Accent Reduction Technique: Syllable Reduction
Accent Reduction Tip
Syllable reduction is different than syllable stress. When you place stress on a syllable, you raise the pitch, volume, and length of your voice. When you reduce a syllable, you omit the syllable (or in some cases, the vowel of the syllable) completely. You simply don’t pronounce the syllable. Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker & Lynda Katz-Wilner, authors of Rules for Using Linguistic Elements of Speech: A Resource and Interactive Workbook, provide straightforward information for mastering syllable reduction.
One trick to speaking with an American English accent is to reduce the syllables when pronouncing words. It’s important to practice pronouncing words with unstressed vowels. If you stress the vowels that are not meant to be stressed, people will focus on HOW you’re speaking and not on the message that you’re saying. You might be wondering upon which words you are expected to reduce the syllables.
In English many words with three or more syllables are “reduced” by eliminating syllable with the weakest stress. This allows the word to flow more smoothly and naturally.
Some common English words that contain reduced syllables are listed below. Practice pronouncing the words without the syllable in parentheses.
Now see if you can detect which words in the following sentences contain syllable reductions. One of the sentences has two words with reductions. Practice saying the sentences and remember to omit the reduced syllables.
The average temperature was 82 degrees.
The computer automatically generated the report.
The words flow more smoothly and naturally.
He bought vegetables for the new recipe he was trying.
“Do you have a beverage menu?” asked the customer.
“Do you have any evening appointments?” she asked.
What’s the difference?
I’ve read every book the author’s ever written.
It’s fascinating listening to you.
I’m interested in learning more about syllable reduction.
Not all three-syllable words are reduced. Syllable reduction occurs with words that contain three or more syllables. Regular practice pronouncing words with reduced syllables will increase your ability to be understood. When you know the words that have reduced syllables, it’s an easy rule to practice.
Use some of the common words containing reduced syllables in your everyday speech. For example, a common American English response to someone who tells you something you didn’t previously know is “That’s interesting.” “Every” is a common word you can use throughout your daily speech. If you happen to live in a climate (as I do) where the temperature fluctuates, you could comment on the temperature. When you incorporate your accent knowledge and practice into everyday circumstances, you’ll see results quicker. Your American English communication partners will have an easier time understanding you.
Source: Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker & Lynda Katz-Wilner. Rules for Using Linguistic Elements of Speech. Owings Mills: Successfully Speaking, 2006, 2007, 2nd Edition. Print.