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88 English Phonetics and Phonolo8y

Written excrcises 12 Weak forms

1 Put stress marks on the following words (try to put secondary stress marks on as

a) shopkeeper f) confirmation
b) open-ended g) eight*ided
c) javanese h) fiuitcale
d) birthmark i) defective
e) anti-clockwise j)rooftimber
2 Writ€ the words in phonemic transciption, including th€ stress marks. Chapter 9 discussed the difference between strong and weak syllables in English. We have
now moved on liom looking at syllabies to looking at words, and we will consider certain
well-known English words that can b€ pronounced in two different ways; thes€ are called
strong forms and weak forms. As an example, the word 'that' can be pronounced diet
(strong form) or dat (weak form). The sentence'I lile that'is pronounced ar lark det
(strong form); the sentence'l hope that she will' is pronounced ar heop dct Ji wrl (weak
form). There are roughly forty such words in English. It is possible to use only strong
forms in speaking, and some foreigners do this. UsuaJIy they caD still be understood by
other speakers ofEnglish, so why is it important to learn how weak forms are used? There
are tlvo main reasons: first, most native sp€alers of English find an "a.ll-strong form" pro-
nunciation unnatural and foreign-sounding, something that most lea[r€rs would wish to
avoid. Second, and more importantly, speakers who are not familiar with the use of weak
forms are likely to have difficulty understanding speakels who do use weak forms; since
practically all native speakers of British English use them, learners of the language need to
learn about these weak forms to help them to understand what they hear
We must distinguish between weak forms and contracted fonns. Certain English
words are shortened so severely (usually to a single phoneme) and so consistendy tiat they
are represented differently in informal writing (e.g.'it is'+'it's';'we have' -+'we've';'do
not'+'don't'). These contracted forms are discussed in Chapter 14, and are not included
Almost all the words which have both a strong and weak form belolg to a category
that may be called function words - words that do not have a dictionary meaning in the
way that we normally erpect nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs to have. These function
words are words such as auiliary verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, etc., all of whrch are
in certai! circumstances pronounced in their strong forms but which are more ftequently
pronounced in their weak forms. It is important to remember that there are certain
contexts wh€re only the strong form is acceptable, and others where the weak form is the
normal pronunciation. There are some fairly simple rules; we can say that the strong foJm
is us€d ir the follov/ing cases: /
i) For many weal-form words, when th€y occur at the end of a sentencq for
example, the word'of' has the weak form av in the following sentence:

'l'm fond of chips' arm fond ov r.lips

90 English Phoneti(s and Phonology
12 Weak folml 9l

However, when it comes at the end ofthe sentence, as in the following example, 4'but'
has the strong form Dv:
Weak form: brl
'Chips are what I'm fond of' tlrps .1 wnt arm ,t-nnal nv 'Itt good but expensiv€' tts ctud bDt rk'spe ;lv
Many ofthe rords given below (particulariy l-9) never occur at the end ofa
This word only has a weak form when used in a relative clause; when used witl-
seltence (e.9. 'the] 'your'). Some words (particularly the pronouns numbered
a demonsffative sense it is always pronounced in its strong form.
l0-I4 below) do occur in their weak forms in 6nal position.
Weak form: det
ii) When a weak-form word is being contrasted with another word; for example: 'The price is the thing that annoys me,da prals tz dr 0r0
'The lettert /rom him, oot fo him'dc dai c'n.rz mi
'let:z from rm nDt 'tur rnr
A similar case is what we might call a co-ordinated use ofprepositions: Weak form: den
'ltravel to ald fiom London a lot'al ,tlievL tui an frDm l,\ndano,lot
'Better than ever' beta dcn evc
7 'his' (when it occurs before a nour)
A work ofand about litefature'e w3lk,ov rn o l_.aut lltrJr.Ja
Weak form: rz (htz at the beginning of a sentence)
iii) When a weak-form word is given stress for the purpose of emphasis; for 'Take his name' terk rz nernl
example: (Another sense of 'his', as in 'it was hisl or .his was latel always
'You mrlJ, give me more money'.ju m,\st grv has the strong form)
nti mJ: Dl,\ni 'her'
iv) When a weak-form word is being "cited,, or "quoted"; for example: When used with a possessive sense, preceding a nou[; as an object pronoun, this
'You shouldn't put "and" at the end of a sentence' can also occur at the end of a sentence-

