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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_der_x5Zxmc

At 3:37 of this video the man says, as far as I'm concerned, "For portions of that first half we sort of dominated them".

I've slowed the audio down to be sure I'm hearing everything correctly.

I'm clearly hearing that in "portions of that" the sounds "s" and "th" are adjacent. But "s" and "th" can be adjacent in this phrase if and only if the word "of" is totally omitted.

Am I correct to say that "of" completely left out in this phrase? How dialectal and how common is it in Great Britain?

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    I can hear 'for portions uh the first 'alf'. The uh being barely audible. The speaker is under pressure to say a lot in a short time. That sort of shortening is OK in the circumstances. Apr 13 at 8:52
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    The schwa itself (uh) is definitely present, and I expect a linguist with an oscilloscope could easily identify a minimal /v/ immediately after the schwa, even though it's not fully articulated in rapid speech like this. And as for the second "of" after "sort", the late John Lawler always wrote that as sorta - the final /v/ in sort of is often / usually dispensed with in casual speech. Apr 13 at 15:49
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    No, you can't omit it. However, you can try and copy him. Footballers talk very fast. Try listening to others. He says uh instead of. This is common in what is called connected speech. This is not dialectal nor particularly British. Americans when talking fast also say uh instead a distinct of. For example: There were lots uh people at the party. SAID FAST.
    – Lambie
    Apr 13 at 22:08
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    @FumbleFingers: I don't hear the schwa myself, so I don't think you can say it's definitely present. As for the /v/ you claim is there, it is definitely absent. You are rejecting the evidence of your own ears!
    – TonyK
    Apr 15 at 17:21
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    @TonyK: Professor of linguistics John Lawler often said that elements like that could be identified on an oscilloscope even though people might think they weren't articulated at all. And honestly, does it really matter if I hear what I'm expecting, rather than what the oscilloscope tells me? But in this specific case, I'm astonished that you would say you can't hear a schwa between ...for portions and that first 'alf. I certainly don't need a oscilloscope for that. Also note that native speakers would never deliberately discard that particular preposition in that context. Apr 15 at 17:49

3 Answers 3

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In the clip which the Original Poster has been watching, most of the speakers speak a Northern variety of British English. In this type of English, the word of is often pronounced just as a vowel, usually a schwa, /ə/. This is what happens in the Original Poster's example. The faster the speaker is speaking the more likely this is to happen, although some speakers of Northern Englishes may use this vowel nearly all the time. There are lots of other very interesting sounds and patterns in the speech in that clip. Beautiful.

The pronunciation of 'of' as a single vowel happens in other varieties of English too, but it doesn't happen often in Southern Standard British English.

The Original Speaker asks whether they should copy this type of speech. The answer is that if you live in the north of England, or somewhere else where they pronounce of like this, then it's up to you and how confident you feel doing it. Go for it! However, remember that not many people across the world are very familiar with English from the North of England. If you are going to be using your English in an international setting, you may want to use a more well-known variety of English as your main model.

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    The London working-class way of saying 'cup of tea' sounds like 'cuppa tea' to some, and the short for 'a cuppa' came into widespread use. However, despite international stereotypes, Britain's favourite hot drink is now coffee. Apr 13 at 12:00
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    Sorta is common enough in American English that it’s in the dictionary now (but non-standard).
    – Davislor
    Apr 13 at 20:05
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    Americans say uh instead of a distinct of all the time. Plenty uh people know that. Northern dialect, indeed. I speak four languages and guess I never had a main model for any of them. I started Spanish with Argentinians, then moved to Caribbeans, then, Colombians and Venezuelans (not in a straight line either), and to top it off married a Spaniard.
    – Lambie
    Apr 13 at 22:09
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    I just turned on CNN due to the missiles being lobbed at Israel (6:19 pm, EST) and am waiting for an uh for an of. Ha ha. But not haha overall, at all.
    – Lambie
    Apr 13 at 22:19
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    @Lambie In my American accent, I don’t reduce of to a vowel alla the time. It’s something I do when I’m speaking quickly and the syllable is unstressed. I also sometimes say “coulda,” “shoulda,” and “woulda.”
    – Davislor
    Apr 14 at 3:06
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I wanted to expand on the answer by Araucaria a little.

It's common for many English speakers, not just those speaking British English, to sometimes turn "of" into "uh". This change is the "schwa" that was mentioned in Araucaria's answer. How often this happens varies a lot by region, but most English speakers do it at least occasionally.

For example:

"A lot of the time I just go on ahead." Will be pronounced more like "A lot uh the time...".

It's also worth noting that this can happen to the article "a". Which means that the example listed above will end up being pronounced like:

"Uh lot uh the time I just go on ahead."

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To piggyback on the addition to Araucaria's answer made by fatalerrer, saying "of" as "uh" is common in dialects of American English too.

What is important to notice is that the -uh- sound sometimes gloms onto the preceding syllable and sometimes onto the following syllable:

For portions uh-that first half we really sort-uh dominated them.

In the first instance, it is a prepositional phrase, "of that first half", and in the second instance, it is the adverbial expression "sort of".

The parsing rhythms isolate the constituent phrase:

uh-that-first-half

really-sort-uh

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    Hence the words sorta and kinda.
    – trlkly
    Apr 14 at 23:27
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    @trlkly You coulda added more examples. I woulda mentioned "shoulda". :P Apr 15 at 0:20
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    I think you might be referring to Fatalerrer's post, not JamesK's? Apr 15 at 9:04
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. You've clearly never seen my students' writing. :D Apr 15 at 13:04
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    @TimR: Yes, very occasionally, (in AmE more than BrE, I feel), the /v/ is dropped completely where of is followed by a vowel. But I think there's always a weird little "AmE glottal stop" there instead, in such cases (which I have the impression is more common in AAVE than "standard" AmE, but what do I know?). Apr 15 at 18:22

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