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Phonetics (from the Greek word φωνή, phone meaning 'sound, voice') is the study of

the sounds of human speech. It is concerned with the actual properties of speech
sounds (phones), and their production, audition and perception, as opposed to
phonology, which is the study of sound systems and abstract sound units (such as
phonemes and distinctive features). Phonetics deals with the sounds themselves rather
than the contexts in which they are used in languages

In linguistics, an accent is a pronunciation characteristic of a particular group of


people relative to another group. Accent should not be confused with dialect (q.v.),
which is a variety of language differing in vocabulary and grammar as well as
pronunciation. Dialects are usually spoken by a group united by geography or class

In linguistics, an accent is a pronunciation characteristic of a particular group of


people relative to another group. Accent should not be confused with dialect (q.v.),
which is a variety of language differing in vocabulary and grammar as well as
pronunciation. Dialects are usually spoken by a group united by geography or class

An alphabet is a complete standardized set of letters — basic written symbols —


each of which roughly represents a phoneme of a spoken language, either as it exists
now or as it may have been in the past.
The word consonant is also used to refer to a letter of an alphabet that denotes a
consonant sound. Consonant letters in the English alphabet are B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K,
L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Z, and usually Y: The letter Y stands for the
consonant [j] in "yoke", and for the vowel [ɪ] in "myth", for example.

In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language that is characterized by an open


configuration of the vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure above the
glottis. This contrasts with consonants, which are characterized by a constriction or
closure at one or more points along the vocal tract. A vowel is also understood to be
syllabic: an equivalent open but non-syllabic sound is called a semivowel

Monophthong diphthong triphthong

Voiced and unvoiced consonants


Certain pairs of consonants can be problematic for some learners. In some cases, the main difference
between the pair is whether the consonant is voiced or unvoiced, that is, whether or not the vocal
chords vibrate when making this sound.

• This discovery activity can be used to help learners notice the difference between voiced and
unvoiced consonants. Begin by asking learners what noise a bee makes. As they make a
buzzing noise, do the same and put your fingers on your throat, indicating that they should do
likewise. This will allow them to feel the vibrations of the vocal chords that occur with voiced
consonant sounds. Ask them if they can feel the vibrations.
• Then focus on a voiced / unvoiced pair such as s and z. Make the sounds with your fingers on
your throat, indicating that the learners should do the same. You can help learners with this by
getting them to make the 'bee' sounds for z, and the sound a snake is supposed to make for s.
Ask them when they feel the vocal chords vibrate - with s or z? (The answer should be z). Tell
them that this is the main difference between the two sounds, and that z is voiced while s is
unvoiced. You could then give them a list of words and ask them to categorise the underlined
consonant sound into these two categories. With /s/ and /z/, you might choose to include some
third person singular verb and plural endings. In this list the sound being focused on is the final
sound in each case.
/s/ /z/
cups pens
speaks reads
gets goes
puts lives
tents cars
plants sees
bags hears
looks learns
stops rise
rice rose
place plays
• Learners then use the chart to decide which of the other consonant sounds are voiced and
which are unvoiced. In a computer lab, learners could do this in pairs. They listen to a sound
and repeat it, with their fingers on their throat to check if it is voiced or unvoiced. In class with
the IWB, or a computer and a projector, the teacher or a learner could click on sounds while
the rest of the class repeat them and categorise them into voiced or unvoiced.

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• As a follow up, you could do a minimal pairs activity using some voiced / unvoiced pairs,
focusing on initial consonant sounds. Display this list or something similar on the board and
say a word from each pair. After each word learners have to say voiced or unvoiced, depending
on which of the pair they hear. They can then test each other in pairs.

Voiced Unvoiced
Ben pen
do to
gone con
van fan
gin chin
zoo Sue
• This activity has the advantage of establishing the voiced / unvoiced distinction, and a shared
gesture that learners and the teacher can use in class to indicate that a sound is voiced or
unvoiced, i.e. the fingers on the throat. It also helps learners to become conscious of the
muscle movements involved in voicing a consonant. All of this will be useful in future classes if
problem arise in the discrimination or production of voiced / unvoiced consonant pairs.

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Sound and spelling correspondence


The chart can also be used to highlight both patterns and variations in sound and spelling
correspondence.

