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/ˈvɛə.ɹi.əs/

This is what Wiktionary says about the RP pronunciation of the word "various". Are there British accents where it's pronounced without this ɛə diphthong, for example like this: /ˈvɛ.ɹi.əs/?

I would like to pronounce this word in the British way, but on the other hand I can't convince myself that in regular speech anyone would notice the lack of shwa (or that I replaced ɛə with æ).

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    Do you want to pronounce this word in "the British way" (RP) or in a British way? There are British accents that use different vowels, but since they're not RP, nobody would say it's the British way. Here's an example from Collins dictionary: youtube.com/watch?v=BAIAUynkf7c
    – gotube
    Jul 4 at 16:45
  • @gotube - That speaker is distinctly Scottish. Jul 4 at 18:12
  • @gotube Blast, I actually wrote "a British way" in the first place, but then I thought it'd be more correct to write "the". I'm looking for "A British way"!
    – musialmi
    Jul 4 at 18:58
  • @musialmi, for what it's worth, "blast" is a particularly British exclamation, and one I haven't heard in years! So thanks for that trip down memory lane. 🙂
    – tkp
    Jul 5 at 0:50
  • If you're looking for any British way to pronounce things, it's best to choose one variety of British English (probably RP) and stick to that same variety for the pronunciation of all words. So yes, there's a wide variety of ways to pronounce "various", including the non-RP /''veiɾiəs/ found in the video I pasted in my first comment. It would sound weird if you spoke RP, then pronounced "various" the way she does.
    – gotube
    Jul 5 at 5:01

1 Answer 1

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Yes. Even among speakers of Received Pronunciation, /eə/ is sometimes realised as [ɛ:].

In fact, some dictionaries (notably, newer Oxford dictionaries) transcribe it /ɛ:/, as Lexico does here. (Other dictionaries use /eə/; Wiktionary's /ɛə/ seems less usual.)

Phonetician John Wells comments on the rival transcriptions (and variation in pronunciation) as follows, referring to /eə/ as the "standard symbol", and /ɛ:/ as a "long monophthong":

People do increasingly use a long monophthong for this vowel, rather than the schwa-tending diphthong implied by the standard symbol. What used to be a local-accent feature has become part of the mainstream. There are millions of English people, however, who still use a diphthong. To produce the distinction in pairs such as shed -- shared EFL learners generally find it easier to make the square vowel diphthongal ([eə]) rather than to rely on length alone.

(Lexico has "shed" as /ʃɛd/, and "shared" as /ʃɛːd/ - a length-based contrast. Wells' point is that it may be easier for learners not to rely solely on length to make the phonemic contrast. The "standard system", on the other hand, transcribes "shed" as /ʃed/, and "shared" as /ʃeəd/.)

To pronounce it [ɛ] or [e] without elongating it - using the "e" of "shed" for the first vowel of "various" without lengthening - would be less normal in RP, and might be noticed, but wouldn't affect comprehension. (If you did it in a word like "shared", it could affect comprehension, though context is usually a big help to the listener.)

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  • Wow, so this /eə/ -> /ɛ:/ change is growing in popularity within England? Do people use /ɛ:/ even in words where there's an R in the end of a word (like "where" or "hair")?
    – musialmi
    Jul 6 at 17:51
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    @musialmi Yes, they do.
    – rjpond
    Jul 6 at 19:22

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