I've noticed that the indefinite article "a" is often pronounced "ay" in speeches and on radio and TV.
What's that about?
Svatopluk
I've noticed that the indefinite article "a" is often pronounced "ay" in speeches and on radio and TV. What's that about? Svatopluk

It's a matter of emphasis.
"This could be a problem" is not as emphatic as
"This could be 'ay' problem."
The 'ay' can be prolonged. "This could
be 'ayy' problem." Even more emphatic.
I've noticed that the indefinite article "a" is often pronounced "ay" in speeches and on radio and TV. What's that about?

It's a matter of emphasis. "This could be a problem" is not as emphatic as "This could be 'ay' problem." The 'ay' can be prolonged. "This could be 'ayy' problem." Even more emphatic.

It may also be ay sayn of over-refayned speech, popular with laydees of a certain ayge.
Owain
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I've noticed that the indefinite article "a" is often pronounced "ay" in speeches and on radio and TV. What's that about? Svatopluk

Svatopluk, I don't think your post was clear enough to be sure of what you wanted to know, but this is what I think you are asking about.

In normal speech, the indefinite article is pronounced as what is called the schwa, which is represented as an upside down "e" in the International Phonetic Association. phonetic alphabet. You were probably told this at some point during your English language schooling. The sound represented by that schwa sound is the most common sound in the English language. If it helps, it is exactly the same sound as a sounded "mute e" in French.
The schwa sound is never consciously presented to native speakers during their education. It just occurs naturally in their speech and they rarely think about it. Therefore, it is a real pain trying to teach this sound in countries where the schwa sound does not occur in the mother tongue. Greece, where I teach, is one of those countries.

Moreover, native-speaker English instructors focus on understanding in pronunciation teaching rather than perfect imitation of the most socially acceptable accent, so very few of them go to the pains necessary nowadays to learn anything about trying to teach the sounds of the English language in a systematic way. For anyone who speaks Russian, French, or Greek as a first language, this lack of emphasis on making students have "a proper accent" when teaching English is disconcerting, since so much of their L1 training is spent trying to mimic a perfect St. Petersburg, Paris, or Athens accent.

My guess is that whoever taught you English had a phonemic chart on the wall, did elocution coaching/mouth-position work, that kind of stuff.
From what I understand, IPA training was really big in Russia and theUkraine under the Soviet system for all foreign ... an L1 accent was published, back in the eighties, and real phonemic work is rarely taught in methodology classes nowadays.

Getting back to the pronunciation of the indefinite article. When stressed, it assumes the sound of what native speakers call "a long a" sound, represented in IPA. script as /ei/. As you can no doubt see, /ei/ is a dipthong.
When stressed for any reason, the definite article assumes the /ei/ sound. Some native speakers emphasize the dipthong nature of this sound more often than others, marking clearly the "short e" and and "long e" sounds as they speak (for the native speakers out there, in IPA, the "long e" is /i/ or /i:/ (the "long i" is represented by a small upper-case lamba and a small upper-case "i"...let's see if this character set can take it.../=CE=9B=CE=99/)).
As pointed out earlier in this thread, overly stressing the indefinite article in speech is often a mark of pretension and just as often held up to ridicule. Formal commentators on the language do not say nice things about this usage.
Witness R.W. Burchfield's comment in Fowler's Modern English Usage, 3rd edition, page 1:
Public speakers, including broadcasters, often use the emphatic form /ei/ of 'a' when there is no call for it: 'she has a (PAUSE) difficult task ahead of her.' It is only a short step from this to the unacceptable: 'she has a (PAUSE) embarrassing task ahead of her.'

Another reason teaching phonetics went out of style in English Language Teaching is that it is B-O-R-I-N-G, as this post has so clearly revealed.
Good luck, Svatopluk
On 14 May 2006 17:18:50 -0700, "credoquaabsurdum"
I've noticed that the indefinite article "a" is often pronounced "ay" in speeches and on radio and TV. What's that about? Svatopluk

My guess is that whoever taught you English had a phonemic chart on the wall, did elocution coaching/mouth-position work, that kind of stuff.

My mother? No, she was a pioneer of the communicative approach. My nom de plume may have misled you.
When stressed for any reason, the definite article assumes the /ei/ sound.

Perfectly clear. The reason is what I was wondering about.
As pointed out earlier in this thread, overly stressing the indefinite article in speech is often a mark of pretension ... a short step from this to the unacceptable: 'she has a (PAUSE) embarrassing task ahead of her.' Good luck, Svatopluk

It often seems to be used as a filler, or "errr" substitute, but I also hear it used where there seems to be absolutely no sign of hesitation.
Pretension perhaps, but pretension to what?
Svatopluk
OK, so that's it. The big question...
People like to pretend they're better educated than they really are, for various reasons which are not all contemptible. The English language is one of the places in modern world culture where that is easily done. We've done away with, more or less, the study of formal grammar in secondary and tertiary state-subsidized education: it doesn't take much to sound as if you know something that someone else doesn't. Knowledge of grammar and usage has become an area of antiquated esoterica, if you will, something that a lot of people dimly perceive that they should by rights know something about, but aren't taught in schools, that they would have learned long ago in some golden age or under different circumstances of upbringing.

Historically, such areas of knowledge are breeding grounds for pretensions of better breeding. I mean, if you knew nothing about strong and weak forms (/ei/ and /schwa/), it wouldn't take much to impress you, would it?
It's about class, it's about moving up, it's about people trying to change their self-image from working to middle-class respectability as they fight for a toehold in an increasingly people-based and text-based world, where your emails have to stand up to scrutiny and your words are more often recorded. "Better English" usage books are a growing market sector in the publishing business, groups like alt.usage.english get a million posts a week, and, in the development that's most pertinent to the nature of this group, ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers tend to become marginalized socially and economically, because they cannot interact as effectively as ambitious native speakers, cannot project a sense of fastidious polish in their spoken and written English.
Whether this situation is one to be deplored or celebrated depends on your personal view of the world.
And now it's time to take myself off to my next lesson.
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
On 17 May 2006 01:27:20 -0700, "credoquaabsurdum"
People like to pretend they're better educated than they really are, for various reasons which are not all contemptible.

Unfortunately they do, but does "ay" really make them sound educated? Not to my ears. Am I normal?
Svatopluk
People like to pretend they're better educated than they really are, for various reasons which are not all contemptible.

Unfortunately they do, but does "ay" really make them sound educated? Not to my ears. Am I normal? Svatopluk

That last: now that's really the ETERNAL question. Let's think about it for a minute.
Well, you're writing under an alias to someone else writing under an alias about why broadcasters occasionally use the strong and not the weak form of the indefinite article in their delivery of news stories.

The queer thing is that I actually have a book on my reference shelf that kind of explained why they do it, and I hauled my ass there and back to explain why. Then, in response to those comments, you asked a question which required a bit of thought to answer, and I earnestly attempted to produce that thoughtful answer.
Now, I am a pretty good language teacher, a fairly competent writer, and, when the mood strikes me, a *** philosopher. I possess no mental health qualifications whatsoever.
But off the top of my head, however, I'd say you have less to worry about than I do.
Have a good one, Alias Svatopluk.