English phonology

English phonology

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Encyclopedia
English phonology is the study of the sound system (phonology
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

) of the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. Like many languages, English has wide variation in pronunciation
Pronunciation
Pronunciation refers to the way a word or a language is spoken, or the manner in which someone utters a word. If one is said to have "correct pronunciation", then it refers to both within a particular dialect....

, both historically
History of the English language
English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic invaders from various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the Netherlands. Initially, Old English was a diverse group of dialects, reflecting the varied origins of the...

 and from dialect to dialect. In general, however, the major regional dialects of English are mutually intelligible.

Although there are many dialects of English, the following are usually used as prestige or standard accents: Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

 for the United Kingdom, General American
General American
General American , also known as Standard American English , is a major accent of American English. The accent is not restricted to the United States...

 for the United States, and General Australian
Australian English
Australian English is the name given to the group of dialects spoken in Australia that form a major variety of the English language....

 for Australia.

Phonemes

See IPA chart for English dialects for concise charts of the English phonemes.


A phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 is a sound or a group of different sounds which is/are all perceived to have the same function by speakers of the language or dialect in question. For example, the word "sound" has four phonemes: the "s", the vowel diphthong "ou", the "n", and the "d". Note that a phoneme is a feature of pronunciation, not of spelling (which in English sometimes does not relate directly to the phonemes that are present: e.g., "cough" has three phonemes — the initial consonant sound, the monopthong vowel sound "aw", and the final consonant sound "f").

The number of speech sounds in English varies from dialect to dialect, and any actual tally depends greatly on the interpretation of the researcher doing the counting. The Longman Pronunciation Dictionary by John C. Wells
John C. Wells
John Christopher Wells is a British phonetician and Esperanto teacher. Wells is a professor emeritus at University College London, where until his retirement in 2006 he held the departmental chair in phonetics....

, for example, denotes 24 consonants and 23 vowels used in Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

, plus two additional consonants and four additional vowels used in foreign words only. For General American
General American
General American , also known as Standard American English , is a major accent of American English. The accent is not restricted to the United States...

, it provides for 25 consonants and 19 vowels, with one additional consonant and three additional vowels for foreign words. The American Heritage Dictionary, on the other hand, suggests 25 consonants and 18 vowels (including r-colored vowel
R-colored vowel
In phonetics, an R-colored or rhotic vowel is a vowel that is modified in a way that results in a lowering in frequency of the third formant...

s) for American English, plus one consonant and five vowels for non-English terms http://www.bartleby.com/61/12.html.

Consonants


The following table shows the consonant phonemes found in most dialects of English. When consonants appear in pairs, fortis consonants (i.e., aspirated
Aspiration (phonetics)
In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of air that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. To feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of one's mouth, and say pin ...

 or voiceless) appear on the left and lenis consonants (i.e., lightly voiced or voiced) appear on the right:
Consonant phonemes of English
  Bilabial
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

Labio-
dental
Labiodental consonant
In phonetics, labiodentals are consonants articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.-Labiodental consonant in IPA:The labiodental consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

Dental Alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Post-
alveolar
Postalveolar consonant
Postalveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate...

2
Palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

1
m n ŋ
Plosive p  b t  d k  ɡ
Affricate
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

tʃ  dʒ
Fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

f  v θ  ð s  z ʃ  ʒ (x)3 h
Approximant
Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

ɹ1, 2, 5 j w4
Lateral
Lateral consonant
A lateral is an el-like consonant, in which airstream proceeds along the sides of the tongue, but is blocked by the tongue from going through the middle of the mouth....

l1, 6
  1. Some phonologists identify syllabic nasals and liquids
    Liquid consonant
    In phonetics, liquids or liquid consonants are a class of consonants consisting of lateral consonants together with rhotics.-Description:...

     in unstressed syllables, while others analyse these phonemically as /əonsonant.
  2. Postalveolar consonant
    Postalveolar consonant
    Postalveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate...

    s are usually labialized (e.g., [ʃʷ]), as is word-initial or pre-tonic /r/ (i.e., [ɹʷ]), though this is rarely transcribed.
  3. The voiceless velar fricative
    Voiceless velar fricative
    The voiceless velar fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The sound was part of the consonant inventory of Old English and can still be found in some dialects of English, most notably in Scottish English....

     /x/ is dialectal, occurring largely in Scottish English
    Scottish English
    Scottish English refers to the varieties of English spoken in Scotland. It may or may not be considered distinct from the Scots language. It is always considered distinct from Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic language....

    . In other dialects, words with these sounds are pronounced with /k/. It may appear in recently-domiciled words such as chutzpah.
  4. The sequence /hw/, a voiceless labiovelar approximant
    Voiceless labiovelar approximant
    The voiceless labiovelar approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages...

