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It seems that sometimes in spoken English, The verb to be is not pronounced (or not pronounced well). According to the examples given, is this correct? After comparing almost correct subtitles with sound and extracting the sound of the film, these examples have been obtained. Feel free to take a look and share your answer. Movie Name : The Son 2022

Extracted Voice File (It will be deleted from the server)

Voice: How she taking it

Sub : How is she taking it?

[30:43/30:45]

Voice : You know with a baby and she already quite tired

Sub : You know with a baby and she is already quite tired

[31:02/31:05]

Voice : Yeah but you know all in all, things going well

Sub : Yeah but you know all in all, things are going well

[31:10/31:13]

Voice : Yeah I think that's how the things just gonna work

Sub : Yeah I think that's how the things are just gonna work

[31:28/31:31]

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    Yes, the verb "to be" is often reduced or contracted... Sometimes this is indicated in writing with apostrophe "How's she taking it?" "thing're just gonna work". Sometimes it is not written in contracted form. What is your question?
    – James K
    Jul 28, 2023 at 11:00
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    The verb in the first one isn't deleted - it's just contracted to How's she taking it? That's usually the case (words that aren't semantically significant get "underarticulated", rather than completely omitted). This is particularly so when preceding or following phonemes are also present in the underplayed element, and/or the specific sequence without reduction might be "awkward" to fully articulate in rapid relaxed conversation. One I hear more and more lately (particularly in AAVE) is 'm'a - reduced from I'm agonna = I am going to... [do something]. Jul 28, 2023 at 11:16
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    I clearly hear how's she in the first one, not how she. But native speakers will often assume they hear something simply because they expect it, even if it was never actually articulated by the speaker. The "reason" is simply that most speakers (of most languages) tend to be "lazy" - if they can get away with making less effort to articulate their words clearly and still be understood, they will do so. Jul 28, 2023 at 11:18
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    The transcription is incorrect. The audio is also not particularly clear.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 28, 2023 at 11:22
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    Here's what I hear: Woman: Yeah, how's she taking it? Man: [inaudible] a little unsettled, you know what with the baby and, and she's already quite tired, sh[audio cuts off]. Man: Yeah but you know, all in all, it's [inaudible]. Man: Yeah, I think that's how [inaudible] things is gonna work.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 28, 2023 at 11:45

1 Answer 1

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Subtitles aren’t transcriptions

…if they were there’d be too much text to read:

Here’s what’s actually said:

  1. “Yeah, how’s-she taking it?”
  2. “what with the baby and she’ already quite tired”
  3. “…all in all it’s [uh] it’s going well.”
  4. “It think that- I think that side of things is gonna work.”

In 1. The terminal “s” on “how’s” is carried over to become the leading s on “she”. Despite both being “s”, these are normally different sounds: /z/ and /ʃ/ respectively. This is a change of sounds that’s quite difficult to make quickly, so normally the final /z/ is dropped and the leading /ʃ/ substitutes for both (try saying “bizz-shop” as quickly as you can - eventually you’ll end up saying “bishop”). In this case, that means we lose the /z/ in “how’s”.

(Any linguists, please feel free to chip in with the name of this phenomenon - my own knowledge of phonetics is purely through music)

Number 2 is just a lack of enunciation. There should be a “/z/” at the end of “she’s”, but the speaker has swallowed it - this is not a normal habit of English speakers.

we’re good at filling in the blanks

In both of these cases, the listener can deduce the missing verb “to be” because the sentences are un-natural without it, and we assume that this speaker, being native, will use natural forms.

Casual [pause], uh, casual speech has, er,...

Sentences 3 and 4 are good examples of how casual, informal speech is different to the written language. Casual speech stops and starts, people start a sentence, stop and then go again. Occasionally speakers fumble over words, or give up on a sentence half-way and try it again with a different structure.

#3 is an example of repeating a part of a sentence: “all in all it’s going well” is the intended sentence, but “it’s” appears twice.

#4 shows a sentence being restarted. “side of things” is just a filler phrase in this context. (see this question for what it means)

This kind of speech relies on the listener and speaker knowing each other well enough to be able to fill in the gaps and discard the false-starts. Generally, the better two people know each other, the less exact the speech between them will be.

In this audio, it’s clear that the characters know each other well, and are relaxed in each other’s company. This kind of rambling, unstructured speech is one way that the actors let the audience know this.

“You can say this s__t, but you sure can't type it!”

In modern times, as sound reproduction has improved, film and television actors use this technique a lot more. In older film and TV, the limits of what the audience could clearly hear forced actors to speak their lines much more clearly (and on stage, they still have to; you can’t rewind a play to catch that mumbled word)

As an aside, a famous example of casual speech patterns is the tape-recordings used as evidence in the Watergate trial. Here’s an example of just one sentence from one of those tapes:

  • PRESIDENT: So the point we have to, the bridge you have to cut, uh, cross there is, uh, which you've got to cross, I understand, quite soon, is whether, uh, we, uh, what you do about, uh, his present demand.

…and here’s what I think he was saying with the pauses and restarts removed:

  • “The bridge we have to cross there is what you do about his present demand”
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  • I need a reference book for these issues like falling syllables or merging them, changing their pronunciation according to the context and research on spoken language. Can you recommend a book related to the above or already mentioned issues? Jul 28, 2023 at 15:12
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    @KavehBehnia - unless you plan to study linguistics, I would recommend instead that you just listen to native speakers, and try to mimic the way they speak. There are some quite accessible videos on YouTube too ( I recommend Dr Geoff Lindsey’s channel youtube.com/@DrGeoffLindsey ) which might help you with some of the oddities of English-language speech.
    – KrisW
    Jul 28, 2023 at 16:37
  • Thanks a million :) Jul 29, 2023 at 9:29

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