So-called “long a”
- This article is about the vowel sound of FACE. For the vowel sound of BATH see Phoneme /ɑː/ in Received Pronunciation.
The so-called “long a” sound is an informal term that means the long sound of the letter a which is IPA phoneme /eɪ/.
When studying magic e two vowel phonemes are called “long a”:
- As in face, nation, waste, or major: IPA phoneme /eɪ/
- As in square, share, or compare: IPA phoneme /eə/
For /eə/ instead of “long a sound” it's better to say “long a spelling”.
In the case of a as /eɪ/ it is said that the letter “says its name”. In the case of face or tape it is said that the magic e “makes the letter say its name”
The term “long a” should only be used when the spelling is actually “a”. It's confusing to say "eight is pronounced with long a". If this sentence had to be spoken it would be better to say "eight is pronounced with the FACE vowel". Alternatively it could be said "eight is pronounced like the long sound of the letter a".
The term “long a” is not recommended because /eɪ/ and /eə/ are two different phonemes, and not one; because both sounds are diphthongs rather than single vowels; and because the opposition between /eɪ/ and /æ/ (“short a”) is not only a difference in length, but mainly a difference in quality.
- 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 - range - strange - table
“Long a” in combinations
When children learn to read they are sometimes told a supposed rule (that holds true only 40% of the time) which says "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking". For this or for other reasons, when a is found in combinations sounding /eɪ/ (or sometimes /eə/), the term “long a” is used as well.
- "ai": 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
- /eə/: chair - pair
- "ay": day - pay - play - May - say - stay - tray
- "ae": sundae
- /eə/: aerobics
- Decoding the letter A
- Decoding and spelling exercises: /æ/ vs /eɪ/
- So-called “short” and “long” vowels
- Spelling patterns for the letter A
- Spelling patterns for the letter A (General American)
|“Short”||“Long”||Long rhotic monophthong
“Short” vowel spelling
“Long” vowel spelling
|A||/æ/ trap||/eɪ/ face||/ɑː/ start||/eə/ square||/æ/ carry|
|E||/e/ dress||/iː/ we||/ɜː/ term||/ɪə/ here||/e/ cherry|
|I||/ɪ/ kit||/aɪ/ price||/ɜː/ girl||/aɪə/ fire||/ɪ/ mirror|
|O||/ɒ/ lot||/əʊ/ hope||/ɔː/ north||/ɔː/ store||/ɒ,BrE ɔːAmE/ torrid|
|U||/ʌ/ strut||/juː/ cute||/ɜː/ nurse||/jʊə/ cure||/ʌ,BrE ɜːAmE/ hurry|