Written German has verbs like <können> ‘can’, but some (quick, lazy, …) speakers – myself included – pronounce this word form without any /e/ or schwa sound in the second nucleus. There are still two syllables, the usual IPA transcription [ˈkœnən] thus would be wrong (and so would be [ˈkœn̩ən] with U+0329 added to show the ambisyllabic status of the [n]). I’m not sure what would be the correct one: [ˈkœn̩], [ˈkœnn̩], [ˈkœn̩n̩], [ˈkœn̩ː]? It’s definitely not pronounced just [ˈkœn]! I even wondered whether it could better be described by a tonal marker, as in [ˈkœn↑].

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    [ˈkœnn̩]. IPA notation hardly depends on what precedes. And since the first syllable remains closed (doesn't it?), there must be a pure [n] there. – Yellow Sky Sep 23 '14 at 21:12
  • @YellowSky, make that an answer, not a comment. – Joe Sep 24 '14 at 5:06
  • @Joe - OK, done. – Yellow Sky Sep 24 '14 at 7:12

It should be [ˈkœnn̩]. IPA notation hardly depends on what precedes. And since the first syllable remains closed (doesn't it?), there must be a pure [n] there. Besides, könn-, [kœn], is a distinct morpheme, there is no morpheme [kœ], so one still can break [ˈkœnn̩] into morphemes: [ˈkœn.n̩], which cannot be done with the other variants you suggested.

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  • The first syllable remains closed indeed. You (and @Darkgamma) are probably right that [ˈkœnn̩] describes it best. I said “there are still two syllables” since [kœn] is not it, but maybe it’s really just one syllable with a more complex coda or tone, e.g. [kœn↑] or [kœnː˥˩] (as suggested by Darkgamma). – Crissov Sep 24 '14 at 7:44

[ˈkœnn̩] is probably the one you're looking for. As far as I know, it's two separate sounds in German, so [ˈkœn̩] and [ˈkœn↑] are out of the question. [ˈkœn̩ən] is also out of the question because it would either be trisyllabic or have a non-syllabic schwa.

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  • "it's two separate sounds in German" - Is there any evidence for this (perhaps acoustic), other than the syllabic status of one but not the other? – robert Sep 24 '14 at 7:21
  • That's the very evidence; one's syllabic and the other isn't. I mostly went of my native intuition and ears on this one, though. I've heard a small amount of people pronounce something resembling [kœn:˥˩] but it's usually [ˈkœnn̩] with two more-less separate [n]s. – Darkgamma Sep 24 '14 at 7:27
  • You see [ˈkœn̩ən] or [ˈkœṇən] where people want to stress that – at least with “standard” pronunciation Bühnenaussprache – the first [n] is both coda of the first and onset of the second syllable (hence hyphenation <_kön-nen_>). I’ve hardly seen [ˈkœn.nən] instead. – Crissov Sep 24 '14 at 7:32
  • True but outside the scope of your question as you asked about the IPA representation of <können> with schwa dropping, which is [ˈkœnn̩]. [ˈkœṇən] otherwise doesn't exist (I am not aware of any uses of an underdot in the IPA) but [ˈkœn̩ən] is the more pedantic form, yes. – Darkgamma Sep 24 '14 at 8:13
  • @Darkgamma As a rule, it's best not to postulate two phonemes where a single one can do the job. And here you just need a rule that if a syllable consists only of /n/ because of vowel elision, /n/ becomes syllabic. Also see Wikipedia, which, like other analyses, does not posit two /n/ phonemes. – robert Sep 24 '14 at 9:16

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