For example, as a discovery activity to help learners notice the effect of adding an 'e' to the end of a
word, you could give the learners some of the words from the following list:

cap cape
mat mate
pin pine
not note
pet Pete
kit kite
sit site
win wine
hat hate
cut cute

• Learners use the chart to help them write the phonemic transcription for each word, checking
with a dictionary if necessary. The teacher then asks them to formulate a general 'rule' for the
effect of adding an 'e' to the end of a word. (It makes the vowel sound 'say its name', i.e. the 'a'
in 'cape' sounds like the letter A as it is said in the alphabet.)
• It is not advisable to over-emphasise the irregularity of English spelling, given that 80% of
English words do fit into regular patterns. However, speakers of languages such as Spanish,
Italian or Japanese where there is a very high correspondence between sound and spelling
may need to have their attention drawn to the different possibilities for pronunciation in English.
• One way of doing this is to give them a list of known words where the same letter or
combination of letters, normally a vowel or vowels, represent different sounds. Learners will
have at least some idea of how these words are pronounced, and can categorise the words
according to the sound represented, using the chart to help them, before holding a final class
check. For example, you could give learners the following list of words including the letter a,
which they categorise according to how the as are pronounced. Where the word contains more
than one a with different sounds, underline which a you want them to use to make their
categorisations.

Spanish, capital, make, art, car, understand, average, banana, take, practice.

To make the activity easier, give the students the phonemic symbols for the different possible
pronunciations of e.

• You can also set homework related to pronunciation, which learners can check using the online
chart before bringing to class. As mentioned above, you could ask them to write 5 new words
from the class in phonemic script for homework, to be used to test their classmates. Similarly, if
you want to focus on a sound which is problematic for your learners, ask them to find 5 words
including that sound and write them in phonemic script. With a little training, your learners
could prepare their own 'minimal pairs', for example with the sounds /i:/ and /I/. Depending on
their level, they might come up with something like this:

/I/ /i:/
Sit seat
hit heat
will wheel
mill meal
bin been
ship sheep
• They can use these to test their classmates' ability to discriminate between these sounds, as
well as their own pronunciation, in the next class. They simply show the two lists of words to a
partner, and say one of the words. The partner responds 'left' or 'right'. For example, in the list
above, if student A says 'seat', student B will (hopefully) respond 'right'.

In phonetics, voice or voicing is one of the three major parameters used to describe a
sound. It is usually treated as a binary parameter with sounds being described as either
voiceless (unvoiced) or voiced, although in fact there can be degrees of voicing (see
below).

A voiced sound is one in which the vocal cords vibrate, and a voiceless sound is one
in which they do not. Voicing is the difference between pairs of sounds such as [s]
and [z] in English. If one places the fingers on the voice box (ie the location of the
Adam's apple in the upper throat), one can feel a vibration when one pronounces zzzz,
but not when one pronounces ssss.

• Vowels are usually voiced. Consonants may be voiced or unvoiced


Voiceless consonant Voiced equivalent

[p] (pin) [b] (bin)

[t] (ten) [d] (den)

[k] (con) [g] (gone)

[tʃ] (chin) [dʒ] (gin)

[f] (fan) [v](van)

[θ] (thin, thigh) [ð] (then, thy)

[s] (sip) [z] (zip)

[ʃ] (pressure) [ʒ] (pleasure)

Obstruents commonly come in voiced and voiceless pairs like those above. Voiceless
consonants are usually articulated more strongly than their voiced counterparts,
because in voiced consonants, the airflow energy used in pronunciation is split
between the laryngeal vibration and the oral articulation

Phonology and
IPA
(International Phonetic Alphabet)

Phonology is the study of pronunciation, in the "what" and "how" we make sounds. The apparatus are
the organs which are used for speech, from the diagphram and lungs, and into the mouth to the outside
of the body. In making sounds, we can concentrate on the region of the head and neck. The airstream
mechanism is how the air is moved during speech. The nature in which the air is impeded along the way
is known as articulation. Air which originates in the lungs is known as pulmonic air, and its direction
outwards is termed egressive, so in normal speech the air-stream is pulmonic egressive. It is possible
for sounds to be made with air from the oral cavity. Closing the back of the throat, and pursing the lips
with a mouthful of air, draw back the tongue, whilst moving the mass of the tongue forward and
contracting the cheeks, the air is forced out of the pursed lips, making a noise by the rapid opening and
closing of the lips. Clicking with the tongue also makes a noise. These are known as oral airstreams
mechanisms. Air which moves into the body to produce sounds is known as ingressive air. It is possible
to speak by making the air go into out lungs, rather than out of it. However, you'll soon find that speaking
egressively is much easier than ingressively for long periods of time.

