When I look up some dictionaries, the pronunciation of the word 'deduce' is /dɪˈduːs/, but it is pronounced as duh·doos ([dəˈduːs]). Is there a rule when to pronounce the vowel /ɪ/ like that?

  • 1
    I say it like did use but I am British. There are various ways of saying it. Jul 17 '21 at 15:30
  • 1
    "duh deuce" here in Canada
    – gotube
    Jul 17 '21 at 19:24
  • 2
    I'm Canadian and say /dɪˈdjuːs/, so go figure. These differences are effectively regional or personal variations in pronunciation.
    – J...
    Jul 18 '21 at 7:10

Dictionaries use phonemic transcriptions i.e. only contrastive sounds, not how native speakers actually speak. The word deduce is pronounced differently in both British and American English:

  • American: /dɪˈduːs/ (di-DOOS)
  • British: /dɪˈdjuːs/ (di-DYOOS)

The first syllable of deduce is unstressed whereas the second one is stressed (i.e. the strongest syllable). It's very common in spoken English to reduce unstressed /ɪ/ to a schwa sound (in certain words). The IPA symbol for schwa is ə (the sound at the end of commA). That's why most speakers pronounce it duh-DOOS/ duh-DYOOS. (In most British accents, you'll also hear the second syllable pronounced with a 'J' sound because of assimilation.)

You will also hear behind, behave, behaviour etc., pronounced with [bə-] (read this answer on Linguistics SE).

  • 7
    That's a very important fact for any English learner to understand. Most English speakers reduce most of their unstressed vowels to some central vowel, usually represented as schwa /ə/. They may think they're pronouncing something else (usually a letter) but in fact it's schwa. Don't believe what native speakers tell you about pronunciation. They never learned it in school. Jul 17 '21 at 17:28
  • @JohnLawler That's decidedly an AmE phenomenon (the schwa-ification of vowels), not English in general.
    – J...
    Jul 18 '21 at 7:00
  • @J... I don't quite agree. There are accents that don't reduce vowels as much, but most UK accents do it as much as American accents.
    – trlkly
    Jul 18 '21 at 7:08
  • Technically, even /ɪ/ is usually reduction of closer and/or more front vowels like /e/, /ɛ/, or /i/.
    – trlkly
    Jul 18 '21 at 7:12
  • @trlkly I mean specifically reduction to schwa (ie: the total elimination of enunciation, not just a softer enunciation)
    – J...
    Jul 18 '21 at 7:14

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