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Pronunciation of 'e' in "Teach Yourself Esperanto"

de aaronshenhao, 27 octombrie 2019

Contribuții/Mesaje: 14

Limbă: English

aaronshenhao (Arată profil) 27 octombrie 2019, 15:41:43

Firstly, I apologize for posting this question in two sub-forums (link to previous). I somehow managed to click the wrong sub-forum, and now I accidentally "hid" the message, thinking it was the delete button. 😅 Luckily I had two tabs open, so I could copy over what I wrote:

Hi everyone, I just started learning Esperanto this week. I know there's been much discussion on this topic already (which said the variation is acceptable), but I would like some clarification as I had two textbooks saying two different things, and the most recent and recommended one (Teach Yourself Esperanto) seems to give two contradictory instructions.

In "The Complete Grammar of Esperanto", it was recommended to pronounce 'e' as in 'fiancé'. On the other hand, the author of "Teach Yourself Esperanto" recommends pronouncing 'e' as in 'there' ([ɛ]), but states that the vowels are exactly the same symbol as their IPA symbols. However, [e] in the IPA sounds the same as the 'e' in 'fiancé', and not in 'there' as suggested. Here is the link to the interactive IPA chart I'm using.

I read PMEG's chapter on pronunciation (using Google Translate for now), which recommends using [e]. I want to follow PMEG's standard way of pronouncing 'e', but I was listening to the author of PMEG speaking some extremely fluent Esperanto on YouTube and he seemed to be using [ɛ]. Lernu also lists the IPA symbol of 'e' as [e] here, but the included audio seems to be pronouncing it as [ɛ] according to the IPA chart?

Perhaps the IPA chart is wrong, or my understanding of how IPA works is flawed? I appreciate the help.

nornen (Arată profil) 27 octombrie 2019, 16:53:13

Both [e] and [ɛ] are accepted and common realizations of /e/ in Esperanto. Just make sure that your /e/ is unrounded, front and more open than /i/ while more closed than /a/.

aaronshenhao (Arată profil) 27 octombrie 2019, 17:08:39

nornen:Both [e] and [ɛ] are accepted and common realizations of /e/ in Esperanto. Just make sure that your /e/ is unrounded, front and more open than /i/ while more closed than /a/.
Thanks for the tip! So just to clarify, 'e' as in 'there' (or 'bet') is [ɛ] right? So far it seems like the 'e' in 'there'/'bet' is being labelled as [e] (in my second book and on Lernu), so I'm not sure if I have it the wrong way around.

nornen (Arată profil) 28 octombrie 2019, 06:04:19

According to Wells, "dress" contains [e] in RP (received pronunciation) and General Australian and [ɛ] in General American.

As one phoneme /e/ is realized as both [e] and [ɛ] in different English accents, maybe to anglophone ears the difference between the two is minimal.

If you go with the UK or Australian pronunciation of "dress", you're closer to [e], while if you go with the American pronunciation of "dress", you're closer to [ɛ]. It really doesn't matter that much.

The [ɛ] is halfway between "dress" [e] and "trap" [æ] (in RP).

I personally pronounce Esperanto /e/ as [e̞] like this.

aaronshenhao (Arată profil) 28 octombrie 2019, 15:30:05

RP seems a bit too vague compared to standard IPA; it does not have the phone [ɛ] (from IPA), and [e] (in RP) is pronounced like [ɛ] (from IPA) on example charts. Perhaps that is why the 'e' in dress is labelled as [e] in RP, since their [e] sounds more like standard IPA's [ɛ]. I see how both [ɛ] or [e] from the IPA can be used interchangeably in a word like "bed", but not with a word like "pet" or "bet".

However, both the author of the second book, PMEG and Lernu to refers to [e] from the standard IPA, which does distinguish between the two sounds. Yet the examples given sound like [ɛ], not [e]. I also found that Esperanto's Wikipedia page lists [e] as the standard IPA sound, yet lists "bet" beside it as the example. Yet I don't think "bet" is ever said with an [e] sound from the IPA?

I'm wondering how Hungarians speakers choose (or are taught) to pronounce 'e' in Esperanto. Their alphabet system seems to have two seperate vowels for /ɛ/ (e) and /eː/ (é), so they would recognise the distinction. I read that Hungarians learn Esperanto in some universities, so perhaps they would have to be more specific about it.

nornen (Arată profil) 28 octombrie 2019, 16:01:15

I don't know about Hungarian, but also in German the phonemes /ɛ/ and /eː/ form minimal pairs. For instance "Bett" with /ɛ/ and "Beet" with /eː/. Short /e/ doesn't exist in German, and I don't know whether it exists in Hungarian.
I have heard several Germans speaking Esperanto who do the following: they pronounce unaccented "e" as /ɛ/ or /ə/, while accented "e" as /eː/. However I think this lengthening of accented vowels is not proper Esperanto.