The diagram above shows a cross section of the human head and various parts of the aparatus used in
the production of human speech. Another air mechanism known as pharyngeal or throat air can be
made by moving air in this region. Often, oral and pharyngeal are given the names velaric and glottalic
respectively.

Organs
The cross section of the head above shows the organs that are used in the production
of speech. The lips, tongue and velum can be moved at will, and known as the elastic
organs. The movement of these, together with the airstream, aids in the production of
human speech sounds. There are alternative names for these areas as follows.

• Lips - labia
• Labial - using the lips
• Dental - teeth
• Alveolar Ridge - teeth ridge
• Palate - hard palate
• Palatal - using the hard palate
• Velum - soft palate
• Velar - using the velum
• Glottal - using the glottis
• Mouth Cavity - Oral Cavity
• Trachea - windpipe

Voicing
Voicing is the actual vibration of the vocal cords. Consonants can be classed into two
categories, voiced and unvoiced. Compare the consonant at the beginning of the
sounds: pair and bare; tail and dale; kiddy and giddy; sue and zoo, few and view.

You can sense the vibrations in two ways. The first is to feel the area where your vocal cords are during
the production of these sounds. The other way involves closing the ears to the outside by covering them
up with one's hands.

By pronouncing them in a bold manner, and slowly, we can sense that the second of the two in the pair
vibrate the vocal cords. Letters, p, t, k, s, and f are unvoiced because the vocal cords do not vibrate
when articulating the sounds, however, b, d, g, z, and v do vibrate the vocal cords and so they are
voiced. Note for each pair, the sounds are pronounced for the first and second in the same area in the
mouth: p,b; t,d; k,g; s,z; f,v. Only the voices distinguishes the two sounds in each case.

There is also another way to distinguish a voiced and voiceless sound. Voiced consonants can be made
to carry on long after their initial pronunciation, whilst unvoiced consonants can not. Try saying the
following :

• pppppppppppp, bbbbbbbbbbb

• tttttttttttt, ddddddddddd

• kkkkkkkkkkkk, ggggggggggg

• ssssssssssss, zzzzzzzzzzz

• ffffffffffff, vvvvvvvvvvv

Aspirating
Aspiration occurs when there is an audible exhalation of breath. For instance, pine has an aspirated p,
written ph, and spine is unaspirated, written with o beneath the p. In general, the listener hears for p, t,
and k, the unaspirated version b, d and g when they are preceeded by s in English. Compare pill, till and
kill, with spill, still and skill. Since both the unaspirated and aspirated p consonants are actually different
forms of one another, they are called allophones.

Representation
If we write English bough, rough, ought, and though, the letters "ough" has a different sound in each
case. Similarly, the English words "caught", and "precious" has different sounds represented by the
letter c. Clearly then, English letters cannot be used effectively to represent sounds unambiguously. We
can extend this also to each and every other alphabetical system in existence. How then to transcribe a
sound which is unambiguous and yet accurate? We need the use of an International Phonetic Alphabet.

I.P.A.
International Phonetic Alphabet
In order to record the sounds of human speech, we must devise a method which is
roughly independent of the usual spellings in languages. First we shall look at the
vowels. They are produced by varying the position of the tongue, and voicing the
sounds which resonate in the area above the larynx and in the mouth. The IPA table of
pulmonic consonants - consonants pronounced using air from the lungs follows and
then other miscellaneous symbols.
IPA Vowels : IPA Consonants : Other Symbols

Vowels

Vowels
These are made with the aid of the tongue. Its positioning in the mouth affects the
sound produced. All vowels are voiced in ordinary speech. It is often the most
prominent sounds we hear.

The shape of the diagram is representative of the postion the tongue takes when pronouncing these
vowels. Front, central and back refer to the place where these vowels occur along the tongue. Open and
close (close as in the sense of 'being near to') and the ranges in between represent the height of the
tongue from the mouth's palate. (Since the tongue is never obstructed during the production of a vowel it
is never 'closed' in the sense of an obstruction by the tongue.)
The shape of the lips further subdivides and catalogues the sounds as shown above. A rounded vowel is
one where there is rounding of the lips. The other type is known as unrounded vowels where there is
some degree of lip spreading.

