Sunday, 25 February 2018

Elegant Variation

ə ˈsɪnənɪm | ɪz ə ˈwɜːʤu ˈjuːz | ˈwen ju ˈkɑːnt ˈspel ðə ˈwɜːʤu ˈfɜːs ˈθɔːt ˈɒv


Key at bottom of page.

Commentary

a: When unstressed, as it usually is, the indefinite article a has the weak form /ə/.

word you: When a word ends with /d/ and the immediately following word begins with /j/, the /d/ and the /j/ can combine to form /ʤ/. This is known as coalescent assimilation. It is most common with the high-frequency words you and your, especially when they occur with grammatical inversion, e.g. could you /ˈkʊʤu/, would you /ˈwʊʤu/, did your /ˈdɪʤɔː/, etc.

The symbol u represents the same vowel phoneme as the symbol . We use u in unstressed syllables and in stressed syllables. This distinction isn't very helpful for TEFL purposes and learners should simply treat the two symbols as the same. Because we are using two different symbols for one phoneme, this means our transcription isn't truly phonemic (phonemic transcription = one symbol for each phoneme).

use: Note that the verb use /juːz/ has a different pronunciation from the noun use /juːs/.

when: In all its various uses when is usually stressed and has no weak form.

can’t: Although function/grammatical words are generally unstressed in English, negative contractions such as can’t (and don’t, won’t, can’t shouldn’t, etc.) are usually stressed.

the: When unstressed, as it usually is, the definite article the has the weak form /ðə/ when the following word begins with a consonant.

first: When /t/ is at the end of a word (more specifically, in a syllable coda) and is immediately preceded by a consonant (except /l/ and /n/), it is commonly elided/deleted when another consonant immediately follows (i.e. without a pause) in another word or in a suffix.

of: When a preposition is grammatically stranded, i.e. it doesn’t appear directly before the noun phrase it relates to, it is stressed and appears in its strong form. This is most common:
  •          In relative clauses, e.g. the man that I looked at /ðə ˈmæn ðət aɪ ˈlʊkt ˈæt/, the team that I played for /ðə ˈtiːm ðət aɪ ˈpleɪd ˈfɔː/
  •          In wh-questions, e.g. Who did you run to? /ˈhuː dɪd ju ˈrʌn ˈtuː/, What did you dream of? /ˈwɒt dɪd ju ˈdriːm ˈɒv/
  •          In passive sentences, e.g. They were laughed at. /ðeɪ wə ˈlɑːft ˈæt/, I was turned to. /aɪ wəz ˈtɜːnd ˈtuː/

A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the word you first thought of.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

An Important Rule

ə ˈprepəˈzɪʃn̩ | ɪz ˈsʌmθɪŋ ju ʃʊd ˈnevər ˈend ə ˈsentəns ˈwɪð


Key at bottom of page.

Commentary

a: When unstressed, as it usually is, the indefinite article a has the weak form /ə/.

preposition: Phonemically, the final syllable of preposition is /ən/. When this syllable is preceded by /ʃ/, however, the schwa /ə/ often isn't pronounced. Instead the articulators move directly from the position for /ʃ/ to the position for /n/. This is relatively easy to do because /ʃ/ is a fricative, a category of sound which involves making a very narrow stricture in the vocal tract. It is possible, therefore, for the articulators to move from such a position to the complete closure required for /n/ (accompanied by the lowering of the soft palate to allow air to escape out through the nose) without passing through the position for a vowel and thereby avoiding an intervening schwa /ə/.

Note that in English, syllabic /n/ is not a phoneme in its own right, but merely a special way of realising the syllable /ən/. This means that when we use a special symbol [n̩] for it in transcription, it makes our transcription non-phonemic (because we are now using more than one symbol for each phoneme and introducing a special symbol to show a particular phonetic detail).

you: The symbol u represents the same vowel phoneme as the symbol . We use u in unstressed syllables and in stressed syllables. This distinction isn't very helpful for TEFL purposes and learners should simply treat the two symbols as the same. Because we are using two different symbols for one phoneme, this means our transcription isn't truly phonemic (phonemic transcription = one symbol for each phoneme).

