Lesson 1: /p/
The goal of this course is to present pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms. However to give an adequate explanation of English consonants, I will outline some basic linguistic information.
Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions.
Part 1: consonants:
Consonants in any language are the result of the brief stoppage or restriction of airflow in speech at different “points of articulation”. While one is speaking, the vocal chords are either vibrated (voiced), or not (voiceless).
With that in mind, I will introduce the consonants in groups that contain common features. This will make more sense later after you have seen some of the features.
These are produced with a stoppage of airflow
Consonants pronounced while vibrating the voicebox are "voiced" while "voiceless" consonants are pronounced without vibrating the voicebox. If you are not familiar with this distinction, try holding your hand lightly over your voicebox while pronouncing. If you are pronouncing voiced sounds you will feel a vibration, voiceless sounds have no vibration and are almost like a whisper. All vowels are voiced, but consonants vary. In English, as with many other languages, voicing creates important distinctions between sounds. Take, for example, the first sound described in the following lesson: /p/. It is essentially the same as the sound /b/ except for voicing (more on /b/ later).
The voiceless stops in English are:
/p/ /t/ and /k/
Aspiration is a term used to describe a specific feature in English pronunciation of voiceless stops. It is not completely necessary to pronounce these consonants exactly as a native speaker, but mastering these sounds will result in reduced accent and speech that is closer to that of a native speaker.
In English, when a voiceless stop is at the beginning of a word or syllable and preceding a vowel, it is “aspirated”. This means that there is a slight delay in vibrating the vocal chords for the following vowel. This delay results in something that sounds kind of like a puff of air (hence the term “aspiration”). Aspiration does not occur when the voiceless stop is followed by another consonant (e.g. in the word /plan/), when at the end of a syllable or word as in /gap/, or as part of a consonant cluster as in /especially/ (the cluster /sp/ goes together as part of the same syllable in English and is not divided as it is in some languages, like Spanish for example).
/p/ is pronounced without voicing by closing the lips together, restricting airflow
word initial (aspirated):
part of a consonant cluster (not aspirated):
word final (not aspirated):
Try practicing some of these english pronunciation examples
Lesson 2: /t/ and /k/ -->
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Saturday, February 9, 2008