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Archive for March, 2013

RP vs GA

RP vs GA

One aspect of American and British English pronunciation differences is differences in accent. The General American (GA) and the British Received Pronunciation (RP) accents have some significant points of difference, described in this article. However, other regional accents in each country may show greater still differences, for which see regional accents of English speakers.

Although the Received Pronunciation dialect is the subject of many academic studies, and is frequently used as a model for teaching English to foreign learners, only about two percent of Britons speak RP, because there are many other dialects spoken in Britain.

 

Change of Diphthong /əʊ/ to /oʊ/

The shift from the British diphthong /əʊ/ to /oʊ/ is also very distinguishing. The shift consisted in the change of the mid central unrounded vowel /ə/ to the close-mid back rounded vowel /o/ in the first vowel of the diphthong. This shift is considered to be systematic. Look at these examples:

Word RP GA
Go /gəʊ/ /goʊ/
No /nəʊ/ /noʊ/
Crow /krəʊ/ /kroʊ/
Cocoa /ˈkəʊkəʊ/ /ˈkoʊkoʊ/
Component /kəmˈpəʊnənt/ /kəmˈpoʊnənt/
Promotion /prəˈməʊʃən/ /prəˈmoʊʃən/
Romantic /rəʊˈmæntɪk/ /roʊˈmæntɪk/

Change of Vowel /ɒ/
The letter “o” is pronounced in many different ways in English. Here we have a few illustrative examples of such diversity: Hot /hɒt/ in RP, but /hɑt/ in GA; corn /kɔ:n/ in RP, but /kɔrn/ in GA; continue /kənˈtɪnju:/; moon /mu:n/; coast /kəʊst/ in RP, but /koʊst/ in GA; house /haʊs/. The so-called “short o”, which often appears in a stressed syllable with one letter o such as in dog or model, underwent a change in American English. In British English that sound is pronounced as an open back rounded short sound /ɒ/, as in hot /hɒt/, or possible /ˈpɒsəbəl/. In American English it is pronounced either as an open back unrounded long sound /ɑ/, as in hot /hɑt/, or as an open-mid back rounded long vowel /ɔ/, as in dog /dɔg/. Note that British English prefers a short sound as opposed to American English, which prefers a
long sound in all cases.

Word RP GA
Got /gɒt/ /gɑt/
Hot /hɒt/ /hɑt/
Job /dʒɒb/ /dʒɑb/
Stop /stɒp/ /stɑp/
coast /kɒst/ /kɑst/
off /ɒf/ /ɑf/
clock /klɒk/ /klɑk/

Change from [ju:] to [u:]
Around the beginning of twentieth century several changes took place in the English vowels. One of them was the so-called yod-dropping, the omission of sound /j/ before /u:/. The change is named after the Hebrew letter yod, which represents the sound /j/. Both RP and GA embraced the change, although GA extended the cases in which yod-dropping was applied.

Yod-dropping before /u:/ takes place in RP and GA in the following cases.

• After the post-alveolar affricates /tʃ/ and /dʒ/, as in chew /tʃu:/, juice /dʒu:s/, and Jew /dʒu:/.
• After /r/, as in rude /ru:d/, prude /pru:d/, shrewd /ʃru:d/, and extrude /Ik”stru:d/.
• After clusters formed by a consonant followed by /l/, as in blue /blu:/, flu /flu:/, and
slew /slu:/.

Apart from this common corpus of words, in GA as well as in many other varieties of English we observe yod-dropping in further cases.

• After /s/ and /z/, as in suit /sut/, Zeus /zus/, and assume /əˈsum/
• After /l/, as in lute /lut/, and pollute /pəˈlut/ .
• Especially in GA, after /t/, /d/, and /n/, as in tune /tun/, stew /stu/, student /ˈstudnt/
dew /du/, duty /ˈduti/, produce/prəˈdus/, and new /nu/.

Notice that spellings eu, ue, ui, ew, and u followed by consonant plus vowel frequently correspond to sounds /ju/, or just /u/ if yod-dropping has taken effect. The lists above provide instances of this observation.

Change of /ɪ/ and /aɪ/
In some cases the pronunciation of lax vowel /ɪ/ in RP becomes other vowels, mainly diphthong /aɪ/ and /ə/ in the suffix -ization.

• For the change to /aɪ/, here we have a few examples: dynasty, privacy, simultaneously,
vitamin.
• In the suffix -ization, pronounced as /aɪˈzeɪʃən/ in RP, the diphthong /aɪ/ is transformed into the unstressed and neutral vowel sound /ə/, resulting in the pronunciation /əˈzeɪʃən/ in GA. Examples of this change are: authorization, centralization, civilization, colonization, dramatization, fertilization, globalization, hybridization, legalization, localization, mobilization, modernization, neutralization, normalization, optimization, organization, privatization, specialization, synchronization, urbanization, visualization

Changes of /i/ and /ɛ/
Sometimes, swaps between vowels /i/ and /ɛ/ are also found. Here we have a few instances.
• Change of /i:/ in RP to /ɛ/ in GA: aesthetic, devolution, epoch, evolution, febrile,
predecessor.
• Change of /e/ in RP to /i/ in GA: cretin, depot, leisure, medieval, zebra.