Ju .liidllt pot 'ilend at di ,end:\, e sentans

Weak forms: e (before consonants)
'Take her home''terk a naorr
Another point to remember is that when weak-form words whose spelling ar (before vowels)
begins with'h' (e.g. 'her] 'have') occur at the beginning ofa sentence, the pro- 'Thke her out' terk aa aut
nunciation is with initial h , wen though this is usually omitted in other conte\ts. 'your'

a) AUr2, Exs l_4

Weak forms: ja (before consonans)
'Take your time' 'tetk .ie lilrnl
In the rest of this chapter, the most common weak-form wotds will be introduced
jar (before vowels)
I 'the' 'On your ow.n' l\n jJr 'rutr
Weak forms: de (before consonants) l0 'she', 'hel 'we', 'you'
'Shut the door' ,.f.rt de ,rlll This group ofpronouns has weak forms pronounced with wealer vowels than
di (before vowels) the i:, u; of their stong forms. I use the symbols i, u (in preference to r, tr) to
'Wait for the end' wert f r di end reptesent them. There is little difference in the pronunciation in different places
2 'a', 'an' in the sentence, except in the case of 'he'.
Weak forms: a (beforc consonaDts) Weak forms:
'Read a book' ,ri:cl : bok a) 'she' fi
:n (before vowels) 'Why did she read itl' war (lrd .Ji ri;d rr
'Eat an apple',i:t rn 'aepl 'Who issl1l?' hu: rz Ji
J ANG b) 'he' i (the weak form is usually pronounced without h except at
Weak form: an (sometimes 4 after t, d, s, z, J) the beginning of a sentence)
'Come and see''k,ln on 'si: 'Which did he choose?' wrl.J drd rJL|z i
'Fish and chips' frf 4 tllps 'He was late, wasn't he?' hi wrz 'lctt ,lvDznt i
92 En8lish Phonetics and Phonology rz Weak forms 93

c)'we' In frnal position: lrDm

'How can we get there?' hao kan wi ,gel dee 'Here's where it came ftom"hrrz weer rt 'kcrm froDl
'We need that, don't we?' wi ,ni:ddilt dsu.twi
18 'of'
d) 'you' Ju Weak form:
'What do you think?' wot do.iu 0r0k 'Most of ali' Drcost Jv 'rrl
'You like it, do you?'ju 'hrk rr dur.ju
In final position:
11 'him'
'Someone l've heard of' 's,lmwrn arv 'hg:d ov
Weak form: Illt
'Leaw him alone"li:v rm o leon te (befor€ consonanis)
Weak forms:
'l've seen him'arv siln rm 'Try to stop' trar t. stop
12 'her'
tu (before vowels)
Weak form: o (hc when sentence initial) 'Time to eat''tarm tu ilt
'Ask her to com€' 'otsk o te k^m tu (it is not usual to use the stlong form tur; the
In 6nal position:
'l'ye met her'atv 'met a pre-consonaDtal weak form tr is never used)
13 'them'
'l don't want to'rr 'daont 'wDnt lu
Weak form: danl 20 as'
'Leave them here' 'lilv dem ,hra
Weak form: az
'Eat them' 'irt daln 'As much as possible'ez 'm^tl oz posabl
i4 us'
In final position: rz
Weak form: as 'That's what it was sold as' dets wDt rt woz rseuld ez
'Write us a letter, lart os a let.
'They invited all ofus,der ln'vartrd r:i av as This word is us€d in two differmt ways. In one sens€ (q?ically, when it occun before
a countable noun, meanhg "ao unknown individual") it has the strong form:
The aer<t group of words (some prepositions and other function words) occur in
their 'I think some animal broke it'ar 0r0k s^nl 'ilnrmel lt
strong forms when they are in final position in a sentence; examples of this are given.
It is also used before uncountable nouDs (m€aning "an unspecified amount of")
Number 19, 'to', is a partial exception.
and before other nouns in the plural (meaning "an unsp€cfied number of"); in
such uses it has the weak form sam
15 at'
'Have som€ more tea' hav sem 'nta: 'tit
Weak form: et
In final position: s^m
'l'll see you at lunch'arl ,sir .iu at l,\nJ' 'I've got some'arv 'gDt s.\m
In 6nal position: sl 22'tJ\erc'
'Wlatt he shooring at? 'wnt. i Ju:rrn ,fl it
When this word has a demonstrative function, always occurc in its strong form
16 'for'
dcc (derr before vowels); for examPl€:
Weak form: ta (before consonants) 'There it is' dear rt rz
'Tea for two' 'tit [r 'tu:
'Put it there' 'put rt 'dea
fer (before vowels) Weak forms: do (before consonants)
'Thanla for asking, ,0:e4ks tcr. ,o:skrrl
'There should be a rule'ile liJd bi a'ru:l
In final position: lc:
dar (beforgvowels )
'What's that for?,,wots di!t frr 'There is' dar 'rz
l/ ITOln
In final position: the pronunciation may be de or dee.
Weak form: fram 'There isn't any, is there?'dcf 'rznl eni rz da
'I'm home from work'arm ,hiom fram 'w3:k or dar rznt eni rz dea
94 English Phoneti(s and Phonology 12 Weak forms 95

