] or [ʃʊd ə pʰl̥eɪːd]|
|that’s a dog||/ðæts eɪ dɒg/||→||[ðætʰs ə dɒ̃ɡ̊]|
|he went away||/hi wɛnt əwɪ/||→||[hɪ wɛ̃n(t) əweɪː] or [ɪ wɛ̃n(t) əweɪː]|
|murder she wrote||/mɜdə ʃi rəʊt/||→||[mɜːdə ʃɪ ɹəʊːʔ]|
|she is going||/ʃi ɪz gəʊɪŋ/||→||[ʃɪ z gə̃ʊːɪ̃ŋ]|
The word and is a function word that frequently undergoes several types of reduction. In isolation, it is pronounced as /ænd/ but in connected speech it may be realized as /ənd/, /ən/, /nd/ or /n/. For example:
|black and white||/blæk ænd waɪt/||→||[blækʰ ə̃nd waɪːʔ]|
|bread and butter||/brɛd ænd bʌtə/||→||[bɹɛd ə̃n bʌtʰə↓] or [bɹɛd ə̃mb̚ bʌtʰə↓]|
|knife and fork||/naɪf ænd fɔk/||→||[nãɪf nd̥ fɔkʰ]|
|fish and chips||/fɪʃ ænd ʧɪps/||→||[fɪʃ n̥ ʧɪpʰs]|
It should be noted, however, that the unreduced strong form of words may be used in connected speech. In the case of and, it may be used for emphasis in order to signal a contrast, e.g.
|I want bread AND butter||/aɪ wɒnt brɛd ˈænd bʌtə/|
The use of the strong form in this context signals the contrast that the speaker wants both bread AND butter, and not EITHER bread OR butter.
You may have noticed that the substituting vowel in each of the above examples of reduction is either /ə/ or /ɪ/. In fact, substitution of peripheral vowels (front and back vowels) with the central vowel /ə/ or the centralized vowel /ɪ/ is a common feature of reduction. We can summarize this process as follows.
Vowels in monosyllabic function words are frequently reduced to /ə/ or /ɪ/.
As well as the reduction of function words, reduction is also common in unstressed syllables of multi-syllabic words. Consider the word polite, spoken in isolation:
The word polite is made up of two syllables: /pə/ and /laɪt/. The second syllable is given more emphasis and is stressed, as signified by the superscript mark (ˈ). In contrast, the first syllable is unstressed. Unstressed syllables often, but not always, contain the neutral central vowel /ə/. Now, under the pressure of rapidly articulated connected speech, vowels in unstressed syllables can be reduced to the point of extinction. This is demonstrated in the words polite, suppose and correct in the following example phrases.
|he’s a polite man||/hiz eɪ pəˈlaɪt mæn/||→||[ɪz ə pʰlaɪp̚ mæ̃n]|
|I suppose so||/aɪ səˈpəʊz səʊ/||→||[æ spəʊːz̥ səʊː]|
|that’s not correct||/ðæts nɒt kəˈrɛkt/||→||[ðæts nɒ̃k̚ kʰrɛk(t)]|
Like the reduction of function words, this process – whilst generated by rapidly articulated speech – also does not occur at word boundaries. This process may be summarized as follows.
Vowels in unstressed syllables are frequently reduced /ə/ or /ɪ/, or omitted completely.