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In the past it was always enough to be connected to humanity in a more abstract way, by the glint of possibility. (Kathy Holwadel) [her pronunciation]

abstract /æbˈstrækt/

Although there is the difference between first /æ/ and second /æ/ by accentuation, the first seems quite different from the second one. So I hear even /ɛ/ or /ə/ instead of /æ/. I want to know if she really pronounces /æ/. If yes, what is the difference from the second one?

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    Note that abstract is pronounced differently depending on whether it is a noun or an adjective. As an adjective the second syllable is stressed; when it appears as a noun the first syllable is stressed.
    – WendiKidd
    Aug 18 '13 at 0:14
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    This is partially a matter of the difference in phonetic context: the vowel before a continuant or voiced stop is different than the "same" vowel before a voiceless stop. (The difference is generally more strongly marked in US English than in British; often, as here, the vowel before a voiced stop or continuant is tenser and diphthongalized.) The other part is idiolectal variation: note Ms. Holwadel's pronunciation of past, in which the /æ/ is likewise close to /ɛ/. Aug 18 '13 at 1:20
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    @WendiKidd- Interestingly, I pronounce abstract as a noun and as an adjective the same way- with the first syllable stressed. Here's the abstract for my paper. And I like this abstract painting. It's when abstract is used as a verb, that I stress the second syllable. We need to abstract the transport mechanism from the interface.
    – Jim
    Aug 18 '13 at 1:47
  • I don't know that anyone is going to answer this question as good as StoneyB did, so I've converted that to an answer. @StoneyB: If you want it as an answer, simply answer it, and alert me, then I'll delete this comment and the community wiki.
    – J.R.
    Aug 18 '13 at 9:39
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From StoneyB's comment:

This is partially a matter of the difference in phonetic context: the vowel before a continuant or voiced stop is different than the "same" vowel before a voiceless stop. (The difference is generally more strongly marked in US English than in British; often, as here, the vowel before a voiced stop or continuant is tenser and diphthongalized.) The other part is idiolectal variation: note Ms. Holwadel's pronunciation of past, in which the /æ/ is likewise close to /ɛ/.

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