IPA phoneme /w/

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w

we /wiː/

In English, both in Received Pronunciation and in General American, the IPA phonetic symbol /w/ corresponds to the semivowel sound in words like "world", "week" and "water". See also IPA phonetic symbol [w].

Common words[edit]

IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
e
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
ɔɪ
price mouth choice
IPA consonants
Normal sound: /b, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z/
 ʃ  ŋ
show church sing
ʒ  j 
usual judge you
θ ð s
think that see
IPA Stress
ˈ Primary stress
hotel /həʊˈtel/
ˌ Secondary stress
understand
/ˌʌndərˈstænd/
IPA Syllabification
. nitrate /ˈnaɪ.treɪt/, night-rate /ˈnaɪt.reɪt/

Some common words which practice the pronunciation of /w/ include the following

"w"[edit]

  • Initial "w". Remember that for simplicity /ɒ/ means /ɒ/BrE, /ɑː/AmE
"wa" or "wha"
/weɪ/: wait - wake - waste - way - wave
/wɔː/: walk - wall - Walter - war - warm - warn
/wɒ/: wander - wasp - watch
/wɔː/, /wɒ/AmE: water
/wɒ/, /wɔː/AmE: want - wash - Washington
/wɒ/, /wʌ/AmE: was
other: we - wear - week - well - wife - will - win - wish - with - woman - wonder - word - work - world - worry - would
  • "w" at the beginning of a syllable: always - award - aware - Delaware - forward - framework - Hawaii /həˈwaɪiː, həˈwɑːiː/ - network - otherwise - reward - software - Taiwan
  • "w" in the middle of a syllable: between - Dwight - Gwendolyn - Swede - Sweden - sweet - swim - swing - Swiss - Switzerland - switch - tweet - twice - Twitter

"wh"[edit]

See also Wikipedia Pronunciation of English ⟨wh⟩.

Currently in most accents "wh" is pronounced /w/. However in some accents this digraph is pronounced /hw/. In some of those accents "wh" is a single sound, transcribed as [ʍ].

  • Initial "wh". Remember that for simplicity /ɒ/ means /ɒ/BrE, /ɑː/AmE
"wha"
/weɪ/: whale
/wɒ/, /wʌ/AmE: what
/wɒ/, /wʌ/,AmE /wə/AmE: whatever
other: wheel - when - where - whether - which - while - whisper - white - why
  • "wh" at the beginning of a syllable: anywhere - everywhere - meanwhile

"u"[edit]

with "g": distinguish - Guam - Guatemala - iguana - language - linguistics - Managua - Nicaragua - Paraguay - penguin - Uruguay
with "q": consequence - equipment - quality - quarter - question - quick - quite - request - require
with "s": persuade - suite
with "h": chihuahua /tʃɪˈwɑːwəBrE, tʃɪˈwɑːwɑːAmE/
with "j": marijuana /ˌmærəˈwɑːnə/ - San Juan /ˌsæn ˈwɑːn/
other: Buenos Aires - Ecuador - Kuala Lumpur /ˈkwɑːlə lʊmˈpʊər/ - Puerto Rico - Venezuela

Other[edit]

  • Ouagadougou /ˌwɑːgəˈduːguː/
  • ouija /ˈwiːdʒə/
  • quinoa /ˈkiːnwɑː/

/w/ not written[edit]

  • one - once
  • choir /ˈkwaɪər/

Homophones[edit]

  • one - won; sweet - suite; wait - weight; waste - waist; ware - wear - where; way - weigh; which - witch; why - Y; wood - would;

No /w/[edit]

Many words that have "w" in their spelling don't have /w/ in their pronunciation. This in some cases means there are subtle differences in syllabification. For example "power" is /ˈpaʊ.ər/ and not /ˈpɑː.wər/.

  • power: /ˈpaʊər/
  • throwing: /ˈθrəʊɪŋ/
  • jewel: /ˈdʒuːəl/. In this case there is not a /w/ phoneme; however the /uː/ is pronounced as [uw] by most people. This means that a very common pronunciation is [ˈdʒuw.əl].

Oddity: Rwanda /ruːˈɑːndə, ruːˈændə/

Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1[edit]

Preconceived ideas and other interferences from L1 obviously interfere in many cases with how students perceive - and pronounce - sounds/words in English. The following section aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.

Spanish[edit]

In Spanish there is no contrast between /w and /gw/ (to be fair in English there is very little). Therefore some Spanish speakers will insert a /g/ sound before /w/: "water" pronounced as */ˈgwɔːtər/. Others will drop the /g/ in words like "language": /ˈlæŋwɪdʒ/ instead of /ˈlæŋgwɪdʒ/. Dropping the /g/ in this case can be regarded as a variant pronunciation rather than a pronunciation error.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]