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

  • "Weak"? "Strong"? Where did these come from? May 17 '15 at 3:12

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).

  • 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
  • 1
    @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

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.