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“You mean it is only twenty dollars?” (audio linked)

I hear /ˈtwəni/ for twenty. I can see that in /ˈtwenti/, the /t/ sound has been weakened, in the audio. However does he weaken the /e/ sound, too, into schwa, /ə/? If it is, do you expand the use of schwa even to this word?

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  • I hear certainly no schwa in that twenty. The pronunciation is very close to the a in any, which is not a schwa. The a in dollars sounds more like a schwa.
    – oerkelens
    Oct 30, 2014 at 13:18
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    In American English, it's often pronounced "twunny". I don't hear there the "correct" crisp pronunciation whose first syllable rhymes with "hen" and whose second syllable has an articulated dental. I hear the American "twunny" with a very slight dental.
    – TimR
    Oct 30, 2014 at 14:05
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    I hear a difference between the e in twenty and the a in dollar. Do you hear a difference there as well, @TRomano?
    – oerkelens
    Oct 30, 2014 at 14:22
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    The first vowel in American "twunny" comes from far back in the throat (it rhymes with money) and is voiced in the upper chest cavity, whereas the second syllable of dollar is a rhotic head vowel. The mouth is closing off and the lips are beginning to protrude slightly to produce the [r], bringing the sound forward. The two vowels are also much different in their duration.
    – TimR
    Oct 30, 2014 at 14:31
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    I hear 'twenny' same as 'penny'. Used in the UK along with the pronounced T version of 'twenty'. Scottish/Australian accents might say 'twinny' same as a horses 'whinny', sometimes also saying the T as well giving 'twinty'.
    – Frank
    Nov 1, 2014 at 10:19

2 Answers 2

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To answer your first question of "Does he weaken the /e/ sound, too, into a shwa, /ə/?" the answer is, Yes, and goes further to make it a long schwa, /ɛ/.

As to your second question, use of the schwa does indeed extend to this word, in which case the (long) schwa can either be pronounced like the common /e/ sound in penny, or like the /u/ sound in supple.

A note on the original word, twenty: there are two proper pronunciations according to both Dictionary.com/Random House and Merriam-Webster; /ˈtwɛn ti/ (twen-tee) and /ˈtwʌn ti/ (twuhn-tee). Further weakening it to /ˈtwʌn i/ (twuhn-ee) as the speaker is doing in the sound byte could be considered regional dialect (and commenters in your original post have posited as much).

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  • What is a long schwa?
    – user230
    Nov 5, 2014 at 1:22
  • A long schwa is more accurately called an "open-mid central unrounded vowel or low-mid central unrounded vowel" and you can find a brief article on it at Wikipedia. To illustrate, take the words women and bird; the /ih/ sound from women is more brief than the /uhr/ sound from bird (even the phonetic representation is longer). Nov 6, 2014 at 17:57
  • I thought you meant to write /ɜ/, but I roll-backed the edit. And No, the use of Schwa doesn't extend to this word, it's certainly not a long Schwa
    – Void
    Jan 7, 2021 at 8:57
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No, it's not a schwa, but /ɛ/. It's unlikely to find schwa in stressed syllables.

The speaker pronounces twenty as [ˈtwɛni], more precisely:

[ˈtʰw̥ɛ̈̃ni]

He has the same vowel as in bed, but a bit centralised and nasalised (in anticipation of the following /n/), so it sounds closer to schwa.

In most American accents, when a stressed syllable ends in an N and the next unstressed syllable starts with a T, the T is usually dropped, so in.ter.net becomes innernet, coun.ter becomes counner, twen.ty becomes twenni etc.


- superscript h [ʰ]: aspirated
- two superscript dots [ ̈]: centralised
- tilde [ ̃]: nasalised

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