U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 10: the sounds /j/ and /w/
The /j/ sound in English is most often represented by the letter 'y', while /w/ commonly appears as 'w'.
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. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /.
Remember, 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). (check out the links to the right to review previous lessons)
/j/ and /w/ are the kinds of sounds that linguists call 'approximants'. Their pronunciation is very similar to that of the 'affricates' discussed in Lesson 9. Like the affricates, approximants are not uniform throughout their pronunciation. Unlike affricates they do not begin with a complete stoppage of airflow but rather a restriction which is released somewhat at the end of pronouncing the sound.
The /j/ sound is a lot like the /dʒ/ sound from Lesson 9 except instead of a 'post-alveolar' point of articulation /j/ is pronounced entirely at the palatal point of articulation. Practice by pronouncing the /dʒ/ sound a few times and then try to pronounce it without touching the tip of the tongue to the post-alveolar area.
The /w/ sound is a lot like the /j/ sound except instead of a 'post-alveolar' point of articulation it is pronounced at the 'velar' point of articulation like the sounds /k/ (Lesson 2), /g/ (Lesson 3) and /ŋ/ (Lesson 8). Pronounce /w/ at the velar point of articulation while 'pursing' or rounding the lips. Practice by pronouncing the /dʒ/ sound a few times and then try to pronounce /w/ by completely relaxing the tongue and rounding your lips.
Try practicing some of these English pronunciation examples, check back for more examples and later lessons:
The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).
Lesson 11: the sounds /l/ and /ɹ/ -->
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Thursday, September 30, 2010
U.S. English Pronunciation