IntroductionAs a language learner, one often finds that native speakers can tell one's nationality as soon as one opens the mouth. The key to speaking a language like a native speaker seems to be the right pronunciation. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to work out the right pronunciation of a foreign word by help of a dictionary:
- Most dictionaries give only the phonemes, i.e. the units of sound that are necessary to distinguish meaning [Wikipedia / phonemes]. They do not give the phones, i.e. the actual sounds [Wikipedia / phones]. For example, they will write /r/ for the English, the Italian and the German r-sound — although they are all different.
- Even if a narrow phonetic description is given, it is often not narrow enough to reproduce the sound. For example, English dictionaries will transscribe “moon” as [mu:n], even though the [u] is diphthongised and should be written as . Worse, the same symbol is used to describe different sounds (the German [ɔ] and the English [ɔ], for example, are different).
- Most dictionaries explain the distinct sounds through examples of the target language. For example, a German dictionary will explain that /x/ is pronounced like in the German word “Dach” — which is of little use when you want to figure out how “Dach” is pronounced.
- The dictionaries usually define the set of permissable pronunciations, not the “right” pronunciation. This is because they see themselves as descriptive, not prescriptive resources.
- Some dictionaries use their proprietary phonetic alphabets instead of the standard one. Worse, they explain the sounds of their alphabet by examples from the target language, so that you have no chance to figure out how a word is pronounced unless you know it already.
IPA speech soundsThe building blocks of pronunciation are speech sounds [Wikipedia / phones]. The International Phonetic Association has devised a comprehensive list of language sounds — the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) [Wikipedia / IPA]. IPA sounds are written in squared brackets, [ ]. The IPA sounds are carefully defined and classified systematically according to parameters such as the position of the tongue, the flow of air, the vibration of the cords and many more. This essay confines itself to listing the relevant sounds with examples from the languages. If a sound does not appear in all discussed languages, an explanation is given below.
Source: Wikipedia / IPA and Wikipedia pages linked from there. Part of the examples by me.
|[ʰ]||The aspiration that occurs after saying [p]|
|[ʷ]||Indicates that the preceding sound has round lips like a [u]|
|||Indicates that the sound is pronounced with the tongue tip touching the inside of the upper front teeth. , for example, is a [d] where the tongue touches the upper front teeth.|
|||Indicates that the sound is pronounced without vibrating chords. , for example, sounds similar to a [t], but is weaker than [t].|
Source: Wikipedia / IPA.
|[h]||Open your mouth like for an [a]. Push air through the mouth.|
|[j]||Pronounce [i]. Press the middle of your tongue on the roof of your mouth.|
|[ɾ]||Say [bdavo] the flap of the tongue that appears after the [b] is the [r].|
|[r]||Pronounce [bdavo] in quick repetition. When multiple tongue flaps happen after the [b], you are pronouncing a [r].|
|[R]||Let the hindmost rear of your tongue touch the very back of the roof of your mouth. Push air through your mouth, make your cords vibrate and your uvula flap.|
|[ʁ]||A stronger [x]|
|[sj]||Pronounce [s] so that not the tip of your tongue touches the roof of the mouth, but the part that comes directly behind the tip.|
|[t]||Pronounce , but with the tip of your tongue touching the roof of the mouth well away from the teeth.|
|||Pronounce [t], with the tip of your tongue touching the inside of the upper front teeth.|
|[v]||Pronounce [z]. Place the upper lips on the lower front teeth and get your tongue away from the roof of the mouth.|
|[w]||A [w] is a short [u] that glides immediately into the following vowel.|
|[x]||Let the hindmost rear of your tongue touch the very back of the roof of your mouth. Push air through your mouth|
|[θ]||Pronounce [s]. Push the tip of the tongue between the front teeth.|
|[ð]||Pronounce [z]. Push the tip of the tongue between the front teeth.|
|[ʃ]||Pronounce [s]. Let the tip of the tongue travel backwards in the mouth beyond the “corner” in the roof of your mouth.|
|[ʒ]||Pronounce [z]. Let the tip of the tongue travel backwards in the mouth beyond the “corner” in the roof of your mouth. This sound appears in English, German and Italian with a preceding [d], e.g. in “journal”, “Dschungel” and “giusto”.|
|[β]||Pronounce [a]. Close your mouth until the lips touch each other but you can still push out air.|
|[ʎ]||Pronounce [lj]. The sound that appears in the transition from [l] to [j] is [ʎ].|
|[ç]||Pronounce [h] with the tongue in the position of [j]|
|[ɹ]||Pronounce [ʒ], let the tongue travel even further back and then pronounce a [œ].|
|[ɫ]||Put the tip of the tongue in the position of [l], then pronounce [o].|
|[ʔ]||Stop the flow of air between two vowels|
Affricates: In the sequences [ts], [dz], [tʃ] [dʒ] and [pf], the first sound often crosses over directly into the second one. This is denoted by an over-arc in IPA. Since this phenomenon seems to be universal in the languages under consideration here (and thus no native speaker of one of them will make a mistake in another one), this subtlety is ignored in this essay.
