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When I look up the word dangerous, the IPA spellings almost always show up as /ˈdānj(ə)rəs/

Maybe it's regional (Southern Ontario), but I don't encounter that pronunciation lot. And I probably use it myself less than 5% of the time.

I'd say, and maybe my IPA is off, 80% of the time I say /ˈdānj(ə)rɪs/. The 'ous' uses the ɪ sound, the same as in the word 'in'. And it's not subtle either. It's really really noticeable.

If I search 'dangerous definition' in Google, I get the above IPA, and a sound file. But the sound file pronounces the 'ous' closer to how I pronounce it, using ɪ as in 'in'.

In WordReference, it has the /ˈdānj(ə)rəs/ IPA spelling and a sound file that I think matches it. That sound file, of the word's US pronunciation, produces a pronunciation that is not one I hear often, as I said, maybe 5% of the time.

Both /ˈdānj(ə)rɪs/ and /ˈdānj(ə)rəs/ sound natural to me, but I only ever find the latter written, tho I mostly hear the former.

Also, I'm only focusing on the 'ous' part of the word, not the rest, because I there are several other pronunciations which of the first part of the word which sound natural to me also, so let us ignore them here.

Question :

Is it a sensible observation that the 'ous' in words like 'dangerous' are commonly pronounced as /ɪs/ and not /əs/ ? Or perhaps, the former is gaining favor ? I'm not sure if I can attach a sound file here, tho maybe I will upload my pronunciations to youtube, if there is no alternative.

EDIT:

I recorded myself saying it 3x with /əs/ and 3x with /ɪs/. I've never used soundcloud before and my file is 10 seconds long and if you don't use soundcloud the default appears to be autoplay, which might be considerably louder than my file, so listen closely, but not too closely.

https://soundcloud.com/dactyrafficle/dangerous?si=5623403900c9489789b1d4860060ebf6

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  • link
    – BillJ
    Nov 13, 2021 at 19:37
  • 2
    Actually it's more likely a high central allophone [ɨ] of the central vowel phoneme schwa /ə/. Since there is only one central vowel phoneme in English (compared to 4 front and 4 back vowel phonemes), there is a lot of room for variations, and they get rounded, nasalized, and moved up, down, right, and left -- but they're still /ə/. That's the point of phonemes; we don't have to notice the individual differences as long as we recognize the phoneme. Nov 13, 2021 at 19:51
  • I am working on a sound file. It's so hard to pick out by ear but I'm trying to say the 2 side-by-side and pull apart the sounds. The 2 pronunciations in the link provided by @BillJ sound a bit different to each other, but not as different as the first audio (the deeper voice) when compared to mine.
    – user438665
    Nov 13, 2021 at 20:05
  • I think different people pronounce it differently. I have heard the rhyme with the vowel in “in” but also in “us” and in “push” and probably in “ess”
    – Jim
    Nov 13, 2021 at 22:05
  • It's dangerish to contradict the (purported) pronunciations of the IPAd guys.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 13, 2021 at 22:24

1 Answer 1

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As John Lawler commented:

Actually it's more likely a high central allophone [ɨ] of the central vowel phoneme schwa /ə/. Since there is only one central vowel phoneme in English (compared to 4 front and 4 back vowel phonemes), there is a lot of room for variations, and they get rounded, nasalized, and moved up, down, right, and left -- but they're still /ə/. That's the point of phonemes; we don't have to notice the individual differences as long as we recognize the phoneme.

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