reduction is the historical process of weakening, shortening or
disappearance of a vowel sound in an unstressed position. Stressed vowels
cannot be reduced. This phenomenon is closely connected with the historical development of
neutral sound /ə/ represents the reduced form of almost any
vowel in the unstressed position.
Example: to combine /tə kəmˈbaɪn/
vowels and diphthongs /ɔː/, /aʊ/,
and /ɔɪ/ are never
reduced, and all vowels may occur in unstressed position without reduction,
especially in compound words.
it is true that some vowels, such as /ɪ/ and /ʌ/, reduce quite readily, so that there are not many English
words which have them in unstressed positions.
Some English words alternate between having full but unstressed vowels
and reduced vowels, depending on context. For example, the is typically /ðiː/
before a vowel-initial word (the apple) but /ðə/ before a consonant-initial
word (the pear), though this distinction is being lost in the United States.
Similarly with to: to America /tuː/ vs. to Britain /tə/. Most words, however,
alternate depending on how much emphasis they are accorded. Some of these are:
- can: /kæn/, but also I can go /ˈaɪ kəŋ ɡoʊ/,
- and: /ænd/, but also you and me /ˌjuː ən ˈmiː/,
- he: /hiː/, but also will he go? /ˈwɪl hɪ goʊ/, and so on with a, at,
would, that, has, etc.
There are also a number of English verb-adjective
pairs that are distinguished solely by vowel reduction. For example,
separate as a verb (as in 'what separates nation from nation') has a full final
vowel, /ˈsɛpəreɪt/, whereas the corresponding adjective (as in 'they sleep in
separate rooms') has a reduced vowel: /ˈsɛpərət/.
Types of reduction:
1. Quantitative (shortening of a long vowel
2. Qualitative (both long and
short vowels are shortened till [ə, i, u].
3. Elision (the omission of