The remaining weak-form words are all auxiliaryverbs, which are always used in conjunc_ du (before vowels)
tion with (or ai least implying) anoth€r ("fit11,') is important to remember that in 'Why do ail the cars stop?' wirr du r:l dc 'ko:z slDp
their negative form (i.e. combined with'not,) they never have the weak pro[unciation, and 'does' claz
some (e.g. 'don't', 'can't') have different vowels fiom their non-negative strong forms. 'When does it arrive?' wcn drl rt a'rrr\r
23 'canltould' ln final position: (lu:, (1,\z
Weak forms: ken. keLl 'We don t smoke, but some people do' 'wi: dcunt snliok bat
'They carr wait, der kcn wcrt s,\nr Fr:pl dur
He could do it, ,hir kad du: r1 'I think John does'ar '0rlk (liDn d,\z
In final position: k*n. kud 28 'am', 'are', 'was', 'were'
'I think we can'at errlk wi ,ken Weak forms: Jlrr
'Most of them could, nreosl av dem ,k()d 'Why am I here?' war a ar hr3
24 'haw', 'has','had' r (before consoDants)
Weak forms: ov, oz, od (with iDitial h in initial position) 'Here ar€ the plates' hrar e dr plerts
'Which have you seen?, 'wrtJ ov ju ,sijl el (before vowels)
'Which has been best?,,wrlj az bi:n bcsl 'The coats are in there'dc keots ar rn ',Jca
'Most had gone home' nr-.rost rd gon hconr \yez
In final position: hir:v, hez, hiccl 'He was here a minute ago' hi waz hraf c mrnrt a'gi{)
'Yes, we have' ,jes wi 'haev we (before consonants)
'l thinl< she has,ar ,ornk .[i ,hrez 'The papers were late' 0e 'pcrpoz wa lert
'l thought we had, ar ,e.rr wi 'h€d wal (before vowels)
25 'shall', 'should' 'The questions w€re easy' 0a kwestl rnz wor 'irzi
Weak forms: Jol or.Jl; Jacl In final position: lcm, q:, wDZ, w3i
'We shall need to hurry, wi ,ni:d t. l),\ri 'She\ not as old as I am' Jtz :nDt ez 'ould ez 'al ienl
'I should forget it, 'ar .f.d fc,qet rt 'I know the Smiths are'ar nou rla smt0s ol
In final position: J!el. JtJd 'The last record was'de lorst rekard wDz
'I thinlwe shall'al ernk wi ,Jael 'They weren't as cold as w€ w€re' dei w3:nt ez 'keold ez
'So you shou.ld' ,sco ju 'Jocl wil w3:
26 'must'
This word is sometim€s used with the sense of forming a conclusion or deduc_ Noter on prcblems and fu*her reading
tion (e.9.'she left at eight o'clock, so she must have arrived by now,); when
'must' is used in this way, it is less likely to occur in its weak form than
when rt
This chapter is almost entirely practical. A-ll book about English pronunciation devote
being used in its more familiar sense of obligatioo. a lot of attention to weak forms. Som€ of them give a great deal of importance to using
Weak forms: nres (before consonants) these forms, but do not stress th€ importance of also knowing when to use the strong
'You must try harder'ju mes lrar ,hcr:dc fbrms, something which I feel is very importalt; see Hewings (2007: 48-9). There is a very
mast (before vowels) detailed study ofXnglish weak forms in Obendorfer (1998).
'He must eat more, hi mast ilt ntr;
In final position: m^st Witten exer(ire
'She certainly must, fi ,s3ttr i ,m,\sr J
27'do','does' In the following sentences, the trans6iption for the weak-form words is left blank. Fill in
Weak forms: the blanks, taking care io use the appropriate form (weak or strong).
'do' da (before consonants) I I want her to park that car ovei there.
'Why do they like it?''war dJ iler ,tark rr ar wDnt Pork ko:r eovo
96 English Phonet'cr and Phonology

