Friday, June 15, 2007

Reductions in English

Many non-native English speakers think Americans speak really fast. While this may be true for some people, what tends to happen more is that native speakers use contractions (e.g., I did not = I didn’t) and reductions (e.g., I’m going to = I’m gonna).

Contractions are usually taught when English language learners study English as a foreign language in their home countries, although most non-native English speakers need more practice in this area. However, reductions are seldom taught, with the exception of “gonna” and “wanna.” Most of my students, especially Korean students, are good at using these two reductions, but not others.

Other common reductions used by native English speakers are “shoulda,” “coulda,” and “woulda.” There are a couple of steps to get to these reductions. First, the student must be taught to use the contraction “should’ve,” for example. After the student is comfortable with this contraction, you can introduce the reduction “shoulda.” You don’t really need to teach it step-by-step, but I’ve found that a lot of students are uncomfortable with what they think is improper English. It sometimes takes a little convincing that contractions and even most reductions are correct and are used by, even, educated people.

Another reduction I heard once is a big jump, even for me! I’ve heard some people turn “I am going to” into “I’m’n’a.” I don’t even know how to write that out!



Anonymous said...

I'm'n'a is an example of liaising and reduction right?

If you write it down, it should be "I am in a"

Name: Debra Garcia, M.A. said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for trying to write it out for me.

I need to have been clearer. The "I'm'n'a" here is actually this person's way of saying "I am going to" and not "I am in a."

If it had been "I am in a" then that would be easier to understand. He could have been saying, for example, "I am in a rush" quickly. In that case, we don't have a reduction and it is fairly easy to understand.

The "big jump" I was referring to was that "I'm'n'a" was his way of saying "I am going to."