2

According to the Cambridge dictionary,I have three questions about the pronunciation of the word "literally":

  1. according to the voice on the web,as if the first vowel letter i in UK English is pronounced as a long vowel /i/,is it right?
  2. /ˈlɪt̬·ər·ə·li/,the second vowel is weakened.So in US English it is pronounced as a non-retro-flex,and in UK English it will be ignored?
  3. why the second is weakened,not the third one?How is the rule?
1
  1. You're mistaken; the vowel is short, both phonologically and phonetically. It is the /ɪ/ vowel found in words such as lit, sit, kit. I don't know what voice you're referring to; if you mean the recorded pronunciations on the Cambridge dictionary site, you've misheard the vowel. They do both use the /ɪ/ phoneme.

  2. The vowel being weakened does not mean it would not be pronounced with r-coloring/retroflexion in American English. If anything, the reverse is probably true: "weakened" or reduced vowel are more likely to assimilate to adjacent sounds. In fact, some analyses treat a schwa followed by "r" as a syllabic consonant /r̩/ with no vowel at all.

    It's true that the first schwa is likely to be dropped in UK English, resulting in a pronunciation with three syllables, /lɪtrəli/. This seems to be due to the stress pattern of the word, but it's complicated to explain the exact conditions and I'm not sure I can do it. If you're really interested in learning this, there's a post I made on ELU that has some information I found that might be helpful from "Optimality Theory and Prosody", by Michael Hammond. An example word he gives that shows the same pattern of schwa loss is respiratory > resp'ratory.

  3. The third vowel is a schwa, and therefore I would say it is a "weak" or reduced vowel. It just isn't dropped, probably for stress-related reasons as I said above.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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