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Vowel reduction

A full vowel can reduce, both in quantity and in quality. Quantitative reduction is conditioned by stress, in the sense that an unstressed vowel is realized as shorter than a stressed one. Two examples are the loanwords professor [pro:ˈfɛsɔr] professor and telefoan [te:ləˈfoən] telephone, which are prone to be realized as [proˈfɛsɔr] and [tɪleˈfo.ən], so with a shortened vowel in the left-most, unstressed syllable. Vowel shortening in unstressed position may set the stage for a reduction of the specific quality by which the vowel in question distinguishes itself from the other vowels in the vocalic system, to the extent that no more of it is left than the indeterminate, minimally specified vowel schwa (see schwa). There is thus an intimate connection between the conditions under which vowels can reduce and the specific properties of schwa. Vowel reduction is the topic of this section.