Pronunciation exercises: /eɪ/ vs /aɪ/

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light /laɪt/

late /leɪt/

The dipthongs /eɪ/ and /aɪ/ are different in all dialects of English. However /eɪ/ in some accents sounds very similar to /aɪ/ in others.

Dialect /eɪ/ /aɪ/
Received Pronunciation and General American [eɪ] [aɪ]
Estuary English [ʌɪ] ɑɪ]
Australian English [æɪ] [ɑe, ɑi]

Many, if not most students will greatly improve their pronunciation by simply becoming aware of certain differences - together with a minimum of practice. A simple way of introducing the difficulty is with common words like type vs tape and light vs late.

/eɪ/[edit]

  • date - face - gate - hate - rain
  • day - may - pay - ray - way

/aɪ/[edit]

  • fine - height - price - time
  • die - my - pie - rye - why

/eɪ/ vs /aɪ/[edit]

  • ail/ale - aisle/I'll/isle; bail - bile; bait - bite; bay - by/buy; day - die; fail - file; fate - fight; hate - height; lake - like; lane - line; late - light; mail/male - mile; make - Mike; mate - might; may - my; paint - pint; pale - pile; race - rice; rate - right; sane - sign; stale - style; tale/tail - tile; tame - thyme/time; tape - type; tray - try; wait/weight - white; way - why; whale - while;
  • trade - tried; weighed - wide;
  • prays - prize; rays - rise; ways - wise

The Rain in Spain[edit]

This famous song is used in the movie My Fair Lady to practice the /eɪ/ sound, which in cockney sounds more like /aɪ/ or [æɪ]. Note that cockneys don't confuse late and light because they pronounce [læɪt] and [lɑɪt].

The full sentence is The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.

Australian accent[edit]

The Australian /eɪ/ sounds [æɪ],[1] which is heard as [aɪ] by many foreigners. Hence the nickname strine /straɪn/, a supposed shortening of [ɒˈstraɪliːən]. However in Australian English no confusion exists, because /aɪ/ is pronounced [ɑe] or [ɑi].[1]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Australian English phonology, Wikipedia.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]