Pure Vowels are those shown in the above chart. When two vowels come together and there is
movement in the tongue which differs from the intial to the final position, it is known as a dipthong.
Naturally by this definition tripthongs would involve three vowels and hence three tongue positions.

i
( IPAVOWEL )
e
( IPAVOWEL )
E
( IPAVOWEL )
ae
( IPAVOWEL )
a
( IPAVOWEL )
y
( IPAVOWEL )
%
( IPAVOWEL )
oe
( IPAVOWEL )
OE
( IPAVOWEL )
I
( IPAVOWEL )
Y
( IPAVOWEL )
i-
( IPAVOWEL )
|e
( IPAVOWEL )
3
( IPAVOWEL )
_|e
( IPAVOWEL )
_a
( IPAVOWEL )
u-
( IPAVOWEL )
o-
( IPAVOWEL )
CB
( IPAVOWEL )
-u-
( IPAVOWEL )
uu
( IPAVOWEL )
&
( IPAVOWEL )
^
( IPAVOWEL )
@
( IPAVOWEL )
u
( IPAVOWEL )
o
( IPAVOWEL )
|c
( IPAVOWEL )
|@
( IPAVOWEL )

Consonants

There are a few sounds which have not been covered in the above table. Other terms used are
Affricate : Lateral : Semi-Vowel : Liquids

Place of Articulation
Bilabial

Articulated by the two lips.


( IPA )

Labiodental

Articulated using the top lip against the lower


( IPA )

Dental

Articulated using the tip of the tongue against the upper teeth.
( IPA )

Alveolar

Articulated using the tip or blade of the tongue against the alveolar ridge, (also
known as the teeth ridge).
( IPA )

Retroflex

Articulated by the tip of the tongue against the hard palate.


( IPA )

Postalveolar

Articulated by the tip of the tongue against the back part of the teeth ridge.
( IPA )

Palatal

Articulated by the "front" (not the blade or tip) of the tongue against the hard
palate.
( IPA )

Velar

Articulated by the back of the tongue against the central and forward part of
the soft palate.
( IPA )
Uvula

Articulated by the back of the tongue against the extremity of the soft palate.
( IPA )

Pharyngeal

Articulated by the constriction of the pharynx between the root of the tongue
and the wall of the pharynx.
( IPA )

Glottal (or Laryngeal)

Articulated in the glottis - e.g. the glottal stop.


( IPA )

Manner of Articulation
Plosive

Formed by complete closure of the air-assage during an appreciable time; the


air is compressed (generally by the action of the lungs) amd on release of the
closure issues suddenly, making an explosive sound or plosion.
( IPA )

Nasal

Formed as a complete closure in the mouth, the soft palate being, however,
lowered so that the air is free to pass through the nose.
( IPA )

Trill

Also called Rolled, formed by a rapid succession of taps of some elastic organ
( IPA )

Tap or Flap

Formed by the ingle tap of some elastic organ; the position of contact is not
maintained for any appreciable time.
( IPA )

Fricative
Formed by narrowing the air-passageto such an extent that the air in escaping
produces audible friction (i.e. some kind of hissing sound).
( IPA )

Lateral Fricative

Formed by placing an obstacle in the centre of the air-channel but leaving a


free passage for air on one or both sides of the obstacle, and narrowing the air
passage to the extent of producing audible friction, (i.e. hissing with a
blocking of the middle of the air-passage).
( IPA )

Approximant

Also known as a Frictionless Continuant, made with the organic position of a


fricative consonant, but pronounced with weak breath-force so that no friction
is heard. (The palatal and velar frictionless continyants have the organic
positions of close (as in near) vowels. They are, however, uttered with very
little breath-force as compared with the normally pronounced vowels which
adjoin them in connected speech. These frictionless continuants are to be
considered as consonants on account of their consequent lack of prominence
as compared with the adjoining vowels.)
( IPA )

Lateral Approximant

Formed by the Lateral and Approximant manners of articulation, ie, made by


an obstruction in the air-passage, and produced with no friction, with a weak
breath force.
( IPA )

Affricate

Formed by as plosive consonants, but with slower separation of the


articulating organs, so thatthe corresponding fricative is audible as the
separation takes place.
( IPA )

