Reduced Vowels in Polysyllabic Words in Singapore English

Heng Mui Gek

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2003


Vowel reduction is a well-established phenomenon that has been studied by many researchers in the different languages. However, most of the research on reduced vowels in Singapore English (SgE) is either impressionistic or relies on read speech. This study builds on their work and investigates reduced vowels using acoustic and auditory analysis of conversational speech.

This study aims (1) to investigate the extent to which educated Singaporeans use reduced vowels in conversational speech and to compare this with the use by British English (BrE) speakers, (2) to look into the environments in which reduced vowels in SgE are likely to occur and (3) to explore if speaking rate affects the occurrence of reduced vowels in SgE.

From the results, the acoustic analysis is shown to be unreliable in predicting the vowel quality, but the extent of agreement among the listeners for the auditory analysis is high. The results showed that (1) SgE speakers do use reduced vowels to some extent though the usage is not as frequent as BrE speakers. (2) This usage is limited to some environments for instance certain lexical words such as suggestion  and account  include a schwa while words beginning with the structure k + V + nasal such as con/com  tend to have a full vowel. (3) There is no significant difference between the two speaking rates (slow and fast) to conclude that reduced vowels occur as a result of faster speaking rate.