IPA phoneme /ʊə/

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American
English

ʊ

cure /kjʊr/

British English
 

ʊə ɔː

sure /ʃʊər, ʃɔːr/

Strict IPA
 

ʊə̯

cure /kjʊə̯r/

British
English

ʊə

cure /kjʊər/

In Received Pronunciation, the IPA phonetic symbol /ʊə/ corresponds to the dipthong sound in words like "cure" /kjʊər/ and "tour" /tʊər/. Currently in Received Pronunciation this phoneme is disappearing, in favour of /ɔː/, in the so-called CURE-FORCE merger (also called pour-poor merger).[1] For example "tour" is pronounced either /tʊər/ or /tɔːr/. "Sure" can be pronounced either /ʃʊər/ or /ʃɔːr/.

In General American, on the other hand, /ʊər/ and /ʊr/ can be pronounced [ʊər] at the end of the syllable or before a consonant[2] or [ʊr] before a vowel.[3] Since the difference is predictable it can be said that General American doesn't have an /ʊə/ phoneme. This should be called “CURE pronounced as FOOT” or (less precisely) “the CURE-FOOT merger” but we could find only one reference, as a comment in a blog.[4] See IPA phoneme /ʊ/.

In the United States a few words with /ʊər/ can be pronounced [ɜːr]. This is called the CURE-NURSE merger (also called cure-fir merger).[5] See IPA phoneme /ɜː/ and the Advanced material section.

In Received Pronunciation /ʊər/ and /ɔːr/ are pronounced [ʊə] and [ɔː] unless they are followed by a vowel, i.e. the "r" is normally silent unless it is followed by a vowel.

In General American the "r" is always pronounced.

There are places in the United Kingdom where the "r" is pronounced, and places in North America where it is not pronounced.

Examples[edit]

Some words which practise the pronunciation of /ʊə/ include the following, taken from Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary unless otherwise noted:

  • Not merging into /ɔ:/ (i.e. with [ʊə] sound in Received Pronunciation)
/jʊə/: :bureau - curious - during - endure - Europe - European - furious - fury - impure - manicure - neuron - neurosis - pure - puritan - purity - secure - security - spurious - urine
/ʊə/: mature /məˈtʃʊər/ - rural
  • Partially merged into /ɔ:/ (i.e. with either a [ʊə] sound or [ɔː] sound in Received Pronunciation)
/jʊə/ or /jɔː/: cure[6] - you're
/ʊə/ or /ɔː/: :ensure - jury[6] - poor - sure - tour - tourist
  • Fully merged into /ɔː/ (i.e. only some Americans pronounce it [ʊə] or [ʊ])
/jɔː/: your
  • There are more homophones in Received Pronunciation than in American English: poor - pore; sure - shore:

Advanced material[edit]

Received Pronunciation[edit]

In Received Pronunciation some words marked as "Not merging into /ɔ:/" above are actually merging into [u:ə], with two syllables (similar to the pronunciation of "fuel").

For example, "secure" might be pronounced either /sɪˈkjʊər/ or /sɪˈkju:ər/.[6]

Some people use the monophthong /uː/, pronouncing, for example "rural" as /ˈru:rəl/ instead of /ˈrʊərəl/.[6]

Still other people have another monophthong in their pronunciation of /ʊə/, namely [ɵː]. See The demise of ʊə as in CURE Fate 3[6] to hear clips with this sound.

United States[edit]

In General American /ʊə(r)/BrE is /ʊr/AmE and may be pronounced [ʊər] or [ʊr] depending on its position in the word. However some specific words in some parts of the United States are merged into /ɜː/. All examples taken from Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary at http://www.learnersdictionary.com/ where they appear as only pronunciation. Only "sure" and its derivatives appear in the Random House Dictionary, and only as a second pronunciation.

  • from "sure": assurance - assure - ensure - insurance - insure - sure - surely
  • bureau - cure - curious - endure - impure - jury - manicure - pure - puritan - purity - secure - security - spurious - urine

Not merging into /ɜː/[edit]

These examples have [u], [ʊ] or [uɚ] in the narrow notation used by Merriam-Webster's. In Teflpedia's broad notation we use /ʊ/AmE.

  • during - Europe - European - furious - fury - neurosis - poor - tour - tourism - tourist

Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1[edit]

It is a dilemma to teach students a pronunciation that is falling out of use. The words that still have [ʊə] in Received Pronunciation are very few. When teaching General American the /ʊ/ pronunciation should be taught: cure as [ˈkjʊər] and curable as [ˈkjʊrəbəl].

The following section aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.

Spanish[edit]

Spanish speakers don't confuse this phoneme with others, but they tend to pronounce it as [u:ə], which, as shown above, is not uncommon for native speakers.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Wikipedia, English-language vowel changes before historic /r/ § Pour-poor merger
  2. Merriam-Webster's Learners Dictionary, poor as [ˈpuɚ]
  3. Merriam-Webster's Learners Dictionary, tourist as [ˈturɪst].
  4. Language log, Comment by dw July 30, 2010 @ 12:20 am.
  5. Wikipedia, English-language vowel changes before historic /r/ § Cure-fir merger
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Speech talk, The demise of ʊə as in CURE

External links[edit]