Lateral

Formed by placing an obstacle in the centre of the air-channel, but leaving a


free passage forthe air on one or both sides of the obstacle.
( IPA )

Semi-Vowel

Also known as a Glide, a voiced gliding sound in which the speech organs
atart producing a wakly articulated vowel of comparatively small inherent
sonority and immediately changed to antother sound of equal or greater
prominence.
( IPA )

Liquids

Consonants which can be held on continuously without change of quality are


sometimes classed together as contunatives or continuantsl they include nasal,
lateral, rolled, fricative consonants and frictionless sounds. Nasal lateral and
rolled consonants are sometimes classed together under the not very
satisfactiory name Liquids. (Some authors do no include nasal consonants
among "liquids".)
( IPA )

Consonants (Pulmonary)
p (voiced bilabial plosive consonant) peer, spear, peep
( IPA )

b (voiced bilabial plosive consonant) beak, drab


( IPA )
t (unvoiced alveolar plosive consonant) tar, star, cart
( IPA )
d (voiced alveolar plosive consonant) dark, card
( IPA )
t_ (unvoiced retroflex plosive consonant)
( IPA )
d_ (voiced retroflex plosive consonant)
( IPA )
c (unvoiced palatal plosive consonant)
( IPA )
_f (voiced palatal plosive consonant)
( IPA )
k (unvoiced velar plosive consonant) king, skill, book, cool, truck
( IPA )
g (voiced velar plosive consonant) gill, big
( IPA )
q (unvoiced uvular plosive consonant)
( IPA )
G (voiced uvual plosive consonant)
( IPA )
? ( glottal stop or glottal plosive consonant) what > wot?
( IPA )
m (voiced bilabial nasal consonant) member, simmering
( IPA )
mg (voiced labiodental nasal consonant)
( IPA )
n (voiced alveolar nasal consonant)
( IPA )
n_ (voice retroflex nasal consonant)
( IPA )
_n (voiced palatal nasal consonant)
( IPA )
ng (voiced velar nasal consonant)
( IPA )
N (voiced uvula nasal consonant)
( IPA )
B (voiced bilabial trill consonant)
( IPA )
r (voiced alveolar trill consonant)
( IPA )
R (voiced uvula trill consonant)
( IPA )
r~ (voice alveolar tapped consonant)
( IPA )
£ (voiced retroflex tapped consonant)
( IPA )
F (unvoiced bilabial fricative consonant)
( IPA )
_B (voiced bilabial fricative consonant))
( IPA )
f (unvoiced labiodental fricative consonant)
( IPA )
v (voiced labiodental fricative consonant)
( IPA )
0th (unvoiced dental fricative consonant)
( IPA )
dth (voiced dental fricative consonant)
( IPA )
s (unvoiced alveolar fricative consonant)
( IPA )
z (voiced alveolar fricative consonant)
( IPA )
sh (unvoiced post-alveolar fricative consonant)
( IPA )
z3(voiced alveolar fricative consonant)
( IPA )
s\
( IPA )
z\
( IPA )
c,
( IPA )
j-
( IPA )
x
( IPA )
V
( IPA )
X
( IPA )
_R
( IPA )
h-
( IPA )
|?
( IPA )
h
( IPA )
h^
( IPA )
l@
( IPA )
lz
( IPA )
uv
( IPA )
_|r
( IPA )
_|r_
( IPA )
j
( IPA )
w|
( IPA )
l
( IPA )
l_
( IPA )
_y
( IPA )
L
( IPA )

Other Symbols
To understand this, one first has to understand the concept of VOICED and UNVOICED consonants in
English.

A voiced consonant sound is one in which the vocal cords vibrate. For example, /z/. If you make that sound
and put your hand to your throat, then you should be able to feel it. Another way to tell if a sound is voiced is to
put a finger in your ear and make the sound; (you should be able to hear the humming).
An unvoiced consonant sound is one in which the vocal cords do NOT vibrate. For example, /s/. Try the
same test above while you are making the /s/ sound. No vibration, no humming. To really get the effect, try
making a long /s/ and then going to /z/ (again, with a finger in your ear or hand on your throat).

s…s…s…s…z…z…z…z

Right. Now here come the rules:

