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tupelo bound



Joined: 03 May 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:22 pm
Post subject: schwa vs. wedge
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I've always been confused about the motivation behind differentiating schwa from wedge. If they actually refer to qualitatively different sounds, I understand having two different symbols.

But typically, I see books refer to schwa as being unstressed and wedge stressed. Since the IPA has independent means to indicate stress, why is stress information encoded in these 2 symbols? Doesn't this go against the guiding principle of the IPA that there should be a one-to-one correspondence between sound and symbol?
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djr33
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:29 pm
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There is a difference, but it's hard to hear it. We often skip over it when we're transcribing things, but it's a stress-based distinction of quality.

Arguably schwa is never used phonemically, just in unstressed reductions. Therefore, wedge is used in all phonemic contexts like "of", "the", "cut", etc. Of course those can also be reduced, like other vowels, but in short, there is a distinction between the sounds.
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RyanRhodes
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2012 2:14 am
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I've never liked use of the schwa for that reason (since it appears to be in complementary distribution with several other phonemes), but we don't have a reliable (or sensible) way to infer what the underlying phones would have been. In fact, it doesn't even seem to make sense to ask what the underlying phones of the nuclei of unstressed syllables in English would be. So it's best to just use schwa.

But just to be contrary, I'm pretty sure I've seen wedge used in unstressed syllables like the first syllable of "about".

Another thing to think about (in the interest of being contrary) is English foot structure. Why should "the" get a wedge, while "about" gets a schwa? Presumably, "but" and "butt" would both be written with a schwa, but taking foot structure and prosody into account, single-syllable function words like "the" and "but" (as opposed to lexical words like "butt") are often unstressed. Should they get a schwa then?
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djr33
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2012 2:18 am
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Quote: But just to be contrary, I'm pretty sure I've seen wedge used in unstressed syllables like the first syllable of "about". ...
It depends on whether you're doing phonological or phonetic broad/narrow transcrition.
The wedge is just fine as the phoneme in 'about', right? Same with 'of'. But as an unstressed wedge, it becomes phonetically a schwa.

I think that's why it's confusing. (And it is confusing.)

Does that seem reasonable?


On a slightly unrelated note, but something interesting to me, I've recently become aware of the at least phonetic production of /ɨ/ in English, something I didn't realize occured. It's actually in places where I'd assume a schwa most of the time. Now that, plus the wedge and schwa, is really confusing!
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RyanRhodes
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2012 3:14 am
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[quote="Daniel Ross"]
Quote:
On a slightly unrelated note, but something interesting to me, I've recently become aware of the at least phonetic production of /ɨ/ in English, something I didn't realize occured. It's actually in places where I'd assume a schwa most of the time. Now that, plus the wedge and schwa, is really confusing!


That is like my favorite phone, and I probably use it way more than I should (but to be fair, I think I produce more often than other SAE speakers).
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