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My friends and I were debating whether would and wood are pronounced differently. Are they?

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Is English your first language? –  Thursagen May 20 '11 at 3:17
    
At least as I say them there's definitely a minor difference in inflection. Whether that qualifies as a different pronunciation, though, is something I'm not qualified to determine. –  Matthew Frederick May 20 '11 at 3:27
    
It depends on the register and your dialect. –  Peter Olson May 20 '11 at 4:08
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How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Any time I've heard this tongue twister, wood, would, and wood all sound the same. –  Peter Shor May 20 '11 at 12:35
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@Cerberus: That would probably be very expensive to arrange, but of course it's the only valid way to establish the truth. I'd be interested to know what research has been done in this area, but I doubt the people with the cheque-books share that interest. –  FumbleFingers May 20 '11 at 22:10

4 Answers 4

It is generally very difficult for speakers to analyse their own pronunciation of a word, native speakers or no: our image of what the letters of a word look like affects our idea of how we think we pronounce it. Introspective analysis of pronunciation is notoriously unreliable.

That said, wood and would are pronounced the same in standard English. That is, there is no meaningful distinction in how both words sound if fully pronounced; if I were to cut out several instances of would and wood from recordings in standard English, without context, there is no way anyone could identify them as woulds and woods respectively.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, they are both pronounced /wʊd/. You can listen to both words on Howjsay.com:

Edit: if you say would fast or in an unaccented position, as in that's not what she would do, where either not and do or she has a strong accent, it is often pronounced /wəd/. It is also often pronounced /d/ unaccented, or /t/ before a voiceless stop, or not at all if preceded by a word ending on -d. It is often spelled 'd when it is unaccented. But those are all variations on the standard pronunciation, as most words have them.

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I tried quizzing my friend who volunteered to randomly say either "would, wood" or "wood, would" and was able to distinguish between them each time. I invite others to try the same thing. It's subtle, but I believe the tongue is more active for "would" -- it curls and remains lower in the mouth. –  Kirk Woll May 20 '11 at 17:13
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@KirkWoll: I don't think that counts! It should be a blind test: your friend knew what he was doing. I've had my friends do similar tests on other words, and they often pronounced the words much differently from the way they normally would. You should have your friend play back woulds and woods from natural recordings (and be careful to exclude the variations I mentioned). –  Cerberus May 20 '11 at 18:38
    
I understand well the idea that we hear something in our heads that's not necessarily actually coming out verbally so I recorded myself saying both in a pattern I wrote out ("would wood would wood would would would wood wood wood would would wood wood"). Even before playing them back for a friend to see if she could pick them out I could clearly see the difference in the waveforms: "would" takes about 12% longer for me to say every time. So, pronounced the same, perhaps, but a clearly noticeable difference in the way I say them. –  Matthew Frederick May 23 '11 at 4:45
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@MatthewFrederick: It is possible that they are pronounced slightly differently; but I just don't believe you could prove that in a non-blind test. By that I mean using data from speakers unaware of the test. If not, it would be like performing the Stanford Prison Experiment after having shown the participants a video of how the original went wrong, then telling them to behave absolutely naturally. One's pronunciation is involuntarily influenced by conscious and subconscious knowledge. I really think analysing existing recordings of natural speech is the only scientifically sound way to go. –  Cerberus May 23 '11 at 12:21
    
I understand what you're saying, and I do understand the possible and even likely bias in a non-blind test. That doesn't mean, however, that there is bias, nor does it mean that one's personal experience is automatically colored. There are plenty of likely homonyms that I can hear myself pronounce identically that allow me to be sufficiently certain that this is a case where it isn't so. It's fine that you'd prefer a scientific test; I suspect the OP doesn't require that level of accuracy. –  Matthew Frederick May 23 '11 at 12:34

I believe there are two different pronunciations for two different meanings of the word "would".

If you are referring the most common meaning then the answer is no, both of "wood" and "would" sounds as "wud".

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What are the 'two different meanings of the word "would"` to which you are referring? –  Kirk Woll May 20 '11 at 5:07
    
dictionary.reference.com/browse/would –  Jamie May 20 '11 at 5:09
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your link defined one variation of the word with one defined prounciation. Thus I ask again, which are the two that you believe to have discrete pronunciations? –  Kirk Woll May 20 '11 at 5:18
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@Kirk Woll: I think what Jamie is getting at is that "would" is often ennunciated with a schwa (neutral vowel), which doesn't happen with "wood". So it's not so much a difference in meaning as a difference in emphasis. You could argue forever about whether emphasis is just a subdivision of meaning anyway. –  FumbleFingers May 20 '11 at 14:10
    
@FumbleFingers: Excellent remark. I have added this to my answer, if you don't mind. –  Cerberus May 20 '11 at 14:22

In the Australian English which I know, wood and would are pronounced itdentically. The only difference that occurs to me has already been mentioned by others that would has an additional unstressed pronunciation that wood lacks.

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Depending on the accent of the speaker, "Wood" has a sharp, punctuated enunciation, and "Would" has an ever so slightly longer pronunciation, tending to lightly pronounce the "L".

You could try it by saying "Hi Dad, would you like me to chop some wood?".

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Does it really have a slightly different pronunciation or is it just subliminal from reading it? I've never heard anyone pronounce the "L" in any of those words (would should could), and I'm actually having a hard time trying to right now! Every time I try to say the "L" lightly, it comes out very pronounced. –  Wesley Murch May 20 '11 at 4:05
    
How about this one for comparison: "Would wood be good?" –  Wesley Murch May 20 '11 at 4:07
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My parents and English teacher taught me the different pronounciations, and as such I do say the words differently - just enough to be noticable. I don't say "woolled" and "wood", so it's not so extreme. –  fortheworld May 20 '11 at 4:11

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