Decoding the letter A

From Teflpedia
Jump to: navigation, search

care /keər/

ɑː

start /stɑːrt/

face /feɪs/

æ

trap /træp/

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/

In Received Pronunciation and in General American the letter A (lowercase a, pronounced /eɪ/), as most vowel letters in English, has four main pronunciations:

Short a spelling, IPA phoneme /ɑː/BrE (broad a) as in askBrE or bath.BrE

It also can be pronounced /ɑː/BrE AmE as in father and /ɔː/ as in all — plus other, less common pronunciations, sometimes in combination with other letters, and, of course, it can be used as schwa. In Spelling patterns for the letter A there are some helpful rules (to be taken with the habitual pinch of salt).

Distinctions by dialect[edit]

Teaching the letter A is very much one of those cases in which teachers, whichever their preferences might be, need to point out the differences between RP (/ɑː/) and American (/æ/) pronunciations regarding words like bath and ask, while pointing out, of course, that most native British English speakers do, in fact, pronounce them /æ/. When teaching American English pronunciation the Mary-marry-merry meger can be explained.

Dialect trap bath palm start marry Mary
Received Pronunciation /æ/ /ɑː/ /ɑː/ /ɑː/ /æ/ /eə/
General American /æ/ /æ/ /ɑː/ /ɑː/ /e/ /e/

As /æ/[edit]

See main article IPA phoneme /æ/.
See also So-called “short a” and Decoding and spelling exercises: /æ/ vs /eɪ/.

  • before final consonants: am - and - at - back - bad - bag - bat - cat - fan - ham - hand - land - man - map - sand - stand
  • before double consonant or "ck": attack - battle - carry - cattle - channel - gallery - grammar - happen - happy - jacket - passenger - traffic
  • before single consonant: average - balance - damage - family - have - January - manage - national - natural - value
  • other: absolutely - actually - angry - aspect - capture - contract - factor - handle - transport

As /ɑː/[edit]

See main article Phoneme /ɑː/ in Received Pronunciation.

Most words in this section are pronounced with /æ/ in General American, unless they are followed by "r".

  • before f, s and th
before final consonants: ask - bath - half - last - past - path - staff - task
before double consonant: giraffe - staffer
other: basket - pastor - rather
  • before n: answer - can't - France - implant
Pronounced /ɑː/ also in General American
  • calm - facade - father - koala - lama - llama - palm - spa
  • before r: are - art - car - card - carpet - dark - far - garden - large - market - park - part - scar - scarf - start

As /eɪ/[edit]

See main article IPA phoneme /eɪ/.
See also So-called “long a” and Decoding and spelling exercises: /æ/ vs /eɪ/.

  • with magic e: ache - age - bake - blame - brake - cake - date - escape - fake - game - gate - hake - lake - late - male - make - name - pale - plate - sale - same - sane - shake - snake - stale - state - take - trade - wake - whale
  • before single consonant: behaviorAmE - behaviourBrE - education - information - label - nature - paper - patient
  • Other: able - ancient - arrange - change - fragrance - range - strange - table

As /ɔ:/[edit]

See main article IPA phoneme /ɔː/

See also Pronunciation exercises: "al"

  • before final "ll": all - ball - call - fall - hall - small - tall
  • before /l/: already - also - almost - always - alter - salt
  • after "w": walk - wall - war - ward - water
  • other: chalk - talk

As /ɒ/[edit]

See main article IPA phoneme /ɒ/.

  • as /ɒ/: wander, was,BrE wasp, watch
  • as /ɒ/,BrE /ɔː/AmE: wallet, want, warrant, warranty, wash

As /ə/[edit]

See main article IPA phoneme /ə/.

  • weak forms: a - am - can - shall - than
  • at beginning
verbs: acquire - admire - afford - agree - allow - appeal - appear - approach - arise - arrive
nouns: accord - account - amount - appeal - approach
other: about - above - across - again - against - ago - alone - among - another - around - available - away
  • at end: Africa - African - America - American - camera - China - data - extra - human - idea - India - Indonesia - legal - local- organ - several - woman
  • as part of suffix -able: capable - comfortable - likableAmE BrE - likeableBrE probable - suitable - variable
  • as part of suffix -ate /ə/ or /ɪ/: chocolate - climate - fortunate - immediate - private
  • other: Canada - company - organise - relative

As /ɪ/[edit]

See main article IPA phoneme /ɪ/

  • octave - orange - spinach
  • ending in -age: advantage - average - beverage - image - language - manage - percentage - village

As /ɪ/ or /ə/[edit]

The words in this section appear with /ɪ/ in some dictionaries and with /ə/ in others.