RULE 1: If the singular form of the noun ends in a voiced consonant, then the plural will have the voiced /z/.
Take the word BIN. The /n/ sound, if we apply our test, is voiced. So BINS has the /z/ ending. NOTE: If the
noun ends in a vowel sound then it will also take the /z/ ending. This is because vowel sounds are voiced. For
example: EYE – EYES (with /z/ sound)

RULE 2: If the singular form of the noun ends in an unvoiced consonant, then the plural will have the unvoiced
/s/. Take the word BOOK. The /k/ sound is unvoiced. So BOOKS has the /s/ ending. This still doesn’t account
for the /IZ/ though. For this, we need to understand that, in addition to voiced and unvoiced there is another
sub-category of consonant called sibilants. The ‘s’, ‘z’, ‘sh’ and ‘tch’ sounds are sibilants.

RULE 3: If the noun ends in a sibilant, then add the /IZ/ sound for the plural.

The table below provides a summary of this with examples:

Voiced consonant + /z/ bins bags peas boys


Vowel sound + /z/
Unvoiced consonant + /s/ books bats lights
Sibilant + /IZ/ watches kisses wishes

What do your students need to know?

I know you asked for a simple explanation, but the above three rules are as simple as it can get while still
being true. It’s useful to make your students aware of voiced and unvoiced consonants anyway, as they affect
other areas of pronunciation.

However, there is a convincing argument that for students, especially lower level ones, the most important
thing to know is whether or not to add an extra syllable (the /IZ/ sound). Either adding /IZ/ where it isn’t
necessary or not adding /IZ/ where it is necessary are more common mistakes than making a /s/ sound
instead of a /z/ sound. These mistakes are also more likely to cause confusion.

So, while I may point out the above three rules (to draw students’ attention to them), I therefore tend to focus
mainly on whether or not to add an extra syllable. It is also the area I would correct more in students’
speaking.

How this knowledge can help in other areas

At the beginning of my answer I mentioned how excited I was when I discovered this rule, because I found it
helpful in other areas. For example, everything we have mentioned about nouns + s is equally valid for verbs +
s (i.e. the third person singular of the present simple). In addition, the concept of voiced + voiced and
unvoiced + unvoiced (rules 1 and 2 above) also work for the –ed endings of regular verbs:

Voiced consonant + opened remembered


/n/
Unvoiced consonant worked watched
+ /t/
/t/ or /d/ + /Id/ ended wanted

We also saw that there are 8 consonant­pairs in English 
of voiced­unvoiced consonants. They are these: 
These are the sounds heard at the end of the words: 

Unvoiced: keep ( ), sweet ( ), leak ( ), leaf ( ), path ( )


*, lease ( ), leash ( ), leech ( )
Voiced: cab ( ), feed ( ), league ( ), leave ( ), 
bathe ( ), please ( ), rouge ( ) and bridge ( )

• But the terms VOICING and UNVOICING are a little 
misleading. While UNVOICED consonants are nearly 
always unvoiced, VOICED consonants are not always 
fully voiced ­ or voiced at all. We find that there 
are other feature that distinguish between the 
voiced­unvoiced pairs, and voicing is only one of 
them.
In this course, then, we will follow Roach and many 
other British phoneticians and speak of FORTIS and 
LENIS consonants rather than voiced and unvoiced.s

The voiced and unvoiced consonants

In this section we will try to clarify the difference between the voiced consonants
and the unvoiced consonants.

If you want to master English pronunciation you have to able to distinguish


between these two types of consonants. This is necessary for you to learn the
proper pronunciation when you learn new vocabulary. And more importantly you
need to know the difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants to be able
to pronounce the words of English correctly. What makes one consonant be
voiced and another not?

A consonant is voiced when it makes the vocal cords vibrate. It is voiceless when
it is pronounced without vibrating the vocal cords.

The sound of the letters "p" and "b"

For example, the sounds indicated by the letters "b" and "p" differ only in their
vocalization (voicing). The are both "bilabials", that is, they are produced by
closing both lips. But the "b" is voiced and the "p" is unvoiced. In this article, we
will follow common practice and indicate the letters of the alphabet with quotes
("b" and "p") and the sounds with slashes (/b/ and /p/)

You can appreciate the difference by lightly touching with the tips of your fingers
your "Adam's Apple" (the voice box that you can see in the front of your throat)
as you pronounce the word bowl . You can feel the vibration with the tips of our
fingers. Concentrate on the first sound, the consonant /b/ before passing to the
vowel represented by the "o". Notice that you can lengthen the sound (something
is heard!) without the "o". This is because /b/ is a voiced consonant.

