English pronunciation rules – sounds

English pronunciation rules – sounds
by Viv Quarry (www.vivquarry.com)

Although English pronunciation rules exist, after a quick internet search, it seems that you need a master’s in linguistics to understand them. Therefore, Viv has done his best to explain the two English pronunciation rules he believes may be most useful to foreign learners.

If a word ends in the letter ‘s’ (e.g. plural noun or verb in the third person), there are three ways to pronounce this ‘s’ – /S/, /Z/ and /IZ/. Similarly, any word which ends in ‘ed’ (e.g. adjective or the past of a regular verb) may be pronounced either /T/, /D/ or /ID/.

1. Final ‘s’

Type one sound /S/

In type one words, the final ‘s’ should be pronounced with air pushed out between the top of your tongue and your top teeth, without using the vocal chords (the sound made by a snake or gas escaping from a pipe).

Type one sounds are used if the word ends in the following sounds:

Standard
phonetic
symbols
Viv’s
phonetic
symbols

Example word
/p/
/P/
stops, ships
/t/
/T/
hits, pets
/k/
/K/
attacks, bricks
/f/
/F/
laughs, coughs
/θ/
/θ/
maths, moths

These sounds are all unvoiced, which means that your vocal chords must be silent when you make the sound.
Type two sound /Z/

This sound is formed in the same way as type 1, but you must make a sound with your vocal chords (the sound made by a bee, or high-voltage electricity)

Type two sounds come after the following sounds:

Standard
phonetic
symbols
Viv’s
phonetic
symbols

Example word
/b/
/B/
grabs, robs
/d/
/D/
lids, rods
/g/
/G/
pigs, dogs
/v/
/V/
loves, leaves
/D/
/DZ/
breathes, lathes
/l/
/L/
hills, fails
/m/
/M/
comes, trams
/n/
/N/
earns, burns
/N/
/Ñ/
songs, paintings
any vowel sound
any vowel sound
plays, employees, flees, goes, news

These sounds are all voiced, which means that your vocal chords must make a sound when you pronounce them.

Type three sound /IZ/

This sound is the same as the verb ‘to be’ in its third person form (is). Type three sounds are the only ones which add an additional syllable to the word, for example ‘miss’ /MIS/ is one syllable, but ‘misses’ /MIS IZ/ is two syllables. The final /IZ/ syllable isn’t usually stressed.

Standard
phonetic
symbols
Viv’s
phonetic
symbols

Example word
/s/
/S/
buses, places
/z/
/Z/
chooses, sizes
/∫/
/SH/
washes, wishes
/t∫/
/TCH/
watches, matches
/dƷ/
/DJ/
Judges, pages

If a word ends in a consonant sound + ‘y’, the pronunciation of final ‘y’ is /EE/ and in the plural it has a type 3 sound, but there is no extra syllable e.g. ‘copy’ /KO PEE/ (2 syllables), ‘copies’ /KO PIZ/ (also 2 syllables).

2. Final ‘ed’

Type one sound /T/

You make this sound by ‘unsticking’ your tongue from the roof of your mouth and pushing air out of your mouth at the same time. The vocal chords aren’t used (sound at the end of ‘at’)

We use this sound when a word ends in an unvoiced phoneme (your vocal chords aren’t used):

Standard
phonetic
symbols
Viv’s
phonetic
symbols

Example word
/s/
/S/
passed, placed
/∫/
/SH/
washed, wished
/t∫/
/TCH/
watched, matched
/p/
/P/
stopped, trapped
/k/
/K/
locked, packed
/f/
/F/
laughed, coughed
/θ/
/θ/
frothed

Type two sound /D/

This sound is formed in the same way as type 1, but you must use your vocal chords at the same time (sound at the beginning of ‘do’).
Words ending in voiced phonemes (with sound produced by your vocal chords) are pronounced with a type 2 ‘ed’:

Standard
phonetic
symbols
Viv’s
phonetic
symbols

Example word
/z/
/Z/
buzzed, amazed
/b/
/B/
grabbed, robbed
/g/
/G/
bugged, tagged
/v/
/V/
loved, craved
/D/
/DZ/
breathed, bathed
/l/
/L/
piled, failed
/m/
/M/
drummed, rammed
/n/
/N/
rained, pinned
/N/
/Ñ/
pinged, wronged
/dƷ/
/DJ/
judged, raged
any vowel sound
any vowel sound
played, employed, tried, flowed, skied

Type three /ID/

Type 3 ‘ed’ adds an additional syllable in the same way as type 3 final ‘s’. For example, the past of ‘mend’ is pronounced /MEN DID/ with stress on the first syllable.

Words ending in /t/ and /d/ sounds are type 3, but some adjectives also have this sound.

Standard
phonetic
symbols
Viv’s
phonetic
symbols

Example word
/t/
/T/
waited, retreated
/d/
/D/
handed, ended

Adjectives with type 3 ‘ed’
aged, learned, naked, ragged, rugged, wicked, wretched

Rules adapted from the Oxford English Headway intermediate workbook and rules found at the following link: http://www.uni-greifswald.de/~anglam/staff/Material/Fanning/PronRules.pdf

Teacher’s note.
Unfortunately, not all the phonetic symbols are available with Windows XP. If you want to see these symbols on your computer, you will need to download (free) the appropriate fonts see Wikipedia entry or the download link on Viv’s site. For help with the spelling of one syllable words in their ‘ing’ or regular past forms, see Viv’s Spelling worksheet.

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