Why do we pronounce "slurp" with ə, but "slump" with ʌ?

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Why do we pronounce slurp as /sləːp/ or /slɜ:p/ (BrE) or /slɝ:p/ (AmE) (Cambridge Dictionary of Pronunciation), but slump as /slʌmp/?

Is it because of the presence of R?

Theta30

Posted 2013-08-11T22:11:30.710

Reputation: 1 240

1It might be. I'm no expert on these things, but there are several other words I can think of off the top of my head that fit this pattern: lump, lumbar are both pronounced like slump. lurch, church are both pronounced like slurp. I suppose it could be a coincidence, but just throwing that out there :) – WendiKidd – 2013-08-11T22:13:51.817

3Hmm, although it just occurred to me, the general idea is that "what" questions belong on ELL and "why" questions on ELU. I had this thought based on your edit, which added the last sentence to your question (re: etymology etc.). I'll wait and see if anyone else agrees with me, though, or perhaps get the opinion of an ELU mod if one is around :) – WendiKidd – 2013-08-11T22:16:56.410

I notice that when you try to pronounce either word the other way round, it's difficult (for an AE speaker) to do! – James Waldby - jwpat7 – 2013-08-11T23:17:14.517

Answers

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Vowels with /r/ following them are treated differently in English.

Most Americans never put an /r/ after an /ʌ/. Most English people don't put an /r/ after an /ʌ/ when they're in the same syllable (in fact, many of them don't put an /r/ after any vowel in the same syllable). In these cases, a word which historically should have been pronounced /ʌr/ is instead pronounced with /ɝ:/ or /ɜ:/. In Scotland and Ireland, they can and do pronounce /ʌr/, although not being Scottish I have no idea which vowel they use for slurp.

The history of the pronunciation of 'r' after a vowel in English is quite complicated, and when learning English you just have to learn that curd, herd, bird, all rhyme (except in Scotland and Ireland).

Peter Shor

Posted 2013-08-11T22:11:30.710

Reputation: 2 449

"current" and possible "currency" sounds and are shown with an /\ in British English but not in AmE.

– Theta30 – 2013-08-16T17:07:21.167

But as my tags suggest, I was more interested on North-American pronunciation – Theta30 – 2013-08-16T17:20:10.367

1@Theta30: in British English, "current", "currency", "hurry", and similar words can be pronounced with /ʌr/ because the /ʌr/ is immediately followed by a vowel, so the 'r' gets shifted to be pronounced as the first sound of the next syllable. I don't believe you will find /ʌrC/ in standard British English, with 'C' representing a consonant. – Peter Shor – 2013-08-16T18:06:49.340