the pronunciation of "ergative" in link sounds like /ˈɜːrgetɪv/ while it's phonetic symbol is /ˈɜːrɡətɪv/.

the phonetic symbol e and ə are different i think. but all dictionaries i looked up show me the pronunciation sounds like /ˈɜːrgetɪv/

I'm curious on e and ə.

  • Note that here are two notations and two sound examples at your link, one BrE (British English), a non-rhotic dialect in which the /r/ phoneme is realized only as a lengthening of the previous vowel, and the other NAmE (North American English), a rhotic dialect in which the /r/ phoneme is realized as a consonant. – StoneyB on hiatus May 6 '16 at 6:25

The Original poster is completely correct. The BrE pronunciation audio-example does use an /e/. I am pretty certain that this is an error caused by the word being said in isolation and not actually being used. Strange things happen to our pronunciation when we read or when we say words in isolation. That pronunciation is definitely not one I've heard before. It is also not what is written in their transcription. The usual standard British pronunciation is definitely /ˈɜːɡətɪv/.

Another very interesting fact about that word is that the -ative ending in English is often pronounced with a KIT vowel, /ɪ/. So many speakers would say /'ɜː(r)gɪtɪv/ in both British and American English. If you listen carefully to the American example, the woman clearly says /'ɜ:rgɪtɪv/ not /'ɜ:rgətɪv/. Fun, eh?


I hear /ə/ clearly in the AmE example, and probably (though it's not so clear) in the BrE example. I would certainly use /ə/ myself.


The word again contains both /e/ and /ə/. If you listen to this word (the AmE recording is more representative), and then to you listen to ergative, you will see that the a in ergative sounds a lot more like the first vowel in again /ə/ than the second sound vowel /e/.

  • thank you for your answer. but what I curious is on e and ə. so I updated my question. – Tim May 6 '16 at 7:43
  • The short ɜ: sound is a schwa, [ ə ]! – Araucaria - Not here any more. May 6 '16 at 9:43
  • @Araucaria, the OP has rewritten the question, so my answer is no longer appropriate. You are right, in the rewritten question the vowel is a schwa. I have updated my answer accordingly. – JavaLatte May 6 '16 at 10:07

The schwa sound is not definite and can sound different in different words or by different speakers. It can sound similar to the short vowel sounds of e, i, or u.

Take the word "venomous" /ˈven.ə.məs/ - you might hear it actually said "VenUHmous" or "VenIHmous" or "VenEHmous" (the capitalization does not imply stress). The schwa is simply indistinct by nature.

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