Source: My observations
VowelsVowels are described by three parameters:
- Open vowels have the tongue at the bottom of the mouth, closed vowels have the tongue nearly touching the roof of the mouth.
- Back vowels have the ridge of the tongue moved to the back, front vowels have it it moved to the front
- Rounded vowels have the lips form a small circle (like when using a straw), unrounded vowels have the lips relaxed. Unrounded front vowels can be pronounced more easily if you smile while pronouncing them.
In the following table, vowels to the right of the “♦” are rounded, else unrounded.
|Close||[i] ♦ [y]||♦ [u]||♦ [u]|
|Near-close||[ɪ] ♦ [ʏ]||♦ [ʊ]|
|Close-mid||[e] ♦ [ø]||♦ [o]||♦ [o]|
|Open-mid||[ɛ] ♦ [œ]||[ʌ] ♦ [ɔ]|
|Near-open||[æ] ♦||[ɐ] ♦|
|Open||[a] ♦||[A] ♦||[ɑ] ♦ [ɒ]|
Remark: In the official IPA alphabet, there is no [A]. However, the sound is used in a number of languages.
Source: Wikipedia / IPA. Introduction of [A] by myself.
|[ ~ ]||Indicates that the vowel is nasalized, i.e. the velum is lowered, so that part of the air escapes through the nose. , for example, is a nasalized [æ]. It appears in the French word “main”, [m:].|
|[ ]||Indicates that the vowel is pronounced further to the front.|
|[ ]||Indicates that the vowel is pronounced further to the back.|
|[ ]||Indicates that the vowel is pronounced more closed.|
|[ ]||Indicates that the vowel is pronounced more open.|
|[ ]||Indicates that the vowel is pronounced with less lip rounding.|
|[ ]||Indicates that the vowel is pronounced with more lip rounding.|
|[ vowel ]||Indicates that the vowel is pronounced weaker and shorter than usual|
|[ : ]||Prolongs the preceding vowel.|
Source: Wikipedia / IPA
DiphthongsA diphthong is a vowel combination involving a quick but smooth movement from one vowel to another. In IPA notation, diphthong vowels are joined by an under-arc:
An affix is a string that is appended to the basic form of a word. Examples are the plural “s” for nouns, the adjective modifiers (such as “-ly” and “est”) and the all verb form indicators (such as “-ing”, “-s” or “-ed”).
Source: Wikipedia / Diphthongs. My definitions for “syllable”, “minimal pair” and “affix”.
StressAn apostrophe ['] precedes the syllable that receives the stress:
|`safety belt||`Sicherheits-Gurt||ceinture de `sécurité||cintura di `sicurezza||cinturón de `seguridad|
Source: The apostrophe is standard, the accent grave is my definition.
PatternsThis essay does not make a distinction between upper case letters and lower case letters. It will refer to the letters “a”, “e”, “i”, “o”, “u” (with all their diacritic variations) as vowel letters and to all other letters as consonant letters. When it is clear from the context, we will call them simply vowels and consonants. A sequence of letters is called a string. Strings are enclosed in quotation marks, “”, unless a table header identifies all column entries as strings. The following meta-letters are used to describe patterns of strings:
|V||a vowel letter|
|C||a consonant letter|
|C+||one or more consonants|
|#||a word boundary|
||||a syllable boundary (including word boundaries)|
|( )||letters enclosed in parentheses define the surroundings of a string|
|( / )||one of the alternatives in the surroundings|
|[ ]||sounds enclosed in parentheses define the sound surroundings of a string|
|a||the letter “a”|
|ah||the string “ah”|
|a(h)||the letter “a”, if followed by the letter “h”|
|a(C)||the letter “a”, if followed by a consonant|
|a(CV)||the letter “a”, if followed by a consonant and a vowel|
|a(C / V)||the letter “a”, if followed by a consonant or a vowel|
|a(b / c)||the letter “a”, if followed by “b” or “c”|
|[p]a||the letter “a”, if preceded by anything pronounced as [p]|
|#a||the letter “a” at the word onset|
|a#||the letter “a” at the word end|
|a|||the letter “a” at the word end or syllable end|
Source: My definitions.
Common PitfallsThis section lists some difficulties that people tend to encounter when speaking another language.
- Note that English, German and Italian all have a different r-sound. The wrong r-sound will identify you immediately as a foreigner.
- Native English speakers
- Note that the IPA vowels are not diphthongized. An [ɛ], for example, sounds like the beginning of the English word “ace” [ɛɪs], but it does not cross over to the [ɪ]-sound before the “c”.