Sound More American

Exercise your speech to acquire the American accentSome people want to learn the American Accent so that they will sound better when they speak in English; others are simply interested in the potential benefits that they may reap from having the ability to speak English with an American Accent. Of course, there are also some people who simply want to be able to communicate more effectively in English. No matter what your goal may be, if you wish to learn how to speak English with an American Accent, you need to exercise your speech. Here are some tips for working on your voice:

Consonants

The /θ/ and /ð/ sounds

One of the most difficult consonant sounds for non-native speakers is the “TH”. It has two pronunciation /θ/ sound as in ‘think’ and /ð/ sound as in ‘that’. In order to make this sound the tip of the tongue should touch the edges of the front teeth, and the tip of the tongue vibrates a bit while air flows out through the tongue and upper teeth. It’s also acceptable to just touch the back of the front teeth as long as the air is flowing through. Many Egyptian speakers tend to substitute a /s/ or /z/ for /θ/ and /ð/.

Word Pairs for Practice 

Word Contrasts for /s/ Versus /θ/

/s/

/θ/

mass math
tense tenth
sing thing
sank thank

 

Word Contrasts for /z/ Versus /ð/

/z/

/ð/ 

close clothe
bays bathe
breeze breathe
Zen then

i.e. Make sure that you don’t pronounce the words in each pair the same way

The /s/ Sound

Many Egyptian speakers tend to add a vowel in front of the “s” when it comes in the initial position of the word. Make sure you don’t inadvertently insert an extra vowel sound when you say English words beginning with s. Here are some common words that demonstrate the “s” problem.

Arabic English
e-spanish Spanish
e-study study
e-steven Steven

 

Pronouncing Gerund

Over-pronouncing “ing” is another common mistake for Egyptian speakers. Make sure you don’t release the /g/ sound in words that end with ing, such as going and doing. When you pronounce the /n/ sound as in thin, the tip of the tongue touches the gum ridge, just behind the teeth, but the /ŋ/ sound as in thing the tip of the tongue is down, not touching anywhere. The back of the tongue is up, touching the soft palate which is located in the back of your mouth.

The /r/ Sound

Simply curl the tip of your tongue and pull it back a bit; keep the tongue tense and do not touch anything in your mouth.

Sentences for practice

Erica threw three red rocks
I heard that the alternative procedure was better
For your information, they’re not divorced

 

i.e. The /r/ sound in the American accent is never silent

Vowels

The /eɪ/ Sound
Egyptian speakers tend to pronounce /eɪ/ (as in take) as /ɛ/, here are some examples of words that tend to sound the same when Egyptian speakers pronounce them:

/ɛ/ /eɪ/
tech take
sell sale
test taste
west waste

 

The /ɔ/ Sound
Be careful that your /ɔ/ sound (as in saw) is not influenced by the very different British version of this sound. In British English pause sounds almost like “pose,” but in American English it sounds much more like /pɑz/, and has the same /ɑ/ sound as in father or watch.

Word Contrasts for Practice
Make sure you don’t pronounce the two words in each pair the same way:

/oʊ/ /ɔ/
low law
boat bought
coat caught
woke walk

Intonation

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Intonation is the melody of language and comes from the ups and downs of pitch and stress in a language. This
rising and falling melody is used to communicate our intentions and our emotions. In English, a stressed syllable is longer, clearer, stronger and often higher in pitch than an unstressed syllable. Intonation also gives information that words alone cannot give. It can indicate anger, surprise, confusion, hesitation, sarcasm, interest, or lack of interest. If your speech has good intonation it will be more dynamic and more interesting to listen to.

Falling Intonation
Lower your voice at the end of the sentence to produce a “falling intonation.” This intonation
is used for a variety of reasons:

Statements
Falling intonation is used in simple sentences that are not questions. For example:

– My name is John.
– It’s nice to meet you.
– Have a nice day.
– I’m going outside.
– I’ll be back in a minute.

Questions
Falling intonation is also used when asking questions if they contain interrogative words such
as where, what, why, when, how, and who. For example:

– What’s his name?
– What are you thinking about?
– How are you doing?
– When does it start?
– Who told you?

Rising Intonation
Raise the pitch of your voice at the end of a sentence to create “rising intonation.” Rising intonation is used in “yes/no questions.” For example, “Did you see it?” is a “yes/no” question. It can be answered with either a “yes” or a “no.” Compare that question with this one: “When did you see it?” this one cannot be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.”

Practice Sentences
1. Did he work yesterday?
2. Does he know about it?
3. Can you call me at five?
4. Is it good?
5. Is that it?
6. Excuse me?
7. Really?