Pronunciation may refer to:
- The standard sound of a word when spoken.
- The way that a particular individual pronounces a word.
- The action of speaking.
These are particularly important in learning how to pronounce English. As English contains many vowels that don't exist in other languages, it can be very useful for students to physically "see" the different sound in minimal pairs such as sit and seat or see and she in order to differentiate sounds they do not normally perceive.
While some teachers consider it an unnecessary complication to teach students these symbols, others maintain that if the ulterior motive of a teacher is to help students progress by themselves in their language learning, at least an introduction to the most frequently-used symbols is desirable.
 Some idiosyncratic pronunciations
The most common sound in all varieties of the English language is the schwa. We use it for the vowel sounds in many common words – about, water, doctor, another, America, where it corresponds to the syllables which do not carry the word stress.
 Regular verbs
A large group of words affected by the idiosincracies of English is that of the Past tense pronunciation of regular verbs.
 Final c
- In most of the words ending in the letter c, it is pronounced /s/: place /pleis/; race /reis/; rice /rais/ (see above);
 Final e
The final e (sometimes called "magic e") is not pronounced, but instead influences the the sound of the preceding vowel letter, so that it is pronounced like the name of the letter in the English alphabet.
- Typical contrasts with and without the "magic e": rat/rate; bit/bite; rot/rote; met/mete.
There are some exceptions though. Consider the very common word "have", which "logically" should be pronounced in the same way as haven or the end of behave or shave or cave or...
 Final r
In Standard British English, the letter r is not normally pronounced before a consonant or at the end of a word: car; door; four; hard; more; start; Thursday; work.
It is however pronounced if the following word begins with a vowel. As "final e" is also not pronounced (see above) a word like "more" is reduced to "moo".
However, if the following word begins with an vowel then the "r" is given a new lease of life and attaches itself to the vowel. Hence, "more apples" becomes "moo rapples".
 Final -s or -es
The final s or -es of plural nouns, the possessive ‘s and verbs in the 3rd person singular have three different pronunciations, as follows:
- /iz/ after /tch/, /sh/, /s/, etc.:
– watches – dishes – Alice’s;
- /z/ after /n/, /d/, /m/, /v/, etc.:
– opens – beds – Sam’s – goes
- /s/ after /p/, /k/, /t/:
– stops – books – Bert’s
Note: In most of the words ending in the letter s, it is pronounced /z/: plays /pleiz/; raise /reiz/; rise /raiz/ (see above); but not says – does;
The combination of letters ough has nine different pronunciations:
- thought, bought, sought, ought, fought, nought, (/ɔ:/);
- tough, enough, rough (/ʌf/);
- drought, plough, bough (/aʊ/);
- though, dough (/əʊ/);
- cough, trough (/ɒf/);
- thorough, borough (/ə/);
- through (/u:/);
- lough (Scottish lake);
- hiccough (/ʌp/).
 Short vowels
In general, the vowel sound in single syllable words ending in a consonant, such as hat; get; sit, not and but, is a short and soft sound.
- The same short and soft sound occurs in most words where the vowel letter is followed by two consonants:
i. batter – landing – aspect;
ii. better – rest – ending;
iii. bitter – sister – winter;
iv. bottle – hotter – lost;
v. butter – under – summer;
 Silent letters
- dou(b)t - de(b)t - su(b)tle - clim(b) - lam(b); bom(b) - of(t)en - throu(gh) - wei(gh) - ni(gh)t - ei(gh)t - strai(gh)t - wei(gh)t - w(h)ite - r(h)ythm - t(h)yme - w(h)en - (k)now - (k)nee - (k)nife - ta(l)k - ai(s)le - i(s)land - cas(t)le - lis(t)en - (w)rite - (w)ho.
 Silent syllables
- bus(i)ness; diff(e)rent; choc(o)late; ev(e)ning;
The combination of letters th has two different pronunciations:
- “unvoiced” (/θ/): thing; think; third; thirsty; thirty; Thursday; bath; birthday; both; earth; fourth; teeth;
- “voiced” (/ð/): there - father - leather - mother - than - that - the - them - then - this - those - together - weather;
 Strange pronunciations of consonant letters
In certain words, consonant letters have unusual pronunciations: sugar/sure; station; enough; measure/pleasure
 Different pronunciations of vowel letters
- letter "a" (not counting combinations of vowel letters such as "ea" or "ai"): /ei/, as in game; /ae/, as in hand; /ə/, as in chocolate, privacy, about; /ɒ/, as in what, was; /ɔ:/, as in water, war; /e/, as in many, any;
- letter "u": 3 typical pronunciations: /ʌ/, as in sun; /u:/ (or /ju=/) as in June (or use) and /ɜ:/, as in burn. Less frequent pronunciations include /ʊ/, as in put; /i/, as in busy, biscuit and /e/ as in bury.
 Alternative pronunciations
Apart from the alternative pronunciations existing between American and British Englishes, as in schedule or advertisement (AmE) and advertisement (BrE), even in British English there are several words which people may pronounce differently. In 1981, the BBC produced a guide which set out some of the words which can be pronounced in more than one way. Differences may be in the pronunciation of a vowel, as in the word economic, where the first syllable can be pronounced as the "e" in me or in met; and privacy (first syllable as in sit or site), or they can be in the word stress, as in controversy or controversy.
- Crystal, David. The English Language. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-100396-0
 See also
- Consonant cluster
- Latin alphabet
- Possible pronunciation difficulties