- Native German speakers
- Note that the [v]-sound corresponds to the “w” in German. Furthermore, take care that [ʒ] does not sound like [ʃ], [b] does not sound like [p], [g] does not sound like [k] and [d] does not sound like [t]. Note furthermore that the other languages do not have a glottal stop between the words, i.e. the words have to be linked together as if they were one long word! If you don't do this, you will sound harsh to native speakers!
- Native French speakers
- Take care that the [h]-sound appears, but that it does not sound too strong and pressed. Stop the vocal chords from vibrating after having pronounced a word, do not produce an [ø]-sound at the end of the word.
- Native Italian/Spanish speakers
- Take care that the [h]-sound appears, but that it does not sound too strong and pressed. Try to distinguish open/short and closed/long vowels (e.g. the English words “beach” [bɪjtʃ] and “bitch” [bɪtʃ]). Stop the vocal chords from vibrating after having pronounced a word, do not produce an [ɛ]-sound at the end of the word.
Source: My observations
GermanFor the German patterns, composed words are pronounced as if they were two independent words. For example, “Hausboot” is considered a composed word of “Haus” and “Boot”.
VowelsThe German vowel letters are either pronounced as tense vowels or as lax vowels. Here they are, together with their minimal pairs:
|in a simple word||rot [ʁo:th]|
|together with an “h”||Mohn [mo:n]|
|followed by b, d, g, ß||Obst [o:pst]|
|followed by a syllable onset||rote [ʁo:thə]|
|before a duplicated consonant||Rotte [ʁɔtə]|
|before “x”||Hexe [hɛksə]|
Exceptions: Prepositions (such as “mit”, “zum”, “was”, and the above “weg”) are often pronounced lax. Vowels before “ch” and may be either tense or lax (”lachen” [laxən], but “Nachen” [na:xən]).
Baseform rule: Derivative forms usually follow the pronunciation of their base form. Examples:
- “er flucht” has a tense “u”, because “fluchen” has a tense “u”
- “die Flucht” has a lax “u”, because “flüchten” has a lax “ü”
- “höflich” has a tense “ö”, because “Hof” has a tense “o”.
Remarks: There are also a number of debated pronunciations (”Dusche”, e.g., is pronounced either lax or tense). Furthermore, it is debated whether the sound [ɛ:] occurs in German. This sound is necessary to distinguish the minimal pair “Ehre” [e:ʁə] and “Ähre” [ɛ:ʁə] . However, this distinction is not made in all German variants of Hochdeutsch and the Duden allows to pronounce “äh” as [e:]. Hence, this essay adheres to this simplification.
There are two additional rules:
|e after stressed syllable||[ə]||keine|
Source: Compiled from Wikipedia / German Phonology, Wikipedia / German Spelling, Wikipedia / Aussprache der deutschen Sprache and Wikipedia pages linked from there. Rules for tense and lax vowels by me. Some minimal pairs for tense and lax vowels by me.
DiphthongsThe following diphthongs appear in German:
|ei, ai, ey, ay||[aɪ]||Heim|
Remark: To make it sound German, keep your lips and your mouth in a rather closed position when pronouncing these diphthongs.
Source: By myself
ConsonantsSome German consonants exist as fortis (voiceless, aspirated) and lenis (voiced) versions. Lenis consonants appear only at the syllable onset:
Remark: Note that even lenis consonants are pronounced fortis in all places except for the beginning of a syllable! In particular, they are pronounced fortis at the end of a syllable. Thus, “Rad” and “Rat” sound the same. This phenomenon is called Auslautverhärtung. Often, the lenis consonants serve just to make the preceding vowel tense. “Obst”, for example, is pronounced [o:pst].
Deaspiration: The fortis consonants lose their aspiration at the beginning of a syllable after consonants:
|p at the beginning of a syllable after consonants||[p]||Spiel [ʃpi:l]|
|t at the beginning of a syllable after consonants||[t]||Stahl [ʃtA:l]|
The letter “r”: The German “r” is often considered a difficult sound. Fortunately, it appears far less frequently than assumed! “r” is pronounced [ʁ] only if a vowel follows in the same syllable! Else, it is pronounced [ɐ] (a phenomenon called Vokalisierung). If an “e” or an “a” precedes the “r”, the Vokalisierung eats this letter as well. If a syllable boundary follows, a glottal stop [ʔ] is inserted.
