As far as I know, ‘the’ before diphthongs is pronounced as ‘thus’ in ‘thus’ while ‘the’ before single vowels as ‘thi’ in ‘this’. So ‘the’ before [yu] in ‘United States’ should be pronunced as ‘thu’ in ‘thus’. But I’ve heard numorous times that people say [thi united states or u.s.] not [thu united states or u.s.]. Why is that? Are they wrong or is there any specific reason that I don’t know? Please tell me!
That’s interesting. I was taught for several years that you should say ‘thee’ before simple vowels. Then I could say “the Korean language” as “thee Korean language” depending on the sentence stress flow, couldn’t I?
first of all “united states” is not the name of the country. It is United States of America. Referring to America there are south America and north America and Canada and Mexico… So it has become a customary name to point the fifty states together as “United States…” Got it…?
I’m sorry, Sahid, but ‘the United States’ is indeed the name of my country. just as much as ‘the United States of America’, ‘the USA’, ‘the US’, and even ‘America’ (in context) are. All are common forms of the name of my country.
You might indeed say that, SP. The ‘thee/thuh’ options simply occur with natural flow of fluent speech-- it is not something that the native speaker chooses consciously.
Pumpkin, strictly speaking, “United States” should be preceded by [ðə]. This is because the word “united” starts with the consonant sound [y] (not with a diphthong). Because [i] and [y] are basically the same sound (the vowel and consonant version of the same thing), sometimes you will find people assimilating the [ə] vowel in “the” to the [y] at the beginning of “united”. However, they don’t know they’re doing this, and if you asked them how they pronounce “the” before that word, they will almost surely tell you [ðə].
My grammar book, Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, says ‘the’ sounds thee before vowels and thuh before consonants. This ‘rule’ is not strict, I guess, because I’ve heard lots of times people speaking ‘thee US’. Being an EFL learner, I think it would be nice if there is a kind of strict rule on it. We hear ‘thee’ sometimes while ‘thuh’ other times when natives speak. Surely, pronuncing ‘the’ cannot affect understanding the context a lot. But I have to choose, you know, when I speak English because I’m not good at speaking it so I have to choose when, where, how to say ‘the’- I say it consciously. I hope someday I can say ‘the’ unconsciously.
Why should there be one more ‘rule’, SP, when we already know that language is not rule-based and that the rules that are conceived by grammarians are (if valid) observations of usage, not prescriptions for it?
Would you have a rule such that a BrE speaker must pronounce ‘tomato’ or ‘herb’ in one way and an AmE speaker pronounce it in another way?
Your post made it sound as if there are no guidelines at all for foreign speakers just because not all native speakers hit the prescriptive target.
However, predominant patterns, combined with prescriptive rules, are used to provide guidelines for foreign speakers to emulate.
You’re forgetting also that different ways of pronouncing the definite article before a vowel give different impressions. For example, it’s very common for native speakers to pronounce “the” as [ðəʔ] before a vowel, pronouncing “the end” as [ðəʔ ɛnd] or “the other one” as [ðəʔ ʌðər wʌn], but this pronunciation strikes many other native speakers as sounding “uneducated”. You’ll find the “idiot” character in many movies and TV shows using this pronunciation, so foreigners should definitely not use it as a target. They won’t be refused a job because of it, or anything like that, but to most people it’s not the most “refined” way to pronounce it.