Phonetic set

From Teflpedia

A phonetic set (/fənetɪk set/), or phonetic lexical set (/fənetɪk leksɪkəl set/) is a lexical set whose members are words which are pronounced with the same vowel sound in the reference accents. Within phonetics they are usually just referred to as "lexical sets", as other types of lexical sets are unimportant in that field.

Original lexical sets[edit]

John Wells invented the following lexical sets for Received Pronunciation and General American.[1][2] The name of the set is a keyword selected from the set, and written in SMALL CAPS. Non-standard lexical sets are shown in bold.

Lexical sets, as defined in Wells (1982)[3]
Keyword RP GenAm Example words VrV
KIT /ɪ/ /ɪ/ ship, rip, dim spirit
DRESS /e/ [ɛ] /e/ [ɛ] step, ebb, hem cherry
TRAP /æ/ [a] /æ/ bad, cab, ham carry
LOT /ɒ/ /ɑː/ stop, rob, swan sorry
STRUT /ʌ/ /ʌ/ cub, rub, love hurry
FOOT /ʊ/ /ʊ/ full, look, could guru
BATH /ɑː/ /æ/ staff, clasp, dance
CLOTH /ɒ/ /ɔː/ cough, long torrid
NURSE /ɜː/ /ɜːr/ hurt, term, work furry
FLEECE /iː/ /iː/ seed, key, seize rewrite
FACE /eɪ/ /eɪ/ weight, rein, steak payroll
PALM /ɑː/ /ɑː/ calm, bra, father see START
THOUGHT /ɔː/ /ɔː/ taught, hawk, broad see NORTH
GOAT /əʊ/ /əʊ/ [oʊ] soap, soul, home showroom
GOOSE /uː/ /uː/ who, group, few Blu-ray
PRICE /aɪ/ [ʌɪ] /aɪ/ ripe, tribe, aisle, choir spiral
CHOICE /ɔɪ/ /ɔɪ/ boy, void, coin joyride
MOUTH /aʊ/ /aʊ/ pouch, noun, crowd, flower dowry
NEAR /ɪə/ /ɪr/ beer, pier, fierce serious
SQUARE /eə/ [ɛː] /er/ [ɛr] care, air, wear scary
START /ɑː/ /ɑːr/ far, sharp, farm safari
NORTH /ɔː/ /ɔːr/ [oːr] war, storm, for aural
FORCE(*) /ɔː/ /ɔːr/ [oːr] floor, coarse, ore oral
CURE /ʊə/ /ʊr/ poor, tour fury

(*) The FORCE vowel is a separate phoneme (/oː/ sounding [oː] or [oə]) in very few locations, and it is not currently present in General American. John Wells said it was present in General American in then-current reference books.[2] This is useful for other dialects, such as Scotish English or Irish English, which have the FORCE phoneme as well.

Adapted table[edit]

If we consider the Cot-caught merger, the Mary-marry-merry merger and other mergers (mirror-nearer, hurry-furry) we have the following table for stressed vowels.

Adapted table of lexical sets
Keyword RP GenAm North America Example words
KIT /ɪ/ /ɪ/ ship, rip, dim
spirit /ɪ/ /ɪ/ [ɪ] /ɪ/ [ɪə], /ɪə/ mirror, lyrics
DRESS /e/ /e/ step, ebb, hem
cherry /e/ /e/ [e] /e/ [eə] terror, very
TRAP /æ/ /æ/ bad, cab, ham
carry /æ/ /æ/ /e/ [e, eə], /eə/ arrow, charity
LOT /ɒ/ /ɑː/ /ɒ/ stop, rob, swan
sorry /ɒ/ /ɑː/ /ɔː/ borrow, sorrow, tomorrow
STRUT /ʌ/ /ʌ/ cub, rub, love
hurry /ʌ/ /ɜː/ courage
FOOT /ʊ/ /ʊ/ full, look, could
guru /ʊ/ /ʊ/ [ʊ] /ʊ/ [ʊə], /ʊə/
BATH /ɑː/ /æ/ staff, clasp, dance
CLOTH /ɒ/ /ɔː/ /ɑː, ɒ/ cough, long
NURSE /ɜː(r)/ /ɜːr/ hurt, term, work, furry
FLEECE /iː/ /iː/ seed, key, seize
FACE /eɪ/ /eɪ/ weight, rein, steak, payroll
PALM /ɑː/ /ɑː/ calm, bra, father
THOUGHT /ɔː/ /ɔː/ /ɑː/ taught, law, broad
GOAT /əʊ/ /əʊ/ [oʊ] soap, soul, home
GOOSE /uː/ /uː/ who, group, few
PRICE /aɪ/ /aɪ/ ripe, tribe, aisle, choir
CHOICE /ɔɪ/ /ɔɪ/ boy, void, coin
MOUTH /aʊ/ /aʊ/ pouch, noun, crowd, flower
NEAR /ɪə(r)/ /ɪr/ [ɪər, ɪr] /ɪər/ beer, pier, fierce, serious, nearer
SQUARE /eə(r)/ /er/ [eər, er] /eər/ care, air, wear, scary, Mary
START /ɑː(r)/ /ɑːr/ far, sharp, farm, safari, starry
NORTH /ɔː(r)/ /ɔːr/ [oːr, oər] /ɔːr/ [ɔːr] war, storm, for, abhorring, aural
FORCE /ɔː(r)/ /ɔːr/ [oːr, oər] /oːr/ [oːr, oər] force, floor, coarse, ore, glory, oral
torrid /ɒ/ /ɔː/ [o] /ɑː/ foreign, origin
CURE /ʊə(r)/ /ʊr/ [ʊər, ʊr] /ʊər/ poor, tour, fury