|r followed by a vowel||[ʁ]||rot [ʁo:th]|
|r at word end||[ɐ]||der [deɐ]|
|er followed by a consonant or word end||[ɐ]||immer [ɪmɐ]|
|ar followed by a consonant or word end||[A:]||Art [A:th]|
|r followed by vowel syllable onset||[ɐʔ]||Urahne [Uɐʔ A:nə]||Do not say [UʁA:nə]|
|er followed by vowel syllable onset||[ɐʔ]||Verein [fɐʔ aɪn]||Do not say [feʁaɪn]|
Other patterns: Some patterns trigger special sounds:
|(a/o/u)ch||[x]||Dach||”ch” after “a”, “o” or “u”|
|ch||[ç]||ich||”ch” after anything else than “a”, “o” or “u”.|
|chs||[ks]||wechseln||[xs] would be too complicated even for Germans|
|dt||[t]||Stadt||the voiceless “d” and the “t” get contracted|
|ig at word end||[ɪç]||wichtig||at word end|
|ng||[ŋ]||Junge [jʊŋə]||Note: There is no [g] sound! Do not say [jʊŋgə]|
|qu||[kv]||Qualle||”Q” appears only together with “u”|
|sch||[ʃʷ]||Schule||Make your lips round!|
|sp at syllable onset||[ʃʷp]||Spiel||only at the syllable onset|
|st at syllable onset||[ʃʷt]||Stein||only at the syllable onset|
|ti followed by on/är/al/ell||[tsɪ]||Information||applies mostly to loanwords|
Source: Compiled from the Wikipedia pages mentioned above, pronunciation of “r” by me, rules for fortis and lenis consonants by me as well. Rule for deaspiration derived from [Barry].
Word Boundaries and Syllable BoundariesWhen two vowels meet across syllables, Germans insert a glottal stop:
|syllable onset between vowels||[ʔ]||Beamter [bə ʔ Amtɐ]|
|word start with vowel||[ʔ]||Alle aufgepasst! [ʔ Alə ʔ ɑʊfgəpAsth]|
|Sehr gut! [se:ɐ gu:th]|
Source: My formalizations
EnglishThis section covers the Southern British standard pronunciation of English, the so-called Received Pronunciation. English differs from the other languages in a number of aspects:
- Many of its vowel sounds are different from the vowel sounds in the other languages (see the table above). English does not have the basic stand-alone vowel sounds that are common to the other languages: [A], [e], [o], [u].
- It cannot be figured out deterministically from the writing how a word is pronounced. The string “ough”, e.g., can be pronounced as in “though”, as in “through”, as in “plough”, as in “thought”, as in “cough” or as in “tough”.
- There are a multitude of ways to spell the same sound. The sound [k], e.g. can be spelled as “c”, “k”, “ck”, “ch”, “cc”, “qu”, “q”, “cq”, “cu”, “que”, “kk” or “kh”.
- Frequently, one letter triggers more than one sound, so that a word may have more sounds than letters. Consider e.g. the words “mind” [maɪnd] and “music” [mju:zik].
- The pronounciation of a vowel can be determined by a letter that follows several letters later. The different pronunciations of “i” in “win” and “wine”, e.g., are triggered only by the “e”, which comes behind the “n”. Similarly, the difference between “sign” and “signal” is indicated by the “al”, which comes behind the “gn”.
Source: My observations. Spellings of [k] from Wikipedia / English spelling.
Vowels and DiphthongsI group the the English vowels into 4 classes: Short vowels, long vowels, open combinations and closed combinations (the columns in the following table). Within each class, there are different types (the rows in the following table). To each type, I have assigned a letter, which roughly mirrors the phonetic symbol. Here are the sounds, together with example words:
-  is a diphthong of two vowels: The first is an [ɛ] that is slightly more closed (witness the ), i.e. it is shifted towards the [e]. The second is a weaker [ɪ] (which is why it appears as a superscript).
-  consists of an [ɑ] and a weaker [e] that is shifted slightly towards the [ə].
-  is a dipthong that is similar to [ou], albeit a little more central. It sounds similar to [u].
-  is a sound between [o] and [ɔ], with a little more lip-rounding.
-  is a diphthong that goes from  to a weaker sound between a [ə] and an [e].
-  is the near-back, open-mid unrounded vowel. It is basically the [ɔ], but without lip-rounding and pronounced more towards the front.
- To hear the difference between [æ] and [ɛ], listen to the words “back” [bæk] and “beck” [bɛk] .
Remarks: Other transscriptions are often used in the literature. However, these often do not correspond to the exact Received Pronunciation. I have digged out the above narrow transsciptions from [Barry].
I have called the long vowels “long” because they are long. I have called the short vowels “short” because they are short. I have called the combinations “combinations”, because they are combinations of (semi-)vowels. I have called the open combinations “open” because they end with an open vowel. I have called the closed combinations “closed” because they end with a closed vowel.
