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May 14, 2000 - Slangman: Reductions - 2002-02-16

INTRO: VOA Wordmasters Rosanne Skirble and Avi Arditti are back with a lesson in reduction.

RS: We're talking about the kind of reduction that takes place in English.

AA: Slangman David Burke joins us from VOA's Los Angeles bureau with some examples.


"One of them is `you.' Instead of saying `you,' we just say, `ya.' Instead of saying, `How are you?' (We say) `How are ya?'"

RS: You won't find reductions in the dictionary. That means you have to listen closely to the way a native speaker pronounces the words.


BURKE: "If I were to say to you, 'Didja eat yet?' And If I said to you, `No, "Didju?"' We would understand that. 'Didja eat yet?' Did you eat yet?

"We talked about 'ya' which is reduction of you, but after the letter `d' the `you' or the `ya' becomes a 'ja' sound always after the letter `d.' (For example) `Would you like to come to the movies?' `"Wouldja" like to come to the movies?' `Did you eat?' `Didja eat?' And, for some reason after the letter 't' the ya becomes 'cha' (as in) `I'll let you come with me.' `I'll letcha come with me.' `What's that you have in your hand?' `Whatcha have in your hand?' So, we have about four different ways of saying `you' which is 'ya,' 'ja,' 'cha' and even 'ju.'"

RS: "Depending on context."

AA: "This is spoken English, right? Now if you were writing a report or something for work you would want to be more careful about using the formal non-reduced forms."

BURKE: "Absolutely. But, I would have to say yes and no, because reductions are used typically in speaking; however, a lot of times when we are writing to friends or especially in comic books we'll see the reduced form.

"True, in a formal report, you do not want to use reductions, but when we are writing a letter to somebody we might say in the beginning of the letter, `How are ya?' and spell `y-a' for `ya.' That's pretty common."

AA: Also on the most-often-heard reduction list are the reduced forms of "going to" and "want to." They become "gonna" ... g-o-n-n-a ...

and "wanna" . . . w-a-n-n-a.

RS: As in "I'm gonna be late," or "Do you wanna go with me?"


"And what's a little bit difficult to understand about `gonna' (is that) `gonna' is the reduction of `going to' only when it is something that is happening in the future.

But when it indicates going from one place to another you cannot reduce it. For example, `I'm going to the movies tonight. You can't say, `I'm gonna the movies tonight.' Or `Are you going to the market?' You can't say, 'Are you gonna the market?' So, it's only used to indicate the future, and it's really popular."

AA: Sometimes, when reduction takes place, two different words are reduced to the same sound.

RS: That happens with "and" and "in".


BURKE: " `And' is pronounced 'n': `Rosanne n Avi.' The word `in' ... `Let's go inside.' It's pronounced absolutely the same. `Put the pencil 'n' the box.' It sounds like `Put the pencil and the box.'"

AA: "So someone coming to this country who is not used to the fast-speaking ways of your average American is going to be confused by these `wanna's,' `gonna's' . . .

RS: " ... `Can'tya, `don'tcha.'

BURKE: "Absolutely. In fact just now you said a very common reduction, `used to' `usta' means to be accustomed to, to be acclimated to. I'm `usta' getting up early. He `usta' be my best friend. We would never say, `used to.'"

RS: "The question I have for you is that given the fact that Americans speak with reductions, how do people who speak English as a foreign language learn to tell the difference? How do they learn these reductions?"

BURKE: "The only way they can learn is to live in this country, and of course when they arrive they will be absolutely shocked and all of a sudden someone comes up and says, `How do ya do?' not `How do you do?' They are stunned and think that they have to re-learn English. Unfortunately, in a way, you sort of do."

AA: But there's help at Slangman David Burke's Web site,

RS: He's posting many of the reductions we've talked about today, and he's also written about them in his book called "STREET SPEAK 1."

RS: Gotta go, but next week we'll be back with Grammar Lady Mary Bruder. With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.

MUSIC: "Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy?"/Chris LeDoux/Garth Brooks