I think, if you use in Esperanto the same vowel you use in (your) English for "pet", you should be fine.

aaronshenhao (Arată profil) 28 octombrie 2019, 17:29:19

nornen:I don't know about Hungarian, but also in German the phonemes /ɛ/ and /eː/ form minimal pairs. For instance "Bett" with /ɛ/ and "Beet" with /eː/. Short /e/ doesn't exist in German, and I don't know whether it exists in Hungarian.
I have heard several Germans speaking Esperanto who do the following: they pronounce unaccented "e" as /ɛ/ or /ə/, while accented "e" as /eː/. However I think this lengthening of accented vowels is not proper Esperanto.

I think, if you use in Esperanto the same vowel you use in (your) English for "pet", you should be fine.
Thanks for the info, I used to learn German in school so it's useful to me. It seems like the German examples on Lernu suggest pronouncing it as the 'e' in "Mensch" which is also [ɛ]. I've been pronouncing it that way, so luckily there's nothing to worry about. I wonder why it keeps being listed as [e] in the IPA, yet in practice, it is always [ɛ] (even leading to side-by-side contradictions as in Wikipedia and in my book). ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

nornen (Arată profil) 28 octombrie 2019, 17:37:22

If in texts about Esperanto /e/ and /ɛ/ are listed as different phonemes, then that is surely wrong.
If however [e] and [ɛ] are given as allophones of the same phoneme /e/, then I would say that this is correct.

Some authors don't make a clear distinction between phonemes and allophones and sometimes mix up the notation with slashes and square brackets.

Esperanto has exactly five vowel phonemes /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/. As how many allophones they are realised, is a completely different question. I personally use [ a̠ ], [ e̞ ], [ i ], [ o̞ ], [ u ]. But that's just influence from Spanish.
I think another quite common set is [ a~ä~ɑ ], [ ɛ~ə ], [ ɪ ], [ ɔ ], [ ʊ ]. That's a more German approach.
Some speakers mix in long vowels like [ aː ], [ eː ], [ iː ], [ oː ], [ uː ], but I wouldn't recommend this and to my ears this sounds strange.

aaronshenhao (Arată profil) 28 octombrie 2019, 17:59:04

nornen:If in texts about Esperanto /e/ and /ɛ/ are listed as different phonemes, then that is surely wrong.
If however [e] and [ɛ] are given as allophones of the same phoneme /e/, then I would say that this is correct.

Some authors don't make a clear distinction between phonemes and allophones and sometimes mix up the notation with slashes and square brackets.
Ah, the author of my book just said that the symbols of the vowels are the same as the symbols in the IPA so maybe that is ok. PMEG, Wikipedia and Lernu uses [e]. All the examples (aside from PMEG) gives a word (like "bet") that cannot be pronounced using [e], yet labels it as such, so maybe the it's just mixed up.

My book tells me to pronounce 'oj' as in "boy", but that seems to be [ɔɪ] and not [oɪ], as given in Wikipedia. But I don't think it should matter as it's not that obvious. It's interesting how learning Esperanto for just one week can make you think about these things.

I think I will use [ a ], [ ε ], [ i ], [ o ], [ u ] as per my book.
The ones on Lernu sounds like [ a ], [ ε ], [ i ], [ ɔ / -o ], [ u ].

Metsis (Arată profil) 28 octombrie 2019, 21:03:50

aaronshenhao

All this discussion of vowels is quite alien to me, because I speak a language with more vowels and combinations of them (long vowels and diphthongs).

You should realise, that no all pronounce the same way. At universala kongreso or some other international Esperantist meeting you will find many accents. Some will be really annoying (and plain wrong), some you can live with (within acceptable range) and some you will find excellent. There is Youtubist named Evidea (coincidentally from Australia), who speaks fluently (and possibly too fast for a beginner) and IMHO has good modern pronunciation.

Having said that don't get fixed to hone your pronunciation too much too early. Learn the language, learn some idiomatic expressions and head for a meeting. Listening to speakers with another native language to yours will teach you a lot.

Bonvenon al Esperantujo!

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