Tuesday, 2 July 2013

binomials with weakform words: AND

There are, as we all know, some 40 odd English words which belong to a closed set, i.e. it is fairly unlikely that the set will be enlarged in the foreseeable future. I'm talking about determiners, primary and modal auxiliaries, conjunctions etc. These words (and many words which belong to the open set) have at least two pronunciations - a strongform and a weakform. In today's blog I want to concentrate on binomials which contain such a weakform word.
credit: www.liberalrev.com

Binomials (binomial pairs, Siamese twins or freezes are frequent alternative terms) are groupings of (often two or three) words the sequence of which may or may not be reversible (day and night vs. night and day as opposed to bag and baggage vs. *baggage and bag).

Here are a few sentences containing binomials with 'and'. I've transcribed them assuming a relaxed manner of pronunciation.

In its weakform usage, avoid pronouncing the /d/ in 'and'; so either use /ən/ or /n/ or assimilate the nasal to the neighbouring sound. The weakform /n/ is preferably used after fricatives or alveolar plosives (see J. Windsor Lewis1 (1972:7). LPD 3 contains an important comment on ‘and’: “The presence or absence of d in the weak form is not sensitive to phonetic context: the choice depends upon the fact that the weak form ənd is slightly more formal than ən.” The transcription(s) I indicated at the end of each sentence do not represent the only way to pronounce the respective set phrase and may not even be the most frequent one(s). But give them a try to make your enunciation sound less formal!

1.    I still see her every now and then. /naʊ ən ðen/
2.    I've been working on quite a few things here and there. [hɪr ən ðɛː]
3.    Truth must be repeated aɡain and aɡain. /əɡen ən əɡen/
4.    Medical science has proven time and again that great progress can occur. /taɪm ən əɡen/
5.    He was up and about again two days after the operation. /ʌp ən əbaʊt//ʌp m əbaʊt/
6.    He’s been walking up and down for 45 minutes. /ʌp ən daʊn//ʌp m daʊn/
7.    We are first and foremost a team of surgeons. /fɜːst n fɔːməʊst/
8.    The war may well just go on and on. /ɒn ən ɒn/
9.    I've had a terrible day - now I just want a little peace and quiet. /piːs n kwaɪət//piːs ŋ kwaɪət/
10.    He won it fair and square and picked up his seventh world title. [fɛr ən skwɛː]
11.    WashAndGo is an application that keeps your hard drive spick and span. /spɪk ən spæn//spɪk ŋ spæn/
12.    Let me get all my bits and pieces together. /bɪts n piːsəz/
13.    Top and tail the beans and halve them. /tɒp ən teɪl//tɒp m teɪl/
14.    He flies back and forth weekly between London and Paris. /bæk ən fɔːθ//bæk ŋ fɔːθ/
15.    I looked high and low for my dog but couldn’t find her. /haɪ ən ləʊ/
16.    It’s an award for the best up-and-coming actress. /ʌp ən kʌmɪŋ//ʌp m kʌmɪŋ/
17.    I like the free-and easy atmosphere of the pub. /friː ən iːzi/
18.    We talked about this and that. /ðɪs n ðæt/
19.    They’ve been dating off and on for ten years. /ɒf n ɒn/
20.    She threw her drunken husband out of the house, bag and baggage. /bæɡ ən bæɡɪʤ//bæɡ ŋ bæɡɪʤ/
21.    I think that by and large I have solved the problem. /baɪ ən lɑːʤ/
22.    Her confidence increased by leaps and bounds. /liːps n baʊndz/
23.    You’ll risk life and limb if you decide to go rock-climbing. /laɪf n lɪm/
24.    Education is not a pick and mix concept. /pɪk ən mɪks//pɪk ŋ mɪks/
25.    I want you to write a short essay on the pros and cons of capital punishment. /prəʊz n kɒnz/
26.    Some people just grin and bear it, while others smile and change it. [ɡrɪn ən bɛːr ɪt]

1 Windsor Lewis, J. (1972), A concise pronouncing dictionary of British and American English, (Oxford)


  1. I can see it's useful to think in terms of strong and weak for teaching and learning pronunciation, but in real life there's a continuum of reduction from full [æ] to weakest schwa or syllabic n. I suspect there's a possible nasalized schwa in there too.

  2. Definitely when you have a cold ;-)