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"Went straight up as if from a factory" <---- for the word "as" in this sentence should I say it like /æz/ or like /əz/ ?

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  • "Weak"? "Strong"? Where did these come from? May 17 '15 at 3:12
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Both [æz] with stress, and [əz] without stress, sound fine, to me (I'm a native English speaker). But the stress does matter. You can't stress the [əz] version and have it sound like normal American English (I can't say about other dialects).

I've used brackets for your examples instead of slashes, since the variation between the vowels [æz] and [əz] that you're asking about concerns phonetics, not phonemes, and by convention, slashes are used only for phonemic forms. There is no phoneme /ə/ in English (though some might disagree with this).

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  • Yes, except I'm not sure explicitly enunciating the /æz/ insteead of a schwa automatically implies stressing it. And I'm having trouble imagining a context where you might naturally place (heavy) stress on it. May 16 '15 at 23:11
  • @FumbleFingers, In the SPE account, only some level (not necessarily high) of stress can save [æz] from reduction. Of course, not everyone agrees. I do, though.
    – Greg Lee
    May 16 '15 at 23:38
  • I had to look up SPE = The Sound Pattern of English, and I must admit I was kinda relieved to see it flagged This article may be too technical for most readers to understand (it was mostly double Dutch to me! :) But I suppose what you're getting at is that from the linguist's more formal perspective, "stress" applies to a broader range of contexts than I (as a relative layman) would normally expect. I'm naturally inclined to always assume intonational stress means high stress, but it ain't necessarily so. May 17 '15 at 12:53
  • Apropos which, do you think it's even possible to place [high] stress on a schwa when used as the indefinite article? It seems a somewhat "odd" (but credible) usage to me - I don't want [stressed schwa] thing - I want the thing. But is it still a schwa, and would it still be transcribed as /ə/ in IPA? May 17 '15 at 12:59
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    @FumbleFingers, mostly, linguists disagree about such a difference as /əz/ versus [əz]. I say this: they are phonetically identical, and /əz/ refers to an intended pronunciation, while [əz] refers to an actual pronunciation. If they are the same, that just means someone said exactly what he intended. If you propose /əz/ for English, in effect, you propose that English speakers intend to say /əz/, which could conceivably be true, in some language or other, but happens to be false for English. A schwa is never an articulatory target in English.
    – Greg Lee
    May 17 '15 at 15:58

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