The Language has three basic constituents: Sound, structure and vocabulary. The main problem of language learning is to master its sound system, to understand the streams of speech, to hear the distinctive sound features and to approximate their production .Accuracy
Of sound, rhythm of innovation, structural forms and arrangement within a limited range of expression must be acquired first before the other linguistic aspect of the language. Correct pronunciation imparts clarity to the speech and correct tone. It makes the language more fluent. It makes an impression on the mind of the listener. The pronunciation has to be learnt through constant and sustained practices. This section provides the different sounds and practices to master the English pronunciation.
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Like all languages English has wide variation in its pronunciation. The variation is especially salient in English because the language is spoken over such a wide territory, being the predominant language in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, South Africa and India. Although there are many dialects of English, the Received Pronunciation is usually used as the standard accent.
To learn the exact pronunciation of the words in English language we need to first identify the different speech, sounds in English language. There are 44 sounds in English language and they are divided into vowels sounds and consonant sounds. There are 20 vowels and 24 consonants. The vowels sounds are further classified into Monophthongs and diphthongs. Monophthongs are either short or long.
A vowel sound is produced by the free flow of air. During the articulation of vowel sound,the active articulator is raised towards the passive articulator in such a way that there is a sufficient gap between the two for air to escape through the mouth without friction. For example when we say True the air escapes freely and continuously without any friction.
To begin with we first focus on the vowel sound. The vowel sound is the nucleus of the word.
No word can exist without it.
The consonant sound is the marginal element. It appears either before of after the nucleus. The Consonant sound at the beginning of the nucleus is called the releasing consonant and the one at the end is called the arresting consonant for egg. PICK –pik p is known as the releasing consonant.
Examples of short vowels: /Éª/ in kit and mirror, /ÊŠ/ in put, /e/ in dress and merry, /ÊŒ/ in strut and curry, /æ/ in trap and marry, /É’/ in lot and orange, /É™/ in ago and sofa.
Examples of long vowels: /iË/ in fleece, /uË/ in goose, /ÉœË/ in nurse, /É”Ë/ in north and thought, /É‘Ë/ in father and start.
RP’s long vowels are slightly diphthongised. Especially the high vowels /iË/ and /uË/ which are often narrowly transcribed in phonetic literature as diphthongs [Éªi] and [ÊŠu].
“Long” and “short” are relative to each other. Because of phonological process affecting vowel length, short vowels in one context can be longer than long vowels in another context.
In addition to such length distinctions, unstressed vowels are both shorter and more centralized than stressed ones. In unstressed syllables occurring before vowels and in final position, contrasts between long and short high vowels are neutralized and short [i] and [u] occur.[
A consonant sound may be defined as a speech sound that is produced with stoppage of air. For Ex ample when we say the word CUP to pronounce the initial /k/ and the final /p/the voice or breathe is particularly hindered by the tongue teeth, lip or other organ of articulation. The consonant sounds are classified according to the nature of the constrictions plosives friction, affricated , and lateral consonants.
The sound of the language is known as phonemes. Phoneme is a minimal,distinctive, functional unit of the sound system of a language.
Phonetics is the science of speech sounds, their production,transmission and reception, It studies the medium of spoken language. To learn the pronunciation and improve spoken Phonetic transcription.
It may be defined as a way of representing speech sounds through symbols. A phonemic symbol represents each English sound. It is important to learn the phonemic symbol to acquire the accurate pronunciation because these symbols help to recognise the sound easily. knowledge of these symbols is useful while referring a Dictionary. It helps to know the pronunciation of the word.
It may be defined as a way of representing speech sounds through symbols. A phonemic symbol represents each English sound. To acquire the exact pronunciation it is important to learn phonemic transcription. This helps to identify the sounds easily .Knowledge of these symbols is useful while referring to a dictionary. The table below contains the list of these pronunciation symbols;
/e/ bet, let, men
/i/ sit, lit, bit
/É”/ hot, shot , pot
/ÊŒ/ hut, but, nut
/ æ / bat, mat, sat
/u/ would, could, should
/ É™ / ago, aloud, about
Bay cake, lake, play
Consonant phonemes of Received Pronunciation
Nasals and liquids may be syllabic in unstressed syllables.
/Ã°/ is more often a weak dental plosive; the sequence /nÃ°/ is often realized as [nÌªnÌª].
/h/ becomes [É¦] between voiced sounds.
/É¹/ is postalveolar unless devoicing results in a voiceless fricative articulation (see below).
/l/ is velarized in the syllable coda.
Unless preceded by /s/, fortis plosives (/p/, /t/, and /k/) are aspirated before stressed vowels; when a sonorant /l/, /É¹/, /w/, or /j/ follows, this aspiration is indicated by partial devoicing of the sonorant.
Syllable final /p/, /t/, /tÊƒ/, and /k/ are preceded by a glottal stop; /t/ may be fully replaced by a glottal stop, especially before a syllabic nasal (button [bÉÊ”nÌ©]).