Alternative pronunciations: There are a number of acceptable other pronunciations:
- The open “u” combination is sometimes pronounced , as in “sure” [ʃ]
- The open “a” combination is sometimes pronounced [ɑ:ə], as in “fire” [fɑ:ə]
- The open “a” combination variant is sometimes pronounced [a:ə], as in “power” [pa:ə]
Destressing: Vowels that do not carry the first or second stress in a word are pronounced [ə] in some cases — irrespective of the vowel letter.
|V (not carrying 1st or 2nd stress)||in some cases [ə]||conservative [kənsə:vətɪv]|
|him||[hɪm]||We'll see him tomorrow|
|(C) him||[ɪm]||Have you seen him?|
|his||[ɪz]||His car is gone|
|(C) his||[ɪz]||Have you seen his car?|
|her||[hə]||Her car is gone|
|(C) her||[ə]||Have you seen her car?|
|he||[hi]||He did it?|
|(C) he||[i]||Has he done it?|
|she||[ʃi]||What did she say?|
|we||[wi]||Can we help?|
|our||[aʊə]||It's our great strength|
|our (V)||[aɹ]||It's our own fault|
|you||[jə]||How do you do?|
|your||[jə]||How's your father?|
|their||[ðɛ]||That's their slogan|
|for||[fə]||Time for tea|
|to||[tə]||We went to the shops|
|to (V)||[t]||He gave his money to others|
|VL is||[s]||The cup is broken|
|is||[z]||The idea is a good one|
|the (V)||[ði]||The idea|
VL = ([p] / [t] / [k] / [f] / [θ] / [s] / [ʃ] / [h])
The j-sound:The sound [j] can only occur at the beginning of a word or after certain sounds at the onset of a syllable. I abbreviate this pattern as follows:
J = (# / [p] / [b] / [t] / [d] / [k] / [g] / [m] / [n] / [f] / [v] / [θ] / [z] / [h]).
Vowel patterns:There usually exist multiple vowel sounds for one pattern in English. For each pattern I have put the pronunciation that I assume to be the most common to the top.
|a||[ɑ:] long “a”||father|
|a|| short “o”||watch|
|a||[æ] short “a”||man|
|a|| closed “e” comb.||paper|
|a|| long “o”||fall|
|a||[ə] short schwa||another|
|a||[ɛ] short “e”||many|
|a||[ɪ] short “i”||damage|
|#a||| closed “e” comb.||atheist|
|a(C+)e|| closed “e” comb.||rate|
|aar||[ɑ:] long “a”||bazaar|
|ae||[ɛ] short “e”||aesthetic|
|ae|| closed “a” comb.||maestro|
|ae|| closed “e” comb.||reggae|
|aer||[ɛə] open “e” comb.||aerial|
|ai|| closed “e” comb.||rain|
|ai||[æ] short “a”||plaid|
|ai||[ə] short schwa||mountain|
|ai||[ɛ] short “e”||said|
|ai||[ɪ] short “i”||bargain|
|ai(C+)e|| closed “e” comb.||cocaine|
|air||[ɛə] open “e” comb.||hair|
|aire||[ɛə] open “e” comb.||millionaire|
|ais|| closed “a” comb.||aisle|
|a (l)|| long “o”||bald|
|al (k)|| long “o”||walk|
|al (l)|| long “o”||call||[æ] shall|
|al (f)||[ɑ:] long “a”||half|
|al (m)||[ɑ:] long “a”||calm||[æm] salmon|
|ar||[ɑ:] long “a”||car|
|ar|| long “o”||war|
|ar||[ə:] long schwa||grammar|
|ar||[ɛə] open “e” comb.||stationary|
|are||[ɛə] open “e” comb.||ware|
|are||[ɑ:] long “a”||are|
|au|| long “o”||author|
|au||[ɑ:] long “a”||aunt|
|au|| short “o”||sausage|
|au||[æ] short “a”||laugh|
|au|| closed “e” comb.||gauge|
|au(C+)e||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||mauve|
|aw|| long “o”||jaw|
|ay|| closed “e” comb.||pay|
|ay||[ɛ] short “e”||says|
|e||[ɛ] short “e”||met|
|e||[ə] short schwa||anthem|
|e||[ɪ] short “i”||pretty|
|(C)e#||[i] final “i”||be|
|ea||[ɪj] closed “i” comb.||beach|
|ea||[ɛ] short “e”||weather|
|ea||[ɪ] short “i”||mileage|
|ea|| closed “e” comb.||steak|
|ea(C+)e||[ɛ] short “e”||cleanse|
|ear||[ɪə] open “i” comb.||ear|
|ear||[ɑ:] long “a”||heart|
|ear||[ə:] long schwa||earth|
|J eau||[j] closed “u” comb.||beauty|
|ee||[ɪj] closed “i” comb.||bee|
|ee||[ɪ] short “i”||been|
|ei||[ɪj] closed “i” comb.||deceit|
|ei||[ɛ] short “e”||heifer|
|ei||[ɪ] short “i”||counterfeit, soverein|
|ei|| closed “e” comb.||veil|| height, sleight|
|ei||[ə] short schwa||foreign|
|eir||[ɛə] open “e” comb.||heir|
|eo||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||yeoman|
|eo||[ɪj] closed “i” comb.||people|
|eo||[ɛ] short “e”||jeopardy|
|er||[ə:] long schwa||fern||[ɑ:] sergeant|
|er||[ɛə] open “e” comb.||stationary|
|er(V/y)||[ɪər]||serious, series, cereal,
serial [Barry / 115]
|ere||[ɛə] open “e” comb.||where|
|ere||[ɪə] open “i” comb.||here|
|err||[ə:] long schwa||err|
|J eu||[j] closed “u” comb.||feud|
|J eue||[j] closed “u” comb.||queue|
|eur||[ə:] long schwa||amateur|
|J ew||[j] closed “u” comb.||few|
|ew|| closed “u” comb.||jewel||[əʊ] sew|
