By this short vowel /I/, I mean the vowel in words like hit, it, and bit.

Formerly I pronounced air, hair, and care as the learners of RP did, but then I noticed the Americans don't do that.

In RP, air is pronounced as /e/ (same as the vowel in bed) .

In American pronunciation, it sounds in my ear like /e/ + schwa +/r/ OR /e/ + /I/ + schwa +/r/.

I wonder if there is a short vowel /I/ in it.

Thanks !
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Welcome to English Forums, stephen. Thanks for joining us! [<:o)]

I'm not into phonics, but someone will be along.

I think you're right about what you're hearing in American "hair."
Of course it's a dipthong, comprising both the "e" in "bed" and the "i" in "hit."

Best wishes, - A.
Welcome to EnglishForward. Emotion: smile
I will use IPA symbols in this post. There is no other objective way to discuss pronunciation.

In several British accents, air is something like [ɛə].
In American English, the first vowel is usuallly higher, and air is something like [eɹ].
So the difference is that American English has an R sound instead of the schwa, and the starting vowel is "higher" (also called "closer"). In other words, the American vowel in air is more similar to the vowel in "bit" than to the vowel in "bat", while the British vowel is usually more similar to the vowel in "bat" than to the vowel in "bit".
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Hi, Kooyeen,
Nothing against objectivity, but it astounds me to hear you say "the" vowel in "hair" (BrE "bat"/AmE "bit") when there are obviously two. Even the Romans recognized the dipthong, as does our poster, who perceives that the word "begins" with "bed" in AmE. Emotion: smile

So on rereading your post, I see that you distinguish between "the vowel"and
"the starting vowel/ first vowel."
Okay. That works for me.
Hi Avangi and Kooyeen,

Thanks for the welcome and the replies.

It seems that both of you agree that there is a second vowel in the air. So what is that? Is it a schwa or a short vowel /I/?

Happy to hear that the American pronunciation of e in bed is different from its British counterpart. Actually my Oxford English dictionary always uses /e/ to represent the vowel in bed, tell, said, and other words for British phonetic transcription and / ɛ/ to represent the vowel in the same words for American one. I thought they are the same, and people from the US and the GB just invented two kinds of symbols to indicate a same vowel. I will pay more attention to how the Amercians and Britions pronounce this vowel. Thank Kooyeen for your observation.


Avangi, you're right. I said "the vowel", but I guess I should have written "the first vowel sound".
stephenlearnerHappy to hear that the American pronunciation of e in bed is different from its British counterpart.
I don't think it's usually different, as far as I know. The phoneme in "bed" is [ɛ] in both American and British English. The transcriptions you usually find in dictionaries are not very accurate and don't use all the IPA symbols coirrectly. Take this video for example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/pron/sounds/vowel_short_6.shtml - They call it /e/, but the correct IPA symbol for the vowel she's using in that video is ɛ.
Here are two audio clips taken from Wikipedia.

This is an [e ]: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Close-mid_front_unrounded_vowel.ogg

This is an [ɛ]: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/71/Open-mid_front_unrounded_vowel.ogg


BED has [ɛ] in both BrE and AmE.
AIR usually has [ɛ] in BrE, and [e ] in AmE.

Here's a video where you can hear the difference between the [ɛ] vowel in words like "bed", "french", "best", and the [e ] vowel before an r-sound in words like "air", "very", etc. in American English:


At 1:27, you can hear several [ɛ] sounds in "french", "bread", "best", etc. It's the vowel in "bed", [ɛ], and the transcription has the right symbol too, [ɛ]. At 2:35 she mentions "very", which she says with the [e ] vowel, but gives the wrong symbol in the transcription (it's written [vɛɹi] but she actually says [veɹi]).
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Hi Kooyeen,

Yes, I can see the difference between /e/ and /ɛ/ from the chart in wikipedia, one being close-mid, and the other open-mid. The vowle chart is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_vowels

I listened to the sample sound of /e/. It sounds a diphthong [eI]. Then I found this website, http://members.peak.org/~jeremy/dictionaryclassic/chapters/pronunciation.php . At the bottom of that page is a chart which shows that /e/ is [eI:]. Strangely, they use [eI:] to represent the vowel in bade, and [ei:] to represent the vowel in bay. Perhaps the reason is that "a" is followed by a consonant "d" in "bade" and "ay" is not followed by a consonant in "bay".

What do you think, Kooyeen?
Don't know why the order of posts changed after I edited my last one. Stephen
KooyeenAt 2:35 she mentions "very", which she says with the [e ] vowel, but gives the wrong symbol in the transcription (it's written [vɛɹi] but she actually says [veɹi]).
I'm not sure I can agree completely. The [ɛ] may be a little higher in "very", but only because of the following "r". It's certainly lower than [ e] in my opinion.

An explanation I read once (I don't remember where) took the view that (in AmE) the difference between tense and lax vowels is neutralized before "r", a sound somewhere between the two being the most common. This view strikes me as correct with few exceptions.

Thus, in "beer", neither the tense sound "ee" (in see) nor the lax sound "i" (in hit) is heard, but something in between, plus the "r".

For "air" the analysis would be a vowel between "ay" (in bay) and "e" (in bed), again plus the "r", of course.

For "poor", a vowel between "oo" (moon) and "u" (put), plus "r".

For "bore", a vowel between "oa" (oak) and "au" (cause), plus "r".

There is no "i" (in hit) in the American pronunciation of "air". Not that I can hear, at least. I hear only the ambiguous vowel [ e]/[ɛ] and the "r".


Disclaimer: Take this all with a grain of salt. I may be misremembering what I read. It was several years ago.
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