Are [ə] and [ʌ] different phonemes in American English?
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April 12, 2021, 07:02:59 AM

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  Are [ə] and [ʌ] different phonemes in American English?
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Author Topic: Are [ə] and [ʌ] different phonemes in American English?  (Read 3750 times)
Хahar 🤔
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« on: October 14, 2012, 05:53:53 PM »

As I understand it, [ə] only exists in unstressed syllables while [ʌ] only exists in stressed syllables, which would mean that there are no minimal pairs. In my own speech, I can't distinguish between the two.
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homelycooking
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2012, 06:08:02 PM »

I don't think so. Is there a difference in other languages?
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ilikeverin
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2012, 06:53:50 PM »

I don't think so. Is there a difference in other languages?

It's a difference in other varieties of English, actually.  One of my phonetics/phonology profs in undergrad was a native speaker of Indian English, and he had some minimal pairs (or near-minimal pairs).  He tried to convince me that they were phonetically distinguishable, but I couldn't hear the difference at all.  Not just the way I can't hear the difference between [ɑ] and [ɔ], where I feel like I can hear a phonetic difference but it's completely uninformative to my grammar, but, like, I just couldn't hear anything.  I think it's still maintained in other Englishes, too.

So, sorry, Xahar, you just have to memorize that [ʌ] happens in stressed syllables and [ə] in unstressed ones!  At least your prof isn't penalizing you for not distinguishing /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ Wink
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Хahar 🤔
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2012, 08:47:23 PM »

What were these minimal pairs? Also, is /ʌ/ as rare as Wikipedia says it is? I certainly can't think offhand of many languages in which it exists.
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Linus Van Pelt
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« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2012, 09:27:04 PM »

If [ʌ] does not appear unstressed, what is the second syllable of "backup"? Do you not distinguish this from the second syllable of "ketchup"?
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muon2
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2012, 04:53:06 AM »

If [ʌ] does not appear unstressed, what is the second syllable of "backup"? Do you not distinguish this from the second syllable of "ketchup"?

My dictionary lists "backup" as having a secondary stress on the second syllable, which it does not for "ketchup".
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Хahar 🤔
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« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2012, 10:06:05 AM »

I assume secondary stress is assigned to the second syllable precisely because [ʌ] appears in that position.
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Oakvale
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« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2012, 10:39:39 AM »

It's so weird that this forum has a sizeable contingent of linguistics enthusiasts as well as the predictable map nerds.
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ilikeverin
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« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2012, 12:34:18 PM »

It's so weird that this forum has a sizeable contingent of linguistics enthusiasts as well as the predictable map nerds.

I think we're just particularly talkative.  I wonder why linguists like talking Grin
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Хahar 🤔
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« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2012, 02:48:24 PM »

If secondary stress is determined by the presence of [ʌ], then I suppose it would be tautological to say that it only appears in stressed syllables.
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minionofmidas - supplemental forum account
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« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2012, 03:22:34 PM »

It's so weird that this forum has a sizeable contingent of linguistics enthusiasts as well as the predictable map nerds.
I think there is a certain degree of crossover appeal.


My dictionary lists "backup" as having a secondary stress on the second syllable, which it does not for "ketchup".
Yes, that's immediately obvious to my ear. (Though German speakers would put a similar secondary stress on the second syllable of ketchup.) What's less obvious is that that makes the sound in "ketchup" not an [ʌ].

(deeks around)
Ah, indeed wiktionary offers [ʌ] and [ə] as both valid for ketchup. [ə] basically is just what a lot of vowel sounds collapse to when they're utterly devoid of stress.
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