To Master Rhythms of English, You Really Hafta Learn Reductions
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AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on WORDMASTER: expanding on reductions. When speakers compress a phrase like "going to" into "gonna," or "what do you" into "whaddaya," that's a reduction. We mentioned their importance when we talked last week about the natural rhythms of spoken American English. To explain more, we found a segment we did with Slangman David Burke where he talked about reductions.
DAVID BURKE: "One of them is 'you.' Instead of saying you, we just say ya. Instead of saying `How are you?' [we say] `How are ya?' If I were to say to you 'Didja eat yet?' and you replied `No, didju?' we would understand that. 'Didja eat yet?' Did you eat yet?
"We talked about ya which is a reduction of you, but after the letter d the you or the ya becomes a 'ja' sound always after the letter d. `Would you like to come to the movies?' `Wouldja like to come to the movies?' `Did you eat?' `Didja eat?' And, for some reason after the letter t the ya becomes 'cha' -- `I'll let you come with me.' `I'll letcha come with me.' `What's that you have in your hand?' `Whatcha have in your hand?' So, we have about four different ways of saying `you' which is 'ya,' 'ja,' 'cha' and even 'ju.'"
AA: "This is spoken English, right? Now if you were writing a report or something for work, you would want to be more careful about using the formal non-reduced forms."
DAVID BURKE: "Absolutely. But, I would have to say yes and no, because reductions are used typically in speaking; however, a lot of times when we are writing to friends or especially in comic books we'll see the reduced form.
"True, in a formal report, you do not want to use reductions, but when we are writing a letter to somebody we might say in the beginning of the letter `How are ya?' and spell y-a for ya. That's pretty common."
AA: "Also on the most-often-heard reduction list are the reduced forms of going to and want to. They become gonna, g-o-n-n-a, and wanna, w-a-n-n-a."
RS: "As in 'I'm gonna be late,' or 'Do you wanna go with me?'"
DAVID BURKE: "And what's a little bit difficult to understand about `gonna' [is that] `gonna' is the reduction of `going to' only when it is something that is happening in the future.
"But when it indicates going from one place to another you cannot reduce it. For example, `I'm going to the movies tonight.' You can't say `I'm gonna the movies tonight.' Or `Are you going to the market?' You can't say 'Are you gonna the market?' So, it's only used to indicate the future, and it's really popular."
AA: "Sometimes, when reduction takes place, two different words are reduced to the same sound."
RS: "That happens with 'and' and 'in'."
DAVID BURKE: "'And' is pronounced 'n': `Rosanne n Avi.' The word `in' -- 'Let's go inside' -- it's pronounced absolutely the same. `Put the pencil 'n' the box.' It sounds like `Put the pencil and the box.'"
AA: "So someone coming to this country who is not used to the fast-speaking ways of your average American is going to be confused by these `wannas, gonnas -- "
RS: "Can't ya, don'tcha."
DAVID BURKE: "Absolutely. In fact just now you said a very common reduction, `used to' - `usta' means to be accustomed to, to be acclimated to. I'm usta getting up early. He usta be my best friend. We would never say `used to.'"
RS: "The question I have for you is that given the fact that Americans speak with reductions, how do people who speak English as a foreign language learn to tell the difference? How do they learn these reductions?"
DAVID BURKE: "The only way they can learn is to live in this country, and of course when they arrive they will be absolutely shocked and all of a sudden someone comes up and says, `How do ya do?' not `How do you do?' They are stunned."
AA: Slangman David Burke, talking about reductions in a segment from two thousand. You can learn about his language teaching materials at slangman.com. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. Archives are at voanews.com/wordmaster. And our e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.
MUSIC: "Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy?" / Chris LeDoux/Garth Brooks