Now pronounce the word pole. Do you feel the vibration in the vocal cords? No.
The reason is that /p/ is an unvoiced consonant. Notice that you you can't
lengthen the sound or hear anything.

When you pronounce these sounds, don't forget the advice we already gave you
in other articles: exaggerate the value of the vowel "o" with a strong English
accent!

Listen to the following exercise until you can distinguish betwen the two sounds
and produce them yourself.

You should be able to telll the difference between the /p/ and the /b/ in the
sentence The doctor said: "Bill, take your pill!

Try it now!

The sounds of the English letters /k/ (sometimes "c") and /g/

It is not only the sounds /p/ and /b/ that are voiced or unvoiced. The same
distinction holds for the sounds represented by the letters "k" y "g" in the
International Phonetic Alphabet. By the way, do you see that it will not be hard
for you to learn the symbols of the IPA? Many of the symbols, like the k and the g
are already familiar to you. They are the normal letters of the alphabet.

The IPA symbol k interests us now. It is the "hard" sound of the letter "c", the
sound that the letter "c" usually takes before the letters "a", "o", and "u", for
example in the words car, coat, cube.

Now can you see how the IPA system makes it easy for you to learn the
pronunciation of new words? Now, we don't have to worry that sometimes the
letter "c" has the sound of the IPA symbol k (as in the word cold) or that
sometimes the same letter "c" of the English alphabet is pronounced as the IPA s
(as in the words cell ).
!
Now try to feel in your voice box the vibration in the word coal! You can't because
it is the unvoiced partner in the pair. If you touch your voice box while you
pronounce the word goal, you do feel the vibration because the sound g is voiced.

Practice the two words coal and goal. But keep on pronouncing the the English
vowel with its lengthening. Exaggerate the English language character of the
vowel. Don't pronounce it as if it were col or gol in your language. And also
remember the explosive nature of the consonant represented by the "c" in English
when it is pronounced as the IPA k. Blow out the candle when you say coal.

Pero... ¡Qué no suene como si hablaras de repollo (la col en el Perú) o del fútbol
(el gol)!
¡Cuidado con tu acento hispano!

Did you notice that we review various important things about the English sounds
as we move along in this book. From now on, in your listening and in your
practice, you must remember the explosive consonants, the special English
vowels, and the voiced or unvoiced consonants.

Listen and practice all these essential elements of English pronunciation.

The sound of the letters "t" and "d"

Consider the pair of words tear and dear. Do the same with these words as you
did above with the pairs of words coal and goal, and pole and bowl. Can you
distinguish which of the initial sounds is voiced and which is unvoiced? Both are
pronounced in almost the same place in the mouth but the initial sound of these
two words is different in that the letter "t" is usually voiceless and the "d" is
usually voiced. However, do NOT think that the letter "d" in English is always
voiced. You will see that sometimes this letter "d" represents a voiceless sound.
This is a VERY important lesson in the pronunciation of English and when you
learn how and when the "d" is unvoiced it will be a valuable tool for you in your
mastery of English.

This difference between the letters "d" and "t" in English is very important in the
matter of the past tense of verbs. We will treat this elsewhere.

Also there is another pair of voiced and unvoiced consonants, the sounds
represented in English by the letters "s" and "z". We will study them in their most
important contexts, that of the third person singular of the present of verbs, and
that of the plural of nouns.

But for now, concentrate on the consonants we just looked at.


Now listen and practice! Listen wherever you can (or listen in our book) to the
different pairs of voiced and unvoiced consonants. Then make them yourself.

P and B
K and G
T and D

This lesson is taken from the book, "Word Power" which contains sound files that
let you hear the vowels and consonants and practice their pronunciation.

If the ascii keys were used more rationally, there would be little need for an augmented alphabaet
The following table shows how the letters on a 26 letter keyboard were used to represent 42 sounds

While the Saxon


alphabet does
not require an
extended Latin-1
aphabet, it
could benefit
from the
availability of
more phono-
grams. The
most needed
characters are
a [schwa] ø ?
ae [short a] æ
oa [long awe] å ?
ai [eye sound] î ?
ei [long A] â ?
ou [long o] ô ?