should: When unstressed, as it often is, the modal verb should can be pronounced /ʃʊd/ or with the weak form /ʃəd/. For the sake of simplicity, learners can use the pronunciation /ʃʊd/ for both stressed and unstressed should and ignore the weak form.

never: When a word ends in schwa /ə/ and is immediately followed (without a pause) by a word beginning with a vowel, the consonant /r/ is inserted between the vowels. This process is known as /r/-liaison and also occurs after /ɑː ɔː ɜː eə ɪə ʊə/.

sentence: The syllable /əns/ often results in syllabic consonant when preceded by /t/ (e.g. importance, pittance), but not usually when the /t/ is preceded by /n/ (e.g. repentance /rɪˈpentəns/, acquaintance /əˈkweɪntəns/).

A preposition is something you should never end a sentence with.

Friday, 23 February 2018

A Shortcut

ˈwaɪz əˈbriːviˈeɪʃn̩ | ˈsʌʧ ə ˈlɒŋ ˈwɜːd


Key at bottom of page.

Commentary

why’s: When unstressed, as it usually is, the word is can have three different pronunciations, depending on the final sound of the immediately preceding word:
  •          When the final sound of the preceding word is /s z ʃ ʒ ʧ ʤ/, then is has the form /ɪz/, e.g. Chris is well /ˈkrɪs ɪz ˈwel/.
  •          When the final sound of the preceding word is a voiceless consonants (excluding the consonants listed above), then is has the form /s/ and forms a contraction with the preceding word, e.g. Jack is well /ˈʤæks ˈwel/.
  •          If the final sound of the preceding word is voiced (i.e. a vowel or a voiced consonant (excluding the consonants listed above)), then is has the form /z/ and forms a contraction with the preceding word, e.g. John is well /ˈʤɒnz ˈwel/.

The symbol i represents the same vowel phoneme as the symbol . We use i in unstressed syllables and in stressed syllables. This distinction isn't very helpful for TEFL purposes and learners should simply treat the two symbols as the same. Because we are using two different symbols for one phoneme, this means our transcription isn't truly phonemic (phonemic transcription = one symbol for each phoneme).

abbreviation: Phonemically, the final syllable of abbreviation is /ən/. When this syllable is preceded by /ʃ/, however, the schwa /ə/ often isn't pronounced. Instead the articulators move directly from the position for /ʃ/ to the position for /n/. This is relatively easy to do because /ʃ/ is a fricative, a category of sound which involves making a very narrow stricture in the vocal tract. It is possible, therefore, for the articulators to move from such a position to the complete closure required for /n/ (accompanied by the lowering of the soft palate to allow air to escape out through the nose) without passing through the position for a vowel and thereby avoiding an intervening schwa /ə/.

Note that in English, syllabic /n/ is not a phoneme in its own right, but merely a special way of realising the syllable /ən/. This means that when we use a special symbol [n̩] for it in transcription, it makes our transcription non-phonemic (because we are now using more than one symbol for each phoneme and introducing a special symbol to show a particular phonetic detail).

such: The word such is often stressed, but when it isn’t (notably in the phrase such as), it occasionally has the weak form /səʧ/.

a: When unstressed, as it usually is, the indefinite article a has the weak form /ə/.

Why’s ‘abbreviation’ such a long word?

Thursday, 22 February 2018

A Gifted Musician

kən ju ˈpleɪ ðə ˈvaɪəˈlɪn ||
aɪ də ˈnəʊ || aɪv ˈnevə ˈtraɪd


Key at bottom of page.

Commentary

can: When unstressed, as it usually is, the modal verb can has the weak from /kən/.

you: The symbol u represents the same vowel phoneme as the symbol . We use u in unstressed syllables and in stressed syllables. This distinction isn't very helpful for TEFL purposes and learners should simply treat the two symbols as the same. Because we are using two different symbols for one phoneme, this means our transcription isn't truly phonemic (phonemic transcription = one symbol for each phoneme).

the: When unstressed, as it usually is, the definite article the has the weak form /ðə/ when the following word begins with a consonant.

