These are both high, central, lax vowels. However, /ər/ is a reduced vowel and /ɜr/ is a full vowel. This means that /ər/ is shorter and softer than /ɜr/.
Compare Word Forms:
A stressed syllable in a word may become unstressed (or vice versa) when a suffix is added to the word, which changes the word stress. Listen to these examples. Notice how the underlined full vowel becomes the reduced vowel /ər/ when the suffix is added.
11. survival 12. performance 13. personality 14. conversation 15. natural 16. temperature 17. order 18. furthermore 19. inferior 20. error
Now, practice /ər/ in sentences. Say the words first, then the sentences. (Remember that in a sentence, some function words will also have /ər/).
1. smarter - sister - harder I'm smarter than my sister, but she works harder. 2. understand - teacher's - directions Did you understand the teacher's directions? 3. interrupt - her - conversation Please don't interrupt her conversation. 4. interview - manager - yesterday I had an interview with the manager yesterday. 5. pursued - order - professor My friend pursued a graduate degree in order to to become a professor. 6. were - surprised - performance My parents were surprised by my performance.
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