How to classify strong and weak vowels?

Strong and weak vowels

When we compare weak syllable with strong syllable we find that the vowel in a weak syllable tends to be shorter, lower intensity and different in quality.

VD: in the word “ worker” [wɜːkə], the second syllable which is weak, is shorter than the first, is less loud and has a vowel that can not occur in strong syllable.

Any strong syllable will have peak as one of the vowel phonemes (possibly a triphthong) but not [ə]; [ɪ] ; [ʊ]

At the end of the word we may have a weak syllable ending with a vowel (with no coda)

– The vowel [ə]

– A closed front unrounded vowel in the general area of [ iː ] and [ ɪ ]

– A closed back rounded vowel in the general area of [ uː ] and [ ʊ ]


– Better [ betə ] ; happy [ hæpɪ ]; thank you [θæŋk]

We also find weak syllables in word-final position with a coda, if the vowel is [ə]

Example: Open [ `əʊpən ] ; sharpen [ `ʃɑːpən ]

Inside a word, we can find the above vowels acting as peaks without coda in weak syllable, for example look at the second syllable in each of these words :

1. Photograph [ fəʊtəgrɑːf ]

2. Radio [ `reɪdɪəʊ ]

3. Influence [ɪnflʊəns ]

In addition, the vowel [ɪ] can act as a peak without coda if the following syllable begins with a consonant.

VD: Architecture [ɑːkɪtekt]

Note: Not all weak syllables contain [ ə ] , though many do./.

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