I would like to ask how many syllables are counted in natives' minds in an occasion where reduction happens.

When "and" is reduced into 'n', its syllable nucleus is lost, and, for example in this phrase "water n hot water", it's unclear for me that this reduced "n" is identified as a syllable or identified as a coda of "ter" at the last of "water". Similarly, it's unclear that as word "excellent" is at least basically composed of 3 syllables, 'ex', 'ce', 'llent', when the middle syllable's vowel is reduced and lost completely, this word is recognized in natives' minds as composed of two syllables, "exce" like "eks" and "llent" or basic three syllables "ex" like "ek", "ce" like "s", "llent".

  • as a native, I very rarely count syllables in conversation (or ever, really) - as a native, I suppose I'm used to people saying exllent when they mean excellent or n when they mean and. I appreciate it would be hard for non-natives to pick up on, but it's basically just another form of the word, in a sense. If you're having difficulties understanding people, feel free to ask them to repeat things - that way you'll be able to pick up on the words that are shortened. – marcellothearcane Apr 14 '17 at 8:12
  • You see, the plain fact is that we don't really count syllables. We basically just hop from one stress to the next, reducing all the other syllables to the bare minimum for pronunciation. Excellent, to my ear, always has three syllables: one stressed followed by two unstressed. It may help to think of unstressed syllables as being "collapsed". (cont.) – Robusto May 1 '17 at 12:16
  • I used the "ice cube tray" analogy in another comment to you to describe Japanese. It's not accurate to six decimal places, but it's useful to understand the difference. When you pronounce the word 北海道, for example, you give it six syllables (we give it three). And you even give the second (dropped) syllable a duration, the way an ice cube tray still has a slot for an ice cube even if there is no cube in it. Our unstressed syllables sound as if that slot is not empty but reduced in every other way. There's still an ice cube in there but it and its slot are both lessened. Hope that helps. – Robusto May 1 '17 at 12:21
  • If you're still confused, perhaps you can come by the chat room for a while. That would be easier than trying to handle your questions in comments. – Robusto May 1 '17 at 12:22
  • One other point: I never hear excellent as two syllables. It would be extremely hard to pronounce it that way. – Robusto May 1 '17 at 12:25

Your Answer

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

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.