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Pronunciation in English is quite diverse, varying by region. English pronunciation is crucial for several reasons.

Effective Communication

Correct pronunciation ensures your message is understood by listeners. Mispronunciations, on the other hand, can lead to misunderstandings in communication.

Credibility and Perception

People often unconsciously judge others’ language abilities based on their pronunciation skills. Accurate pronunciation can boost your credibility, while frequent errors can create undesired impressions.

Ease of Learning

Understanding the proper pronunciation of words can make it easier to learn, remember, and use new vocabulary.

Accent Enhancement

Understanding English pronunciation rules helps in reducing heavy native accents, and improving comprehensibility in international contexts.

Confidence

Greater command over pronunciation boosts confidence in speaking English, enabling more open participation in discussions, presentations, and social interactions.

In the English Orthographic Alphabet, there are 26 letters which include 5 vowels and 21 consonants. These letters of the alphabet are not enough to represent English pronunciation. For this, we need another alphabet which consists of 44 phonemes or speech sounds which include 20 vowels and 24 consonants. Such an alphabet is called the English Phonetic Alphabet.

Phonemic Chart

Vowels

Vowels are speech sounds during the articulation of which the lung air escapes freely through the mouth without any obstruction. The English language has 20 vowel sounds, made up of 12 pure vowel sounds and 8 diphthongs.

Pure Vowels

A pure vowel is free from the influence of any other sound. It is called “pure” because their quality doesn’t change throughout its articulation. They are also called monophthongs.

      1. /i:/ as in ‘see’
      2. /ɪ/ as in ‘sit’
      3. /e/ as in ‘set’
      4. /æ/ as in ‘sat’
      5. /ɑ:/ as in ‘father’
      6. /ɒ/ as in ‘hot’
      7. /ɔ:/ as in ‘saw’
      8. /ʊ/ as in ‘look’
      9. /u:/ as in ‘soon’
      10. /ʌ/ as in ‘but’
      11. /ə/ as in ‘allow’
      12. /ɜ:/ as in ‘her’

Diphthongs

Diphthongs are a combination of two vowel sounds in the same syllable, beginning as one vowel sound and moving on to another vowel sound. Hence they are also called gliding vowels. In English, there are eight common diphthongs.

      1. /aʊ/ as in ‘now’
      2. /aɪ/ as in ‘I’
      3. /eɪ/ as in ‘say’
      4. /əʊ/ as in ‘no’
      5. /ɪə/ as in ‘here’
      6. /eə/ as in ‘hair’
      7. /ʊə/ as in ‘pure’
      8. /ɔɪ/ as in ‘boy’

The 5 vowel letters (a, e, i, o, u) can represent different sounds depending on the word.

– “a” can be pronounced as /æ/ in “cat” or /ɑ:/ in “car”
– “e” can be pronounced as /e/ in “pen” or /i:/ in “she”
– “i” can be pronounced as /ɪ/ in “hill” or /aɪ/ in “hi”
– “o” can be pronounced as /ɒ/ in “hot” or /əʊ/ in “go”
– “u” can be pronounced as /ʊ/ in “good” or /ju:/ in “use”

Consonants

Consonants are speech sounds during the articulation of which there is some obstruction of the lung air at some point in the speech tract. The English language has 24 consonant sounds, which involve different forms of articulation.

      1. /p/ as in ‘pen’
      2. /b/ as in ‘book’
      3. /t/ as in ‘time’
      4. /d/ as in ‘dog’
      5. /k/ as in ‘cat’
      6. /g/ as in ‘garden’
      7. /tʃ/ as in ‘choose’
      8. /dʒ/ as in ‘juice’
      9. /f/ as in ‘fun’
      10. /v/ as in ‘van’
      11. /θ/ as in ‘thin’
      12. /ð/ as in ‘that’
      13. /s/ as in ‘sun’
      14. /z/ as in ‘zoo’
      15. /ʃ/ as in ‘she’
      16. /ʒ/ as in ‘measure’
      17. /h/ as in ‘human’
      18. /m/ as in ‘mother’
      19. /n/ as in ‘not’
      20. /ŋ/ as in ‘long’
      21. /l/ as in ‘love’
      22. /r/ as in ‘rain’
      23. /w/ as in ‘water’
      24. /j/ as in ‘yellow’

Most English consonants have one sound. For instance:

– ‘b’ is always pronounced as /b/
– ‘d’ is always pronounced as /d/

However, there are exceptions.

– “c” can be pronounced as /k/ in “cake” or /s/ in “ice”

These are general rules, and pronunciation can change due to factors such as syllable stress, word origin, and regional accents.

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Devika Panikar
δάσκαλος (dáskalos) means the teacher in Greek. Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature since 2006. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges under this directorate and is now posted at the Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of lecture notes she prepared by referencing various sources for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.

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