|J ewe||[j] closed “u” comb.||ewe|
|ey||[ɪj] closed “i” comb.||key|
|ey|| closed “a” comb.||geyser|
|ey|| closed “e” comb.||obey|
|eye|| closed “a” comb.||eye|
|i||[ɪ] short “i”||bid|
|i|| closed “a” comb.||mind|
|i||[æ] short “a”||meringe|
|i||[ɪ] short “i”||medicine|
|i(C+)e|| closed “a” comb.||fine||[ɪ] recipe [rɛsɪpi]|
|i(C+)e||[ɪj] closed “i” comb.||machine|
|ia||[ɪ] short “i”||carriage|
|ie||[ɪj] closed “i” comb.||field|
|ie||[ɛ] short “e”||friend|
|ie||[ɪ] short “i”||sieve|
|ier||[ɪə] open “i” comb.||frontier|
|ier|| closed “e” comb.||dossier|
|J ieu||[j] closed “u” comb.||adieu|
|J iew||[j] closed “u” comb.||view|
|ir||[ə:] long schwa||thirst|
|ir|| open “a” comb.||choir|
|ire|| open “a” comb.||fire|
|is|| closed “a” comb.||isle|
|o|| short “o”||lock|
|o|| short “u”||son|
|o||[ə] short schwa||awesome|
|o||[ɪ] short “i”||women|
|o|| closed “u” comb.||who|
|o|| short “u”||wolf|
|o||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||so|
|o(C+)e||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||mope|
|o(C+)e|| short “u”||come|
|o(C+)e|| closed “u” comb.||lose|
|o(C+)e||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||bone|
|oa||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||boat|
|oa|| long “o”||broad|
|oar(C+)e|| long “o”||coarse|
|oar||||board [Barry / 130]|
|oe||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||foe|
|oe|| short “u”||does|
|oe#||[əʊ]||toe|| canoe, shoe [Barry / 118]|
|oi|| closed “o” comb.||noise|
|oi||[ə] short schwa||porpoise, tortoise|
|o (l)||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||old||[ə:] colonel|
|ol (k)||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||folk|
|ol (l)||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||roll|
|ol (m)||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||holm|
|oo|| closed “u” comb.||tool|
|oo|| short “u”||flood|
|oo||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||brooch|
|oo(C+)e|| short “u”||gooseberry|
|ook|| short “u”||book [Barry / 118]|| snook, spook [Barry / 118]|
|oor|| long “o”||door|
|or|| long “o”||for|
|or||[ə:] long schwa||worst|
|or|| short “u”||worsted|
|or(C+)e|| long “o”||horse|
|ou|| closed “u” comb.||soup|
|ou|| short “u”||touch|
|ou||[ə] short schwa||callous|
|ou|| short “u”||courier|
|ou||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||soul|
|ou|| long “o”||bought|
|ou(C+)e||[aʊ] closed “a” comb. variant||mouse|
|ough|| long “o”||ought [Barry / 131]|
|ough||[aʊ] closed “a” comb. variant||plough [Barry / 131]|
|ough||[f] short “o”||cough [Barry / 131]|
|ough||[f] short “a” variant||tough [Barry / 131]|
|ough||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||though|
|ough|| closed “u” comb.||through|
|oul|| short “u”||should|
|our||[aʊə] open “a” comb. variant||our [Barry / 131]|
|our|| long “o”||four|
|our||[ə:] long schwa||journey|
|our||[ʊə] open “u” comb.||your|
|ow||[əʊ] closed schwa comb.||know|
|ow||[aʊ] closed “a” comb. variant||now|
|oy|| closed “o” comb.||toy|
|oy(C+)e|| closed “o” comb.||gargoyle|
|J u||[j] closed “u” comb.||music|
|u|| short “u”||sun|
|u||[ɛ] short “e”||bury|
|u||[ɪ] short “i”||busy|
|u|| closed “u” comb.||luminous|
|u|| short “u”||full|
|J u(C+)e||[j] closed “u” comb.||use|
|u(C+)e|| closed “u” comb.||flute|
|uar||[ɑ:] long “a”||guard|
|J ue||[j] closed “u” comb.||cue|
|ue||[ɛ] short “e”||guess|
|ue|| closed “u” comb.||true|
|J ui||[j] closed “u” comb.||nuisance|
|ui|| closed “a” comb.||guide|
|ui||[ɪ] short “i”||build|
|ui|| closed “u” comb.||fruit|
|ui(C+)e|| closed “u” comb.||juice|
|uo|| long “o”||flourine|
|uoy|| closed “o” comb.||buoy|
|ur||[ə:] long schwa||turn|
|ure||[ʊə] open “u” comb.||sure|
|J ure||[jʊə] open “u” comb.||cure|
|urr||[ə:] long schwa||burr [Barry / 141]|
|uy|| closed “a” comb.||buy|
|wo|| closed “u” comb.||two|
|y|| closed “a” comb.||try|
|y||[ə] short schwa||beryl|
|y||[ɪ] short “i”||myth|
|y(C+)e|| closed “a” comb.||type|
|y#||[i] final “i”||happy|
|ye|| closed “a” comb.||dye|
|yr||[ə:] long schwa||myrtle|
|yrr||[ə:] long schwa||myrrh|
Source: The vowel patterns in the big table are the reverse compilation from Wikipedia / English orthography. The J-pattern is deduced from Wikipedia / English phonology]. All other information by myself or from Barry, where indicated.
