3

I often hear American English speakers pronounce words ending in an /n/ sound with an extra schwa sound after it.

One example:

At the end of a sentence, the word's final N with a preceding vowel often comes with an extra, really short vowel (at least in my experience): "pen" sounds like /pennə/. "Ten" and "then" are too.

Some longer examples:

"Three plus seven equals ten" or "it's gone." The latter is not ending with N spelling-wise, but is effectively in the same situation.

Recording:

This American YouTuber seems to do it. In the linked video, some of the words affected by this possible phenomenon are: "lagoon" at 0:40, "queen" at 2:20, "well done" (the second one) at 4:23, and "option" at 4:49. (Though he does speak a little bit exaggeratedly.)

Question:

Is this a common thing? Do we have a technical term for this?

11
  • 3
    Where are you hearing this (i.e. which part of the English-speaking world)? A full sentence example would be useful. Commented May 1, 2023 at 7:11
  • For example: "three plus seven equals ten" or "it's gone." The latter is not ending with N spelling-wise, but is effectively in the same situation. English is not my native tongue, but some people (who natively speak English) I've met definitely had this particular pronunciation.
    – Qwert
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 7:18
  • 2
    As I pronounce the individual words then, ten, one, etc., or end a sentence with them, I hear a very slight [ə] at the end ten(ə), etc. This is caused by the final consonant being slightly emphasised and pronounced as /ɛn(ə)/ with the consequent /ə/ as the air and tongue position is released. This does not seem to occur when the words are followed by others.
    – Greybeard
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 9:11
  • The only time I hear this in BrE (particularly RP or close to it) is if the speaker wants to emphasise the word. " I said there are ten". In what version of English are you hearing this? Commented May 1, 2023 at 9:44
  • 3
    The technical term for this is epenthesis, stressed on the second syllable; the adjective form is epenthetic, stressed on the third syllable. The little vowel you here is called an epenthetic schwa. In the United States, one is often inserted into some vowels, especially in Northern cities; and they're quite common in Southern dialects. Commented May 1, 2023 at 14:10

1 Answer 1

2

John Lawler wrote in a comment:

The technical term for this is epenthesis, stressed on the second syllable; the adjective form is epenthetic, stressed on the third syllable. The little vowel you here is called an epenthetic schwa. In the United States, one is often inserted into some vowels, especially in Northern cities; and they're quite common in Southern dialects.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.