There are basically two common occurrences of linking:
- Consonant to vowel linking
- Vowel to vowel linking
It is a particularly important aspect of sentence stress which students should practise as it helps them both to speak more fluently and to better understand spoken English. Dictation of short sentences spoken at natural speed is used by some teachers to give students practice at deciphering linking.
Almost any randomly chosen sample of English text may be used as an example of this feature of English speech although the teacher and the students may need to mark up the text beforehand in order to fully understand what is going on. Carrying out an exercise based on a few simple rules can sometimes produce not only a dramatic change in students' accents - though changing their pronunciation permanently is a bigger and longer task - but also, and perhaps more importantly, in their listening skills.
- When one word ends in a consonant and the next word starts with a vowel, the two words are linked smoothly, e.g. "a green apple" = a greenapple.
- In Received Pronunciation the consonant "r" is only pronounced if it comes before a vowel, so it is not usually pronounced at the end of words. However "final r" is pronounced if the next word starts with a vowel.
- When one word ends in a vowel and the next word starts with a vowel, the two words are linked smoothly using a consonant sound, either /w/, /j/ or /r/, depending on the particular sounds, e.g. "two apples" = two/w/apples; "three apples" = three/j/apples; "law and order" = law/r/andorder.
Taking the paragraph above which begins, "Almost any randomly ..." we can suggest something along the lines of:
Almostany randomly chosen samplofEnglish text may be usdasanexamplof this featurofEnglish speech although the teacherand the students may need to markup the text beforehand inorderto fullyunderstand whatis going on. Carryingoutanexercise basedon a few simple rules can sometimes produca dramatic change in students' accents - though changing their pronunciation permanently isa biggerand longer task.
In fact, the situation is a little more complicated than this as sentence stress, natural punctuation and the speaker's desire to emphasise certain words may cause these to stand alone when speaking; while the use of weak forms will cause some vowels to change or almost disappear.
In any case, as mentioned above, work with students should preferably be with shorter and sharper sentences using authentic language.