• Native English speakers don’t pronounce the ‘o’ vowel in the 1st syllable. It's pronounced as an 'ə' instead.

Is this true?

When I say "Today" I say /tuˈdeɪ/ , NOT /təˈdeɪ/. Is there a special linguistic term for this type of pronunciation? I am not sure if it's an idiolect or dialect thing.

  • 2
    This doesn't belong here; this is about English, not linguistics. The short answer is that unstressed vowels are centralized, usually to shwa, but when they are intentionally stressed they have other shapes. That's all. You may think that you always use /o/, but people are not very observant about what they actually do say; they already know, of course. – John Lawler Feb 20 '18 at 21:51
  • I assume you are only talking about unstressed first syllables: In stressed syllables, vowels are never reduced to ə. You might want to edit your question to make this more clear. – herisson Feb 20 '18 at 22:14
  • I guess the question has been edited, but now at least, to me it sounds like it's using this English example to ask about the general linguistic phenomenon if any. Then I'm unclear on whether the question is what the phenomenon that causes the OP to pronounce it in a nonstandard way is (given "dialect or idiolect"), or what the phenomenon that causes the /ə/ pronunciation is. If the latter, I'd say the answer is simply unstressed vowel reduction, which is definitely a cross-language phenomenon. – LjL Feb 21 '18 at 0:22
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    Are you asking about your pronunciation, or the more common pronunciation? – user6726 Feb 21 '18 at 1:18

The term I know is Vowel reduction.


I would be very surprised if you pronounced the word [toˈde] ("toe day"), but I could imagine someone saying [tuˈde] ("2 day"). There is no analysis-neutral name for such a pronunciation, but it could be labeled a "spelling pronunciation" or a "dialect pronunciation". It would normally be pronounced as [tuˈde] in Kenyan English, so it can indeed be a dialect feature, and if you're Kenyan, then that's just the way it is. It could be based on the fact that the "to" component of the word (originally, the phrase "to day") is pronounced [tu] at least when stressed, and spelling can influence pronunciation.

  • I am going to edit my question for clariy. I say /tuˈdeɪ/ – James Feb 20 '18 at 23:41

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