The phonetic transcription for desirous (in its BrE pronunciation) can be written as [dɪˈzʌɪərəs]. I wonder which diphthong—ʌɪ or ɪə—takes place in this word? Maybe here we can see a kind of haplology?

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    I'd say it's the influence of 'r'. Transitioning from ʌɪ to the 'r', with some pronunciations of 'r', involves movement of the jaw forward during which movement breath is still coming out resuting in ə. With some pronunciations of the 'r' there is in the preceding vowel a dipthong only. – TRomano Mar 2 at 14:33
  • It may also be pronounced without the schwa, as in di-ˈzī(-ə)r-əs as Merriam-Webster shows it, in that case it's just a long 'i' as in "eye". In the same way that "iris" doesn't usually show a schwa sound. – Zebrafish Mar 2 at 14:43
  • @Zebrafish interesting. But is i in eye really long as you said? – Aer Mar 2 at 14:48
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    Long 'i' loosely means the sound in 'bribe', 'bride', 'hide', 'wide', as opposed to the 'i' sound in 'bib', 'bid' or 'bit'. The dictionaries I've checked use the same transcription for these long 'i' words as in 'eye', that is, /aɪ/ or /ī/ or /ʌɪ/, depending on which dictionary. The only difference between with or without schwa seems to me to just be a matter of gliding straight into 'r', in a kind of more direct way. – Zebrafish Mar 2 at 15:15

/ʌɪə/ and /ʌuə/ are triphthongs. They are sometimes phonetically realized as diphthongs, but if all three vowel sounds are pronounced, they are triphthongs.

  • Thanks! Can you please give a reference to a work where these triphthongs are described? – Aer Mar 2 at 14:31
  • Let me look for my old book of phonetics... – Gustavson Mar 2 at 14:32
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    What English words have /ʌuə/ in them? – Peter Shor Mar 2 at 15:10
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    While these are often described as triphthongs, it’s worth noting that they aren’t to a lot of people. A triphthong is by definition monosyllabic, and many (perhaps most) speakers realise these sequences as two syllables (while some others reduce them to a monophthong, as in many BrE and AuE dialects where it’s realised as something like [dɪˡzäː]). A distinction is claimed to exist between monosyllabic /ʌɪə ʌʊə/ (hire, dour) and disyllabic /ʌɪ.ə ʌʊ.ə/ (higher, dower), but I have to admit I have rarely heard anyone actually distinguish the number of syllables in these pairs. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 2 at 16:22
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    @PeterShor I would say I vacillate between three and four syllables. I have no distinction between the monosyllabic and disyllabic variants of /ʌɪə/: it’s consistently disyllabic to me, regardless of context. If I pronounce desirous with three syllables, I have no schwa there, just [dɪˡzʌɪ.rəs], so it’s arguably a different phonemic structure (/dɪˡzʌɪ.ər.əs/ vs /dɪˡzʌɪ.rəs/). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 2 at 19:22

In my pretty standard version of BrE it is not a tripthong and I've never heard it that way.

I say

[dɪˈzʌɪə] - tripthong, emphasis on ʌɪ, silent r


[dɪˈzʌɪrəs] - dipthong

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