Re: Kiwi pronunciation of "women"

The Other Fran wrote:

For some years I've noted the tendency of Kiwis to pronounce "woman"
and "women" identically (as "woman") -- the latest example being an
obstetrician by the name of Robert Buist (sp?) on Sydney Radio this
morning, who on at least a dozen occasions did so.

Can anyone offer a sound suggestion as to how this habit arose?


I believe this is a side-door entrance into a larger subject. It appears there is a vowel shift going on in New Zealand (NZ) English, which may also be affecting Australian and British English. I haven't studied it, I'm not an expert in it, and all this is anecdotal.

What I notice is that the vowel in "women" which in Australian English is the same as the vowel in "hit", is often, in NZ, reduced to a schwa (neutral vowel, the one represented by an upside-down e in the phonetic alphabet). It makes the plural sound like our singular. I don't think the NZ pronunciation of the singular is the same as the NZ plural, but because their plural sounds like our (Australian) singular, that's the impression we get.

Many words still pronounced in British with "i" have had this reduced to the neutral vowel in Australian and New Zealand English, noticeable for example in the plural ending of words like "glasses" and "dances".

-- Stephen Lennox Head, Australia .