I: Although I is a monosyllabic function/grammatical word and is usually unstressed, it doesn’t usually have a weak form.

don’t know: The high-frequency phrase don’t know can be pronounced /də ˈnəʊ/ with don’t being unstressed and reduced to /də/. Other variants include /ˈdəʊ ˈnəʊ/, /ˈdəʊn ˈnəʊ/ and /ˈdəʊnt ˈnəʊ/.

I’ve: When unstressed, as it usually is, auxiliary have has the weak form /v/ when preceded by the pronouns I, you, we or they. The weak form combines with these pronouns to form the contractions I’ve /aɪv/, you’ve /yu(ː)v/, we’ve /wi(ː)v/ and they’ve /ðeɪv/.

tried: The regular -ed ending has three pronunciations:
  •          /ɪd/ after /t/ or /d/
  •          /t/ after all other voiceless consonants
  •          /d/ after vowels and all other voiced consonants

Can you play the violin?
I dunno. I’ve never tried.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Mother Nature

ˈbaɪəˈlɒʤɪkli ˈspiːkɪŋ | ɪf ˈsʌmθɪŋ ˈbaɪts ju | ɪts ˈmɔː ˈlaɪkli tə bi ˈfiːmeɪl


Key at bottom of page.

Commentary

biologically: When a word ends in -ic, the adverbial suffix takes the form -ally instead of the usual -ly (exception: publicly),  but is still pronounced the same, i.e. /li/.

The symbol i represents the same vowel phoneme as the symbol . We use i in unstressed syllables and in stressed syllables. This distinction isn't very helpful for TEFL purposes and learners should simply treat the two symbols as the same. Because we are using two different symbols for one phoneme, this means our transcription isn't truly phonemic (phonemic transcription = one symbol for each phoneme).

if: Although if is monosyllabic function/grammatical word and is usually unstressed, it doesn’t usually have a weak form.

bites: The third person singular s has three pronunciations depending on the sound at the end of the verb:
  •          /ɪz/ after /s z ʃ ʒ ʧ ʤ/
  •          /s/ after the remaining voiceless consonants
  •          /z/ after vowels and the remaining voiced consonants.

The same pattern applies to plural s, possessive s and the contraction of is.

you: The symbol u represents the same vowel phoneme as the symbol . We use u in unstressed syllables and in stressed syllables. This distinction isn't very helpful for TEFL purposes and learners should simply treat the two symbols as the same. Because we are using two different symbols for one phoneme, this means our transcription isn't truly phonemic (phonemic transcription = one symbol for each phoneme).

it’s: When unstressed, as it usually is, the word is can have three different pronunciations, depending on the final sound of the immediately preceding word:
  •          When the final sound of the preceding word is /s z ʃ ʒ ʧ ʤ/, then is has the form /ɪz/, e.g. Chris is well /ˈkrɪs ɪz ˈwel/.
  •          When the final sound of the preceding word is a voiceless consonants (excluding the consonants listed above), then is has the form /s/ and forms a contraction with the preceding word, e.g. Jack is well /ˈʤæks ˈwel/.
  •          If the final sound of the preceding word is voiced (i.e. a vowel or a voiced consonant (excluding the consonants listed above)), then is has the form /z/ and forms a contraction with the preceding word, e.g. John is well /ˈʤɒnz ˈwel/.


to: When unstressed, as it usually is, to has the weak form /tə/ when the immediately following word begins with a consonant. This is true for both the preposition, e.g. Go to hell /ˈɡəʊ tə ˈhel/, and the 'to infinitive', e.g. Go to see /ˈɡəʊ tə ˈsiː/.

Biologically speaking, if something bites you, it’s more likely to be female.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

An Extreme Sport

ðə ˈfɜːs ˈtaɪm aɪ ˈwent ˈskiːɪŋ | aɪ ˈwɒzn̩ ˈveri ˈɡʊd || aɪ ˈbrəʊk ə ˈleɡ || ˈfɔːʧənətli | ɪt ˈwɒzn̩ ˈwʌn ə ˈmaɪn


Key at bottom of page.

Commentary

the: When unstressed, as it usually is, the definite article the has the weak form /ðə/ when the following word begins with a consonant.

first: When /t/ is at the end of a word (more specifically, in a syllable coda) and is immediately preceded by a consonant (except /l/ and /n/), it is commonly elided/deleted when another consonant immediately follows (i.e. without a pause) in another word or in a suffix.