  • accessible[1][2] - character[3][4] - chocolate[5][6] - extravagant[7][8] - indiscriminate - massacre - obstacle - receptacle

Silent "a"[edit]

  • automatically, basically, dramatically, library,BrE logically, romantically, specifically, typically
  • varisyllabic words: Barbara, boundary, Margaret, separate
  • only in British English: military, ordinary, secondary, secretary, voluntary

Spelling anomalies[edit]

  • as /e/: any - many - Thames
  • as /iː/: Israel
  • as /ʌ/: wasAmE
  • So-called long sound with short sound spelling, as /eɪ/: bass (music)

Variant pronunciations[edit]

  • data /ˈdeɪtə, ˈdɑːtə,BrE ˈdætəAmE/
  • what /wɒt, wʌtAmE/

Combinations[edit]

"ai"[edit]

Main article: Pronunciation exercises: "ai"

  • as /eɪ/: Adelaide, afraid, aid, aim, available, brain, campaign, chain, claim, complain, contain, daily, detail, entertain, explain, fail, faith, gain, hail, Haiti, jail, mail, main, Maine, maintain, paid, pain, paint, rail, rain, raise, remain, retail, snail, Spain, stain, straight, train, trait, wait
  • as /e/: again (also /əˈɡeɪn/) - said
"air"
  • as /eə/: air - affair - chair - fair - hair - pair

"ay"[edit]

Main article: Pronunciation exercises: "ay"

  • as /eɪ/: day - pay - play - May - say - stay - tray
  • as /e/: says

"au"[edit]

See main article Pronunciation exercises: "au"

  • as /ɔː/: auction - August - author - autumn - caught - cause - daughter - taught;
  • as /ɒ/: Aussie - austerity - Australia - Austria;
  • as /ɑː/ : aunt - draught - laugh

"aw"[edit]

  • as /ɔː/: draw - law - raw - saw
  • "awy" as /ɔːj/ or /ɔɪ/: lawyer /ˈlɔːjər, ˈlɔɪər/
  • In separate syllables
  • aware - award

"ae"[edit]

Main article: Pronunciation exercises: "ae"

  • as /iː/ or /e/: aesthetic
  • as /iː/: Caesar - paediatricianBrE
  • as /ə/: gynaecologistBrE
  • as /eɪ/ or /iː/: sundae
  • as /eə/: aerobic - aeroplaneBrE

"ar"[edit]

Main article: Pronunciation exercises: "ar"‎
with magic e: aware - bare - care - compare - dare - Delaware - fare - hare - rare - scare - share - spare - square
other: area - careful - Mary - parent - rarely - Sarah - vary
  • see As /ɑː/ above.
  • /ɔː/: quarter - war
  • /æ/: apparent - character - charity - comparison - paragraph - parallel
  • /ə/: arise - around - career - cigarette - preparation

"arr"[edit]

Main article: Pronunciation exercises: "arr"‎
  • /æ/: barrier - carry - embarrass - marriage - marry - narrative - narrow
  • /ɒ/,BrE /ɔː/AmE: warrant - warranty
  • /ə/: arrange - arrest - arrive

Homophones[edit]

  • As /eɪ/: brake - break; grate - great; male - mail; place - plaice; plane - plain; rain - reign; sale - sail; stake - steak; tale - tail; Wales - whales; waste - waist; weigh - way; weight - wait; weighed - wade;
  • As /eə/: bare - bear; hair - hare; pair - pear; stairs - stares;
  • As /æ/: ad - add; band - banned; cash - cache;
  • As /ɑːBrE, æAmE/: passed - past;

Only in non-rhotic accents:

  • As /ɑː/: aren't - aunt
Trademarks
  • Waze - ways

Different pronunciations in the same word[edit]

  • Africa/African - America/American - Australia/Australian - Austria/Austrian - average - character - language

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 sections aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.

Spanish[edit]

Many Spanish speakers will try, instinctively, to pronounce it either as /eɪ/ or as /ʌ/ (which is quite similar, but often not quite enough, to the letter a in Spanish). This is particularly problematic for words such as want, what or water or for the schwa.

References[edit]

  1. Merriam Webster's Learner's Dictionary, accessible with /ɪ/.
  2. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. accessible with /ə/.
  3. Collins English Dictionary, character with /ɪ/.
  4. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, character with /ə/.
  5. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. chocolate with /ɪ/.
  6. Merriam Webster's Learner's Dictionary, chocolate with /ə/.
  7. Merriam Webster's Learner's Dictionary, extravagant with /ɪ/.
  8. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, extravagant with /ə/.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]