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Chapter 3

Reduction and Contraction

One of the truly indicative aspects of the American sound is the rapid American English. Rapid English is a combination of liaison, contraction and reduction. Since you probably first became acquainted with English through the printed word, you may find it uncomfortable, and you may even hesitate to use these reductions in your speech. However, it is important that you recognize reductions when you hear them, so that you can understand better what native speakers are saying. Speakers of standard American English use reduced English much of the time. The correct use of reduction in appropriate reduced English would make you sound very American.

Savvy 6第六招
Reduction 弱读

Listen to the word photograph and pay close attention as it is read in two different ways.


This type of reduction makes English flow more smoothly and rapidly. Learning how to use vowel reductions is an important tool in making your English sound natural and easy. There are two areas where vowels are reduced. One is inside words that have two or more syllables. The other area is in the use of the little words that hold your sentence together to make grammatical sense.

1. Two-syllable Words
The typical pattern is to reduce the second syllable.

April, enter, restful, escape, release, deny

My birthday's in April.
Where do we enter?
Press this button to release the door.
His guilt was hard to deny.

2. Multiple-syllable Words
In multiple-syllable words, one syllable will be stressed. One or two others may or may not get some stress and at least one syllable will be reduced. We've already seen this with our example of photograph.

religion, education, eradicate, entertain, competition, eliminate, instigate

What's your religion?
Where did you get your education?
How can we eradicate all the fleas?
Let's entertain tonight.
Try to eliminate your competition
How can I instigate an investigation?

3. Some words have a vowel sound that's completely eliminated.

This happens when there's more than one reduced vowel sound following the stressed syllable. The dropped syllable tends to be the one right after the stressed syllable. It happens more commonly before an r.

chocolate, restaurant, temperature, family, natural, several, separate

Most people like chocolate.
What's your favorite restaurant?
The temperature gets pretty high in the desert.
Where's your family?
I like to go to natural food stores.
You have several options.
Could we have separate checks?

4. When a word ends with ary, ully or ally, the a or u vowel is often dropped.

finally, accidentally, powerfully, elementary

We finally finished painting.
I accidentally cut myself.
I was powerfully affected by the movie last night.
There are two elementary schools in the neighborhood.

5. Vowel reductions occur in the little words

Articles such as a or the, pronouns such as he or it, auxiliary verbs such as is or can, prepositions such as to or for and conjunctions such as and or but are usually reduced sounds.

○1 Articles 冠词

the the man, the best, the last one, the apple, the egg, the easy way

Where's the classroom?
What's the time?
Let's take the new car.
Where's the electricity?
When's the eclipse?
The eggs are scrambled.

a a girl, a banana, a computer
This is a book.
Where's a restaurant?
I'm watching a movie.

an an orange, an opening, an interview
Eat an orange.
My mother is an Italian citizen.
I have an apple in my bag.

○2 Prepositions 介词

to today, to work, to school, to the store
We have to go now.
He went to work.
He told me to help.
I go to work.
A quarter to two.
The only way to get it.
You've got to pay to get it.
So to speak.
I want to go.
I'm going to the store.
Which way to Nevada?
I went to Illinois.
But I want to. (Exception at the end of a sentence.)

I'll see you at lunch.
The meeting's at one.
He's at work.
They're at school.
I live at 3929 River Street.
We have to leave at ten.
Richard's at the store.

This is for you.
It's for my friend.
I went to the store for some eggs.
I filled the gas tank for you.

It's from the IRS.
Get away from me.
Who's it from? (Exception at the end of a sentence)
Where are you from? (Exception at the end of a sentence)

It's in the bag.
What's in it?
He's in America.
He lives in Maine.
He's in the pool.

I need a pound of bananas.
Here's a loaf of bread.
He has a lot of energy.
That's a lot of exercise.
It's the top of the line.
It's a state of the art printer.
He had hands of ice.
Get out of here.
Practice all of the time.

○3 Pronouns 代词

Give it to me.
What is it?
I got it in London.
It's all right.

Is this your dog?
I like your new dress.
Where's your wife?

Whose our teacher?
I like our new car.
Where's our dog?

can be pronounced [m] or [m]

[m] [m]
I saw them yesterday. I saw them yesterday.
We fixed them already. We fixed them already.
I passed them in the hall. I passed them in the hall.

What time is it?
What's up?
What's on your agenda?
What do you mean?
What did you mean?
What did you do about it?

Do you want some more?
I'll have some coffee, thank you.
Here's some money.

○4 Conjunction 连词

and ham and eggs, bread and butter, you and I, salt and pepper
We have mashed potatoes and gravy.
There are roses and daisies in the garden.
We went to Washington and Oregon.
We need a dish washer and an oven.

or soup or salad, now or later, more or less, left or right
Do you want cream or sugar?
Are you Mary or Susan?

I know that it's true.
I don't think that I know you.
I heard that you were coming.
He said that he liked it.
It's true that I'm English.

This is as good as it gets.
That is as it should be.

I don't know, but I think so.
John is well, but Larry is sick.
I like her but she doesn't like me.

This is better than that.
The older child behaves better than the younger one.
It's warmer than yesterday.

○5 Be 系动词

What are you doing?
Where are you going?
How are you?
Those are no good.

This is it.
How is it?
Why is it cold?
How is it going?
Where is your house?
Why is it so cold?

What was it?
When was your birthday?
I was just leaving.

Reduced vowels are often undetected if you're not accustomed to listening for short vowel sounds. The best way to eliminate this problem is to practice saying them. This will help remind you that they're there. It's also helpful if you know grammar well. This will help you to assume that they're there even if you don't hear them.

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