I: Although I is a monosyllabic function/grammatical word and is usually unstressed, it doesn’t usually have a weak form.

wasn’t: Although function/grammatical words are generally unstressed in English, negative contractions such as wasn’t (and don’t, won’t, can’t shouldn’t, etc.) are usually stressed.

Although /t/ isn’t usually elided when it is preceded by /n/ (e.g. in bent nail /ˈbent ˈneɪl/, front door /ˈfrʌnt ˈdɔː/), the negative contractions, because of their high frequency, are an exception and their final /t/ can be elided before both consonants and vowels (e.g. I couldn’t say /aɪ ˈkʊdn̩ ˈseɪ/. He didn’t ask /hi ˈdɪdn̩ ˈɑːsk/.), but not before a pause. This is much more common in the case of disyllabic negative contractions (e.g. didn’t, doesn’t, haven’t, hasn’t, hadn’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, etc.). In the case of monosyllabic negative contractions (won’t, can’t), elision of /t/ is only usual in rather casual speech.

very: The symbol i represents the same vowel phoneme as the symbol . We use i in unstressed syllables and in stressed syllables. This distinction isn't very helpful for TEFL purposes and learners should simply treat the two symbols as the same. Because we are using two different symbols for one phoneme, this means our transcription isn't truly phonemic (phonemic transcription = one symbol for each phoneme).

a: When unstressed, as it usually is, the indefinite article a has the weak form /ə/.

it: Although it is a monosyllabic function/grammatical word and is usually unstressed, it doesn’t have a weak form.

of: When unstressed, as it usually is, of has the weak form /əv/. When a consonant immediately follows in the next word, of can have the form /ə/. This is particularly common before /ð/ (e.g. of the, of those, of them, of this, of that) and in high-frequency phrases (e.g. a cup of tea, a bunch of grapes).

mine: Possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs) are usually stressed and do not have weak forms.


The first time I went skiing, I wasn’t very good. I broke a leg. Fortunately, it wasn’t one of mine.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Totally Unpredictable

aɪ ˈnevə ˈmeɪk prɪˈdɪkʃn̩z | ən aɪ ˈnevə ˈwɪl

Key at bottom of page.

Commentary

I: Although I is a monosyllabic function/grammatical word and is usually unstressed, it doesn’t usually have a weak form.

predictions: Phonemically, the final syllable of predictions is /ənz/. When this syllable is preceded by /ʃ/, however, the schwa /ə/ often isn't pronounced. Instead the articulators move directly from the position for /ʃ/ to the position for /n/. This is relatively easy to do because /ʃ/ is a fricative, a category of sound which involves making a very narrow stricture in the vocal tract. It is possible, therefore, for the articulators to move from such a position to the complete closure required for /n/ (accompanied by the lowering of the soft palate to allow air to escape out through the nose) without passing through the position for a vowel and thereby avoiding an intervening schwa /ə/.

Note that in English, syllabic /n/ is not a phoneme in its own right, but merely a special way of realising the syllable /ən/. This means that when we use a special symbol [n̩] for it in transcription, it makes our transcription non-phonemic (because we are now using more than one symbol for each phoneme and introducing a special symbol to show a particular phonetic detail).

The plural s has three pronunciations depending on the sound at the end of the noun:
  •          /ɪz/ after /s z ʃ ʒ ʧ ʤ/
  •          /s/ after the remaining voiceless consonants
  •          /z/ after vowels and the remaining voiced consonants.

The same pattern applies to plural s, third person singular s and the contraction of is.

and: When unstressed, as it usually is, and has the weak form /ən/ or /ənd/. Some books say that /ən/ is used before consonants and /ənd/ before vowels, but this is not true. While both forms can be heard before consonants and vowels, /ən/ is much more common than /ənd/. Learners can safely use only /ən/ for the weak form of and because it will never be wrong to do so.

will: When an auxiliary verb stands alone to represent a verb phrase, it is stressed and has its strong form. For example: Will you carry this home? ~ Yes, I will /aɪ ˈwɪl/. Can you transcribe whole sentences phonetically? ~ Yes, I can /aɪ ˈkæn/.

I never make predictions, and I never will.