The “th” combination: “th” is pronounced voiced in some function words and between vowels. Else it is pronounced voiceless.
in the words
this, these, their, them, the, those, there, though
|(V) th (V)||[ð]||mother [mðə]|
The tongue has to be at the teeth for “th”. In order to prepare the tongue for this position, certain consonants are pronounced with the tongue already at the teeth when a “th” follows [Barry / 90]. The “th” may follow either in the same word or in the next word:
|d [ð]||||hand this over [hænðɪsəʊvə]|
|d [θ]||||width [wɪθ]|
|t (th), t (#th)||||put through [pʔθɹ]|
|n (th), n (#th)||||month [mθ]|
|L (th), L (#th)||||health [hɛθ]|
|s (th), s (#th)||[sj]||this thing [ðɪsjθɪŋ]|
Remark concerning the “R”: Some foreigners have problems with the english [ɹ]. Many foreigners, however, will pronounce the word “prim” with a correct [ɹ]. What they would need to do is (1) using this [ɹ] in the other places as well and (2) omitting the “r” if no vowel follows.
|Example word||Foreign pronunciation||Correct pronunciation|
|prim||[ɹ]||[ɹ]||(this is correct)|
|merry||[ɾ]||[ɹ]||(the one from “prim”)|
|port||[ɾ]||[ ]||(simply omit it!)|
The dark and light “L”: The “L” is usually pronounced [ɫ]. If a vowel follows, it becomes [l]:
|L # (V)||[l]||mail and letters|
|Le # (V)||[l]||pile of letters|
|LL # (V)||[l]||tell and listen|
Final voiced consonants: A voiced consonant at the end of a syllable serves to prolong the preceding sound:
The final voiced consonant is pronounced voiceless if a voiceless sound follows.
VL = ([p] / [t] / [k] / [f] / [θ] / [s] / [ʃ] / [h])
Thus, the main characteristics of final voiced consonants is not that they are voiced (because they may be devoiced), but that they prolong the preceding sound. This leads to the following lengths of vowel sounds: [Barry / 114]
sit [sɪt] < Sid [sɪ:d] < seat [sɪjt] < seed [sɪj:d]
The influence of voiceless sounds has contributed to the following pronunciations of common verbal constructions: [Barry / 59]
|have to (in the sense of “must”)||[hæftə]|
|has to (in the sense of “must”)||[hæstə]|
|used to (in the sense of “habitually”)||[jstə]|
Verbs and Nouns: If a verb is derived from a noun, the noun has often a voiceless sound at the end while the verb has a voiced sound.
advice/advise, the use [js] / to use [j:z], advertisement / advertise
The affixes are pronounced as follows:
|s #||(as affix)||[z]||beds|
|VL||s #||(as affix)||[s]||pets|
|ed #||(as affix)||[d]||failed|
|(d/t)||ed #||(as affix)||[ɪd]||waited|
|VL||ed #||(as affix)||[t]||topped|
|es #||(as affix)||[ɪz]||washes|
|ies #||(as affix)||[ɪz]||cities [Barry / 114]|
The combination “ng”: “ng” is usually pronounced [ŋg]. It is pronounced [ŋ] at the end of a word or an affix follows (except for comparative affixes). In some words, it is pronounced [nʒ]: [Barry / 236]
|nger # (in a comparative form)||[ŋgə]||longer|
|ngest # (in a superlative form)||[ŋgəst]||longest|
|ng + affix||[ŋ]||singing|
|ng||[nʒ]||passenger, danger, endanger,
messenger, manger, ranger, ginger
Glottal Stops: While English does not have the glottal stop before vowels (as does German), it does insert a glottal stop before syllable-final [p], [t], [tʃ] and [k]. This is called glottal reinforcement.