(r) is silent before a consonant and at the end of the word.

Lexical sets sorted by type of syllable[edit]

VC VC, V# VC, V#, (VrV) Vr#, VrC, VrV VrV
KIT FLEECE, free, (rewrite) NEAR, beard, serious spirit
DRESS FACE, pay, (payroll) SQUARE, scarce, scary cherry
TRAP carry
BATH PALM, bra star, START, sari
LOT GOAT, low, (showroom) more, FORCE, glory sorry
CLOTH THOUGHT, law war, NORTH, aural torrid
STRUT fur, NURSE, furry hurry
FOOT GOOSE, blue, (Blu-ray) CURE, cured, tourist guru
PRICE, spy, (spiral)
MOUTH, cow, (dowry)
CHOICE, joy, (joyride)

(VrV) The words including VrV in this column are compound words (or recent loans), except for rows PRICE and MOUTH (examples "spiral" and "dowry")

# is the end of the word

Lexical sets in Received Pronunciation[edit]

Phoneme Lexical sets
/æ/ TRAP, carry
/e/ DRESS, cherry
/ɪ/ KIT, spirit
/ɒ/ LOT, CLOTH, sorry, torrid
/ʌ/ STRUT, hurry
/ʊ/ FOOT, guru
/ɑː/ BATH, PALM, START
/ɜː/ NURSE
/ɔː/ THOUGHT, NORTH, FORCE
/iː/ FLEECE
/eɪ/ FACE
/əʊ/ GOAT
/uː/ GOOSE
/aɪ/ PRICE
/ɔɪ/ CHOICE
/aʊ/ MOUTH
/ɪə/ NEAR
eə/ SQUARE
/ʊə/ CURE

Lexical sets in General American[edit]

Phoneme Lexical sets
/æ/ TRAP, BATH, carry
/e/ DRESS, SQUARE, cherry
/ɪ/ KIT, NEAR, spirit
/ɑː/ PALM, START, LOT, sorry
/ɔː/ THOUGHT, CLOTH, NORTH, FORCE, torrid
/ʌ/ STRUT
/ʊ/ FOOT, CURE, guru
/ɜː/ NURSE, hurry
/iː/ FLEECE
/eɪ/ FACE
/əʊ/ GOAT
/uː/ GOOSE
/aɪ/ PRICE
/ɔɪ/ CHOICE
/aʊ/ MOUTH

Lexical sets in other parts of the United States[edit]

If we consider the marry-merry merger and the cot-caught merger the lexical sets are distributed as follows.

Phoneme Lexical sets
/æ/ TRAP, BATH
/e/ DRESS, SQUARE, cherry, carry
/ɪ/ KIT, NEAR, spirit
/ɑː/ PALM, START, LOT, sorry, THOUGHT, CLOTH
/ɔː/ NORTH, FORCE, torrid
/ʌ/ STRUT
/ʊ/ FOOT, CURE, guru
/ɜː/ NURSE, hurry
/iː/ FLEECE
/eɪ/ FACE
/əʊ/ GOAT
/uː/ GOOSE
/aɪ/ PRICE
/ɔɪ/ CHOICE
/aʊ/ MOUTH

Unstressed vowels[edit]

Wells also describes three sets of words based on their word-final unstressed vowels.[4]

Keyword RP GenAm Example words
happY /ɪ/ /iː/ silly, donkey, movie
commA /ə/ /ə/ China, sofa
lettER /ə(r)/ /ər/ beggar, martyr, visor, murmur, future

References[edit]

  1. Wikipedia, Lexical set; They cite Wells (1982) p. 118.
  2. 2.0 2.1 John C. Wells, John Wells's phonetic blog, lexical sets, 1 February 2010.
  3. John C. Wells (1982). Accents of English I: An Introduction. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Wikipedia Lexical set § Unstressed vowels.