Sentence stress plays an important role in the selection of the so called strong and weak forms of many structure words of English. They are thus called because it is not their lexical content that primarily matters, but the role they have in the sentence.
In actual speech there is a great number of words which are pronounced in the weak or contracted form. They are more common than non-contracted or full forms. It applies to all styles and different manner of speech – formal or informal, slow or rapid tempo.
Reduced form is a word, which sounds weaker, not clear enough in the process of speech. Thus the verb to do [dH] can be reduced and pronounced as [du], [dq] or even [d]. Articles, conjunctions, prepositions and pronouns are mostly affected by reduction: them [Dem] – [Dqm], [Dm], us [As] – [qs], our [QVq]- [R], you [jH] – [ju], [j], he [hJ] – [hI], [J], [I], she [SJ] – [SI], me [mJ] – [mI], her [hW] – [hq], [W], [q], not [nPt] – [nqt], [nt], nor [nL]- [nO] before consonants, [nOr] before vowels.
Reduction is a historical process of weakening, shortening or disappearance of vowel sounds in unstressed positions. This phonetic phenomenon, as well as assimilation, is closely connected with the general development of the language system. Reduction reflects the process of lexical and grammatical changes. The neutral sounds [q] and [I] or sometimes [u] with semivowel [j] mostly represent the reduced form of almost any vowel or diphthong in the unstressed position, e.g.: survey ['sWveI] but to survey [sq'veI], escort ['eskLt] but to escort [Is'kLt], or compare a in a stressed position in its strong form in the word face ['feIs] with unstressed position and respectively in its weak form in the word surface ['sWfIs] (RP) or ['sWfqs] (AmE), national ['nxSqnql] – ['nxSnl], parent ['peqrqnt] – ['perqnt] (AmE).
There are three types of reduction in English.
Q u a n t i t a t i v e reduction is shortening of a vowel sound in the unstressed position, affects mainly long vowels, e.g.: he [hi: - hij – hI], me [mJ] – [mI].
Q u a l i t a t i v e reduction is obscuration of vowels towards [q, I, u], affects both long and short vowels as well as diphthongs (even in stressed syllable), e.g.: can [kxn] – [kqn], lenient ['lJnIqnt] – ['lJnjqnt], diagram ['dQIqgrxm] – ['dQqgrxm], nowadays ['nQuqdeIz] – ['nQqdeIz].
E l i s i o n is missing out of a vowel or consonant or both. This type of reduction is an attribute of quick colloquial speech, e.g.: I know her – [QI 'nqu q], some beer – [sm bi:], already – [O 'redI].
There is a tendency to retain the quality of the unstressed vowel. The non-reduced
or strong form is retained in:
compounds: oilfield ['OildfJld] (unstressed [J] is not reduced), blackboard
['blxkbLd], handiwork ['hxndIwWk], handglass ['hxndglRs];
borrowings from French and other languages: bourgeois, jalousie, varenyk;
at the end of the intonation group even if the word is unstressed (pronouns make up an exception): Where are you going to? [ - tu:] Who are you waiting for? [ - fO:] Yes, I can. [ - kxn], but: I know her. – [ -hq].
demonstrative pronoun that always has the strong form. Have as a notional verb is usually in the strong form, thus sometimes contracted forms may be used: I’ve, we’ve, they’ve (never he has, she has). They’ve a bit of problem
in slow or deliberate speech;
the first time the word occurs in a discourse.
At a Dorm. Moving-in Day.
Don: What’s up Jer! How was your summer?
Jeremy: Not bad, Just worked for most of it. How was yours dude?
Don: Killer! I took a road trip through the Rockies for about a month, just hiked up there with a
Jeremy: That sounds like an awesome time. I didn’t get much of a chance to travel. Hey, what
floor are you living on?
Don: The fourth. I just moved all my stuff in. I haven’t really unpacked yet.
Jeremy: Neither have I, but I should probably go do that before I go out tonight.
Don: Hey, I’ll stop by in a few hours. You live in 217, right?
Jeremy: Right, yeah, definitely stop by. We’ll go out for a beer.
Don: Yeah, I’ll see you in a bit dude.