2 Of all the proposals, the one that you made is the silliest.
rl prapatzlz w,\n nrerd 12 s I liasl
r3 Problerm in phonemic analytis
3 Iane and Bill could have driven them to and ftom the Darfy.
djcIn bil drr vn pn:II
4 To come to the point, what shall we do for the rest of the week?
k^m p.rnt \,vD1 jesl wi:k
Has anyone got an idea where it came ftom?
cniw,\n gDt atdir ,lvear rI kelm
Pedestrians must always use the crossings provided.
pode\tfionz clLwcrzjulz krnsrlz provlrrclrtl The concept of the phoneme was introduced in ChaPter 5, and a few theoretical problems
Each one was a pedect example ofthe art that had been connected with phonemic analysis have been mentioned in other chaPters The generai
iir- w \ nttltkr tjzu:n pl uir bl rn assumption (as in most Phonetics books) has been that speech is composed of phonemes
deveiop€d there. and that usually whenever a speech sound is produced by a speaker it is Possible to identify
orvelJpl which phoneme that sound belongs to While this is often true, we must recognise that
there are exceptions which make us consider some quite serious theoreticai problems.
From the comparatively simPle point of view of leaming pronunciation' these problems
are not particularly important. However, from the point of view of learning aboDt the
phonology of English they are too impo(tant to ignole.
There are problem3 of different t'?es. In some cases, we have dif6culty in deciding
on the overall phonemic system of the accent we are studying, while in others we are
concerned about how a particular sound fits into this system. A number of such problems
are discussed below.

The affricates ll, d3 are, phoneticallv, composed of a plosive followed by a fticative,
as explained in Chapte! 6. It is possibie to treat each of the pair tJ, ci3 as a single consonaDt
phoneme; we will call this the one-Phoneme analysis of ti, d3 lt is also possible to say
that they are composed of two phonemes each t plus .l, and d plus 3 respectively - ail
of which are aheady established as independent phonemes of English; this will be called
the two-phoneme analysis of l.J, d5. If we adopted the two-phoneme analysis, the words
'church and'judge' would be composed of five phonemes each, like this:
t -l -3r -t -.f cl-3-,\-d-3
instead of the three phonemes lhat result fiom the one-Phoneme analysis:

tl-r: tJ' d5-,\-d3

and there would be no separate rl. d; phonemes. But how can we decide which analysis
is preferable? The rwo-phoneme analfsis has one main advantage: if there are no s€Parate
tJ, d5 phonemes, then our totai set of English coDsonants is smaller Many Phonologists
have daimed that one should prefer the analysis which is the most "economical" in the
number of phonemes it results in. The argument for this might b€ based on the claim