Clipping (phonetics)

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In phonetics, clipping is the process of shortening the articulation of a phonetic segment, usually a vowel. A clipped vowel is pronounced more quickly than an unclipped vowel and is often also reduced.



Particularly in Netherlands Dutch, vowels in unstressed syllables are shortened and centralized, which is particularly noticeable with tense vowels; compare the /oː/ phoneme in konijn About this sound[köˈnɛin] (phonemically /koːˈnɛin/) 'rabbit' and koning About this sound[ˈkoʊnɪŋ] (phonemically /ˈkoːnɪŋ/) 'king'.

In weak forms of words, e.g. naar and voor, the vowel is frequently centralized: [näːr, föːr], though further reduction to [nə, fə] or [nr̩, fr̩] is possible in rapid colloquial speech.[1]


English has two types of clipping, neither of which is phonemic.

Pre-fortis clipping

In English, clipping without vowel reduction most often occurs in a stressed syllable before a fortis consonant (called pre-fortis clipping), so that e.g. bet [ˈbɛt] has a vowel that is shorter than the one in bed [ˈbɛˑd].[2]

Vowels preceding voiceless consonants that begin a next syllable (as in keychain /ˈkiː.tʃeɪn/) are not affected by the pre-fortis clipping.

Rhythmic clipping

Another type of clipping is rhythmic clipping, which occurs in polysyllabic words - the more syllables a word has, the shorter its vowels are, so that e.g. the first vowel of readership is shorter than in reader, which in turn is shorter than in read.[2][3] This can be transcribed [ˈridəʃɪp], [ˈriˑdə] and [ˈriːd], respectively, though the rhythmic clipping is very rarely transcribed in IPA.

Clipping with vowel reduction also occurs in many unstressed syllables.


German has phonemic vowel length in stressed syllables, but vowels are shortened in some unstressed syllables. The short vowels [i, y, u, e, ø, o] exist only as unstressed allophones of the respective long vowels. Speakers that realize the long /aː/ with a different quality than the short /a/ have an additional allophone [ɑ] (or whatever the quality of the long /aː/ is). This is very noticeable in Low German-influenced varieties where the first vowels of Kalender [kɑˈlɛndɐ] (phonemically /kaːˈlɛndəʁ/) and alles [ˈæləs] (phonemically /ˈaləs/) have very different qualities. See Standard German phonology.


Many speakers of Serbo-Croatian from Croatia and Serbia pronounce historical unstressed long vowels as short, with some exceptions, such as genitive plural endings, so that e.g. the name Jadranka is pronounced [jâdraŋka], rather than [jâdraːŋka].[4]

See also


  1. ^ Collins & Mees, pp. 227, 240.
  2. ^ a b Wells (2008), p. ?.
  3. ^ Wells, John C. (2006). "Lecture 3: The vowel system; clipping" (PDF). Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  4. ^ Alexander (2006), p. 356.


  • Alexander, Ronelle (2006), Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian – A Grammar with Sociolinguistic Commentary, The University of Wisconsin Press, ISBN 978-0-299-21194-3
  • Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger M. (2003) [First published 1981], The Phonetics of English and Dutch (PDF) (5th ed.), Leiden: Brill Publishers, ISBN 9004103406
  • Wells, John C. (2008), Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.), Longman, ISBN 9781405881180
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