• about
  • coat

So, "-əʊ" (The Diphthong) sounds like "-oʊ" in American English,

yet "-ə" sounds very far from "ɔː" or "ɒ"

"-əʊ" has nothing to do with schwa?

  • 2
    I don't understand your logic. – Nihilist_Frost Jan 8 '16 at 17:41

I think you are confusing the abstract concept phoneme with its possible concrete realizations.

Each language has a limited number of phonemes, which are sort of like "boxes" into which speakers of a language sort the actual physical sounds (phones) they hear and utter. The phones which go into any particular box may vary in detail, but they are perceived as different from the phones which go into another box.

For instance, the phoneme /t/ has two distinct pronunciations: by itself at the beginning of a word it is spoken with an audible 'puff' of breath called aspiration, [th], while in other contexts it has no aspiration, [t]; but both pronunciations are classified as /t/.

Simlarly, [əʊ] spoken by an Englishman sounds quite different from the [oʊ] spoken by an American — [əʊ] starts with a mid-central unrounded vowel, what you call a 'schwa', while [oʊ] starts with a close mid-back rounded vowel — but speakers of both dialects will perceive them as belonging to the same phoneme.

And words are built from phonemes, not phones. An Englishman may say [gəʊ], and an American may say [goʊ]; but if they are speaking together both will recognize the word as go.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.