|(V)ck|, (V)k|, (V)c|||[ʔk]||pick [pɪʔk]|
|(V)p|, (V)pp|||[ʔp]||sip [sɪʔp]|
|(V)t|, (V)tt|||[ʔt]||kit [kɪʔt]|
|(V)tch|, (V)ch|||[ʔtʃ]||bitch [bɪʔtʃ]|
Others: The remaining patterns are
|d, dd||[d]||dive, ladder|
|ex(V/h) (unstressed)||[ɪgz]||exist, exhaust|
|f, ff||[f]||fine, off||[v] of|
|gh#||[ ]||dough, high|
|h||[h]||hotel|| hour, heir, honor, vehicle, exhaust, exhibit|
|m, mm||[m]||mine, hammer|
|n, nn||[n]||nice, funny|
|p, pp||[pʰ]||pill, happy|
|r, rr||[ɹ]||ray, parrot||[ ] iron|
|rh, rrh||[ɹ]||rhyme, diarrhoea|
|t, tt||[tʰ]||ten, bitter|
|v, vv||[v]||vine, bovver|
|x (before vowel with primary
or secondary stress)
|z, zz||[z]||zoo, fuzz|
Source: The big table is compiled from the tables in Wikipedia / English orthography. The rule for glottal stops is taken from Wikipedia / Received Pronunciation. All other rules are from myself or from [Barry] where indicated.
Word LinkingIn English, words are linked together — either by connecting the words directly or by putting an intermediate sound between them.
|#||||Linking||Hop on, hop off||[hʔ pn hʔ pf]|
|(Vre) # (V)||[ɹ]||Linking “R”||spare a moment||[spɛəɹəməʊmɛnt]|
|(Vr) # (V)||[ɹ]||Linking “R”||far away||[fɑɹəw]|
|[ / / ] # (V)||[j]||Intrusive [j]||say it!||[sjɪt]|
|[ / aʊ / əʊ ] # (V)||[w]||Intrusive [w]||Take your shoe off||[...ʃwf]|
Word StressIn this section, all patterns refer to whole words (i.e. they are implicitly started and ended with “#”).
By default, English words are stressed on the first syllable:
|'...||'labyrith, 'amateur, 'prospect|
|...'oo||kangor'oo, shamp'oo, bamb'oo (exception: 'igloo)|
|...'ee||chimpans'ee, sett'ee, train'ee|
|...'ade||lemon'ade (exception: 'marmelade)|
|...'eer||volunt'eer, mountain'eer, engin'eer, car'eer|
|un... (as affix)||un'friendly|
|dis... (as affix)||disa'ppointed|
|...hood (as affix)||'likelihood|
|'S S (if used as noun)||'export|
|S 'S (if used as verb)||ex'port|
Source: Compiled from [Barry / 239ff].
Stress for compoundsMost compounds are stressed on the first word:
|`W W||`Safety belt|
|`W Street||`Park Street|
|`W House||`White House|
|`W Museum||`Geographic Museum|
|W `W (place names)||Park `Road, Park `Drive, Park `Crescent, Nottingham `Forest, North `Sea, Waterloo `Station, North `Pole, Leicester `Square|
|crown `jewels, gold `coins, Prime `Minister, government `crisis, kitchen `sink, country `dance, pound `note, W `stamp, evening `star, Middle `Ages, Christmas `W, apple `pie, head`quarters|
|Adjective `Noun||blue `lagoon, short `story, civil `war|
|`Gerund Noun (as object)||`cleaning lady, `driving licence|
|Gerund `Noun (as action)||cleaning `windows (Cleaning `windows is fun)|
|Adjective `PastParticiple||absent-`minded (The professor is absent-`minded), old-`fashioned, short-`lived, short-`sighted, blue-`eyed, over-`paid, thick-`skinned, red-`handed, left-`handed, open-`ended, over-`staffed, good-`natured, light-`hearted, over-`qualified, half-`hearted|
|`Adjective PastParticiple Noun||`absent-minded professor|
|`Verb Particle (as noun)||`check-in, `countdown, `pullover, 'comeback, 'know-how, 'sit-in, `drive-in, 'layout|
Conversely, the combination is non-phrasal, if the particle merely concretizes the verb (e.g. “to run” vs. “to run down the street”). In this case, the particle and the following part of the sentence can be left away while maintaining the truth of the sentence (e.g. “I ran down the street” means that “I ran”). Hence the verb is stressed.
|Verb `Particle (as phrasal verb)||I ran `down the grandma|
|`Verb Particle (as non-phrasal verb)||I `ran down the street|
|'S...S # 'S...S||'Chinese 'restaurant (as opposed to “Chi'nese” if standing alone)|
Source: Compiled from [Barry / 239ff]. Explanations for phrasal verbs by myself.