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I wonder, words like fear, dear, near and so on have long e in pronunciation, and it should be transcribed as /i:/, but I've found it transcribed as short /ɪ/. Why is that?

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    In English, vowel sounds are often altered by a following "r". The exact nature of this depends on the accent. What accent are you talking about? – sumelic Mar 26 '17 at 19:33
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    In American English, for instance, the /i/ ~/ɪ/ phonemic distinction, like most tense/lax vowel distinctions, is simply neutralized before /r/. There are no contrasts, so there is near-free variation. Which, of course, means that that variation is probably available for ingroup identification, though I don't know of any studies showing that. Yet. – John Lawler Mar 26 '17 at 21:47
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    Do you think mirror and nearer rhyme? Most Americans do. So if you are deciding on a system of IPA for American English, you might need to decide whether you are going to use /ɪ/ or /i:/ for this vowel. – Peter Shor Mar 26 '17 at 22:28
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Vowel sounds exist along continuous spectra in several dimensions (front/back, high/low, rounded/unrounded, tense/lax, r-colored, etc.). The symbols we use to denote phonemes or even allophones are points within those spectra. Therefore interpretations will often diverge between transcribers. Furthermore, individual speakers offer a lot of variation in pronunciation due to dialect and idiolect. It is natural to expect some imprecision in a system of single symbols for what amounts to a statistical condensation of wide-ranging individual sounds.

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In a comment, John Lawler wrote:

In American English, for instance, the /i/ ~/ɪ/ phonemic distinction, like most tense/lax vowel distinctions, is simply neutralized before /r/. There are no contrasts, so there is near-free variation. Which, of course, means that that variation is probably available for ingroup identification, though I don't know of any studies showing that. Yet.

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