/P/ Pin, pick
/b/ but, cup
/t/ tin, stick
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/d/ bud , doll
/k/ could, cake
/g/ girl, mug
/ tÊƒ / church, chew
/ dÊ’ / jug, judge
/f/ graph, fast
/v/ give, vary
/ Î¸ / theory, earth
/ Ã° / mother, further
/s/ sea, ask
/z/ zero, design
/ Êƒ / ash, shift
/ Ê’ / garage, pleasure
/m/ machine, charm
/n/ nature, born
/ Å‹ / ring, king
/h/ hymn, harp
/l/ life, style
/r/ rose, correct
/w/ water, work,
/j/ yes, you
DUALITY OF LETTERS AND SOUNDS
Duality of letters and sounds mean that there is no one to one correspondence between letters and sounds in English. Different letters may represent different sounds .
Following table gives example of words where different letters represent the same sound.
/s/ see, censor, miss
/SH/ chef, mention, passion
/z/ zoo, season
/k/ kill, sick, chemistry
/ ee/ key, deal, physique
/ oo/ movie, soup, true
/AH/ market, fast, aunt, heart
Word Stress in English
Word stress is the key to understand spoken English. In English, we do not say each syllable with the same force or strength. In one word, we accentuate ONE syllable. We say one syllable very loudly (big, strong, important) and all the other syllables very quietly for example if we say photograph, photographer and photographic. They do not sound similar because we accentuate (stress) ONE syllable in each word. And it is not always the same syllable. So the shape of each word is different
PHO TO GRAPH
PHO TO GRAPH ER
PHO TO GRAPH IC
This happens in all words with two or more syllables: TEACHer, JaPAN, CHINa, aBOVE, converSAtion, INteresting, imPORtant, deMAND, etCETera, etCETera, etCETera
The syllables that are not stressed are ‘weak’ or ‘small’ or ‘quiet’. Native speakers of English listen for the STRESSED syllables, not the weak syllables. If you use word stress in your speech, you will instantly and automatically improve your pronunciation and comprehension
There are two very important rules about word stress:
One word, one stress. (One word cannot have two stresses. So if you hear two stresses, you have heard two words, not one word.)
The stress is always on a vowel.
The stress in English language can be learned by listening to engish news on radio or television. This serves as a good practice exercise to learn the right stress pattern.
Sentence Stress in English
Sentence stress is the music of spoken English. Like word stress, sentence stress can help you to understand spoken English, especially when spoken fast.
Sentence stress is what gives English its rhythm or “beat”. You remember that word stress is accent on one syllable within a word. Sentence stress is accent on certain words within a sentence.
Most sentences have two types of word:
Content words are the key words of a sentence. They are the important words that carry the meaning or sense.
Structure words are not very important words. They are small, simple words that make the sentence correct grammatically. They give the sentence its correct form or “structure”.
If you remove the structure words from a sentence, you will probably still understand the sentence.
If you remove the content words from a sentence, you will not understand the sentence. The sentence has no sense or meaning.
Imagine that you receive this telegram message:
This sentence is not complete. It is not a “grammatically correct” sentence. But you probably understand it. These 4 words communicate very well. Somebody wants you to sell their car for them because they have gone to France. We can add a few words:
The new words do not really add any more information. But they make the message more correct grammatically. We can add even more words to make one complete, grammatically correct sentence. But the information is basically the same:
Why is this important for pronunciation? It is important because it adds “music” to the language. It is the rhythm of the English language. It changes the speed at which we speak (and listen to) the language. The time between each stressed word is the same.
In our sentence, there is 1 syllable between SELL and CAR and 3 syllables between CAR and GONE. But the time (t) between SELL and CAR and between CAR and GONE is the same. We maintain a constant beat on the stressed words. To do this, we say “my” more slowly, and “because I’ve” more quickly. We change the speed of the small structure words so that the rhythm of the key content words stays the same.
Important rules of word stress
1 Stress on first syllable
Most 2-syllable nouns
PRESent, EXport, CHIna, TAble
Most 2-syllable adjectives
PRESent, SLENder, CLEVer, HAPpy
2 Stress on last syllable
Most 2-syllable verbs
to preSENT, to exPORT, to deCIDE, to beGIN
3 Stress on penultimate syllable (penultimate = second from end)
Words ending in -ic
GRAPHic, geoGRAPHic, geoLOGic
Words ending in -sion and -tion
4 Stress on ante-penultimate syllable (ante-penultimate = third from end)
Words ending in -cy, -ty, -phy and -gy
deMOcracy, dependaBIlity, phoTOgraphy, geOLogy
Words ending in -al
5 Compound words (words with two parts)
For compound nouns, the stress is on the first part
For compound adjectives, the stress is on the second part
For compound verbs, the stress is on the second part
to underSTAND, to overFLOW
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