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5.22: The Combinations [ur] and [ər]

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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The Combinations [ur] and [ər]

1. You can hear both of the combinations [ur] and [ər] in the word burner. Each of them combines a vowel with the sound of the <r>. They sound much alike, but one has strong stress and the other has weak stress.

In burner is the strong stress on the first vowel sound or is it on the second? first.

The pronunciation of the vowel sound with strong stress in burner is written [ur]. The one with weak stress is written with a schwa: [ər]. We write the pronunciation of burner this way: [búrnər].

2. Each of the following words contains the sound [ur]; none contains the sound [ər]. Mark the strong stress in each word and underline the letters that spell [ur] .


3. Each of the following words contains the sound [ər]; none contains [ur]. Mark the strong stress in each word and then underline the letters that spell [ər]:


4. Each of the following words contains either the sound [ur] or the sound [ər]. None of them contains both. Mark the strong stress in each word and underline the letters that spell the [ur] or the [ər]:


Which of the four words contains [ər]? color.

5. Each of the following words contains both [ur] and [ər]. Mark the strong stress in each word and underline the letters that spell [ər]:


Word Flow

In this Word Flow you can string together about one hundred words. Some will contain [ur]; some will contain [ur] and [ər]. If you can get more than fifty words, you are doing very well.

Teaching Notes. This lesson gives the students more work with word stress. It also introduces them to two very common sound-units, [ur] and [ər]. They may ask about the apparent disappearance of the [u] and [ə] sounds in these words. About all you actually hear is the [r]. This is a good example of the strong and varied effects [r] has on vowels that precede it. In some cases the [r] will alter the normal sound of the preceding vowel. For instance, compare the sound spelled by <a> in the two VCV words mate and mare: In mate we get the expected long <a>,[a¯], but in mare we get a sound more like [e] than [a¯]. In [ur] and [ər] the effect is more radical; it is as if the [r] drains all color out of the vowel or as if the vowel and the [r] are pronounced simultaneously. For more on [ur] see AES, pp. 321-26. For more on the effects of [r] on preceding vowels in general, see pp. 307-21.

Word Flow. This Flow produces so many words that it might make a good continuing bulletin board activity, with students adding to a communal list. Here, for instance, is a fairly complete listing of words using the upper <ur> (minus any plurals or 3rd person singular verbs, and minus any words that would have required <e> deletions or twinning): blur, blurb, blurt, bur, burg, burger, burl, burn, burner, burst, fur, furfur, furl, further,hurl, hurler, hurt, lurch, lurcher, murder, murmur, murther, purge, purse, slur, surd, sure, surf, surfer, surge, turf, turn, turner.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Jul 07, 2015
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