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In this video, we are going to look at the vowel sound that we find in the word bird.
You can see that this diphthong has two dots after it which indicates that it is a long vowel sound.
The /ɜ:/ sound is a central accented vowel sound with no lip rounding.
Technically, this vowel sound is the open-mid central unrounded vowel.
It is a sound that does not normally occur in other languages besides English.
Notice that on the chart, the /ɜ:/ sits next to the schwa vowel sound /ə/.
The two sounds are distinguished only by length, the schwa being short and the /ɜ:/ being longer.
As with all long vowel sounds, the /ɜ:/ also has a reduced form, which is similar to the schwa sound.
The spelling of the /ɜ:/ vowel sound is most usually a vowel letter followed by the letter r.
There are some rare exceptions, however. Aren't there always?
The word colonel, for instance, and the word milieu break the rule.
Word which do not break the rule are her, service, mercy and diverse. These use the vowel letter e followed by r.
/hɜ:/ /ˈsɜ:vɪs/ /ˈmɜ:sɪ/ /dɑɪˈvɜ:s/
Turn, churn, curse, and burst use the vowel letter u followed by the letter r, as do the words fur, burn and urgent.
/tɜ:n/ /ʧɜ:n/ /kɜ:s/ /bɜ:st/
/fɜ:/ /bɜ:n/ /ˈɜ:ʤənt/
If you remember that the letter y can also be a vowel sound, then the words sir, bird, whirr, girl, myrtle also follow the rule of vowel letter plus r.
/sɜ:/ /bɜ:d/ /hwɜ:/ /gɜ:l/ /ˈmɜ:tl/
Where the letter o is preceded by the letter w and followed by the letter r, we can also have the /ɜ:/ sound.
Words such as word, world, work, worse, and worst for instance.
/wɜ:d/ /wɜ:ld/ /wɜ:k/ /wɜ:s/ /wɜ:st/
You might say the word ear, as ear, but in words like earn, earth, early and heard, you should have heard the /ɜ:/ sound.
/ɜ:n/ /ɜ:θ/ /ˈɜ:li:/ /hɜ:d/
Likewise, our becomes /ɜ:/ in words such as adjourn, journey, and scourge.
/əˈʤɜ:n/ /ˈʤɜ:nɪ/ /skɜ:ʤ/
Notice that although the words in which we find the /ɜ:/ sound normally have a vowel letter followed by the letter r, the /r/ sound is not produced.
I mentioned earlier that the /ɜ:/ sound can have a long and a reduced form.
Of the words we have just looked at, could you hear the differences? If not, try listening to them again.
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