This is an exercise extracted from More! 2 published by Cambridge enter image description here

But I can’t find any words ending with /i:/. There are 2 words which are ferry and taxi ending with /i/. I wonder if there are any cases that we say the two words with the sound /i:/. The book is written in British English. this is the transcription in the wordlist of the book This is the transcription in the wordlist of the book this is the whole page in case some ask for context This is the whole page. I don’t think there is a context.

  • You're right, I don't see any words here that would have a final /i:/ sound. Is there more than those 8 words? – Teleporting Goat Apr 2 '19 at 12:55
  • 1
    dictionary.cambridge.org/help/phonetics.html#vowels If /i:/ is the vowel in “sheep” then for me (American) both “ferry” and “taxi” end in that sound. – Mixolydian Apr 2 '19 at 13:06
  • Taxi has the sound. The i is /i:/ and ferry, too. And that is the same in any variety of English. I wish people would think before they start talking about what they speak, when it is irrelevant, as is the case here. – Lambie Apr 2 '19 at 21:25
  • @Lambie: No, it is not the same in any variety of English. In some varieties of English (probably not common nowadays), taxi and ferry end in the /ɪ/ sound found in the middle of the word "kit". – sumelic Apr 2 '19 at 23:32
  • @sumelic With all due respect, for ELL purposes, the standard varieties of English apply here. We're not discussing how a regional accent makes taxi into tax-eh. Standard British, American, Australian, New Zealand (and others) all pronounce taxi with a final /i:/. And there is no /ɪ/ (kit or minute). There is eh as in ɛ (tax-eh) in some British regional pronunciations. None of this is relevant to the page given by the OP or a "regular" learner. – Lambie Apr 3 '19 at 13:17

As I explain in my answer to Pronunciation of -ies, like the last syllable of "accessories" and "bees" in BrE, the final syllable of words like taxi and ferry could be transcribed as /i/, /ɪ/ or /iː/ depending on various considerations. For some accents, /ɪ/ is clearly inappropriate; for other accents, /iː/ is clearly inappropriate. The transcription /i/ is often used as a kind of "compromise", but it confusingly suggests the presence of three distinct "[i]-like" vowel sounds, when really most speakers will probably only think of there being two.

The tricky part is that speakers of different accents disagree about which of the two vowel sounds is present at the end of words like taxi. This isn't simple matter of one type of accent being British English, and the other being American English. Pronouncing "ferry" with /ɪ/ is probably very uncommon now in American English, but pronouncing "ferry" with "/iː/" is not uncommon in British English.

In word-final position, there is no real contrast between /i/ and /iː/, unless we ignore stress and transcribe unstressed /iː/ as /i/. That is, we could have a contrast like /ˈtæksi/ "taxi" vs. /ˈtakˌsi/ "tack-see". But the same kind of contrast could exist with any other vowel in the second syllable: for example, "crypto" /ˈkrɪptoʊ/ vs. "tiptoe" /ˈtɪpˌtoʊ/.

It seems like a badly written question. Because length markers are a somewhat common source of confusion, some phoneticians have suggested not using them in transcriptions for foreign learners of English.

  • I’ve just edited my question with more details. – Thanhgiang Apr 2 '19 at 23:51
  • @Thanhgiang: Thanks for the edits. I think it is just a mistake: because the length marker doesn't indicate anything that English speakers think of as important, it has been used inconsistently in your book. – sumelic Apr 2 '19 at 23:54
  • The question from the OP re the question in the book can only be: taxi and ferry. Anything else goes beyond the scope of this question. Your explanation makes the exercise 1) seem wrong 2) unanswerable 3) academic. – Lambie Apr 3 '19 at 17:48
  • @Lambie: What's wrong is the inconsistent use of the length marker: present in the question, but absent in the word list. If it were consistent, I wouldn't have a problem with the exercise. – sumelic Apr 3 '19 at 17:54

In (most dialects of) English, vowel length is phonetic (ie there are different words with different vowel lengths) but not phonemic (vowel length is not the only way of distingishing any pairs of words.

So "beat" and "bead" may be represented by the same /i:/ phoneme, even though they have significantly different lengths.

There is no word contrasting words /feri/ and /feri:/ and phonemically these are the same. Some writers will use /i:/ in all situations to distinguish it from the phonemically different /ɪ/ (bit and beat).

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