     [hw̥], is sometimes considered an additional phoneme. For most speakers, words that historically used to have these sounds are now pronounced with /w/; the phoneme /hw/ is retained, for example, in much of the American South, Scotland, and Ireland.
  5. Depending on dialect, /r/ may be an alveolar approximant [ɹ], postalveolar approximant, retroflex approximant [ɻ], or labiodental approximant
    Labiodental approximant
    The labiodental approximant is a type of consonantal sound, similar to an English double-u pronounced with the teeth and lips held in the position used to articulate the letter vee, used in some spoken languages...

     [ʋ], along with other possibilities.
  6. Many dialects have two allophones of /l/—the "clear" L and the "dark" or velarized
    Velarization
    Velarization is a secondary articulation of consonants by which the back of the tongue is raised toward the velum during the articulation of the consonant.In the International Phonetic Alphabet, velarization is transcribed by one of three diacritics:...

     L. In some dialects, /l/ may be always clear (e.g. Wales, Ireland, the Caribbean) or always dark (e.g. Scotland, most of North America, Australia, New Zealand).

/p/ pit /b/ bit
/t/ tin /d/ din
/k/ cut /ɡ/ gut
/tʃ/ cheap /dʒ/ jeep
/f/ fat /v/ vat
/θ/ thin /ð/ then
/s/ sap /z/ zap
/ʃ/ she /ʒ/ measure
/x/ loch
/w/ we /m/ map
/l/ left /n/ nap
/ɹ/ run (also ⟨r⟩, ⟨ɻ⟩) /j/ yes
/h/ ham /ŋ/ bang

Allophones



An allophone
Allophone
In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, and are allophones for the phoneme in the English language...

 is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds (or phones) used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, the phoneme /t/ is pronounced differently in "tonsils" than in "button", and still differently in "cat". All of these "t" sounds are allophones of the same phoneme, since no two words can be distinguished from each other solely on the basis of which of these pronunciations is used.

Although regional variation
Regional accents of English speakers
The regional accents of English speakers show great variation across the areas where English is spoken as a first language. This article provides an overview of the many identifiable variations in pronunciation, usually deriving from the phoneme inventory of the local dialect, of the local variety...

 is very great across English dialects, some generalizations can be made about pronunciation in all (or at least the vast majority) of English accents:
  • The voiceless
    Voiceless
    In linguistics, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx vibrating. Phonologically, this is a type of phonation, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word "phonation" implies voicing, and that voicelessness is the lack of...

     stops
    Stop consonant
    In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

     /p t k/ are aspirated
    Aspiration (phonetics)
    In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of air that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. To feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of one's mouth, and say pin ...

     [pʰ tʰ kʰ] at the beginnings of words (for example tomato) and at the beginnings of word-internal stressed syllable
    Syllable
    A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

    s (for example potato). They are unaspirated [p t k] after /s/ (stan, span, scan) and at the ends of syllables.
  • For many people, /r/ is somewhat labialized in some environments, as in reed [ɹʷiːd] and tree [tʰɹ̥ʷiː]. In the latter case, the [t] may be slightly labialized as well.


The phoneme /t/ has six different allophones, differing somewhat between British and American English. As noted above, /t/ is aspirated as [tʰ] at the beginning of a word or stressed syllable, but unaspirated as [t] after /s/. After a stressed syllable and at the beginning of an unstressed syllable, after a vowel or /r/ and before a vowel or a syllabic / l /, as in water or bottle, in American English it is pronounced as a voiced flap [ɾ] that is indistinguishable from /d/ (so that, for example, petal and peddle sound alike); this flap may even appear at word boundaries, as in put it on. But British English does not use the flap, instead de-aspirating [tʰ] somewhat. When /t/ follows /n/ and precedes an unstressed vowel, as in winter, the /t/ is pronounced by some speakers of American English as a nasalized flap that is identical to the /n/ flap and hence becomes essentially silent, so that for example /nt/ is indistinguishable from /n/ in winter / winner. Before /n/, as in catnip and button, British and American English pronounce /t/ as a glottal stop [ʔ], allowing a distinction in pronunciation between, for example, Sutton and sudden or bitten and bidden. Finally, final /t/ as in cat is not released, and may be glottalized in British English. However, in speech with careful enunciation, in all situations /t/ may be pronounced as [t] or [tʰ].

The phoneme /n/ is usually pronounced as [n], but before /k/ the allophone [ŋ] usually appears (mandatorily in stressed syllables and optionally in unstressed syllables). For example, sink is pronounced as [sɪŋk], never as [sɪnk]. This allophonic change can even occur across syllable boundaries: synchrony is pronounced as ['sɪŋkɹəni] whereas synchronic may be pronounced either as [sɪŋ'kɹɑnɪk] or as [sɪn'kɹɑnɪk]. Note that when not followed by /k/, /ŋ/ serves as an English phoneme in its own right, as for example in sing [siŋ]; but there is no phonemic distinction between [ŋk] and [nk].

Vowels


The vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s of English differ considerably between dialects. Because of this, corresponding vowels may be transcribed with various symbols depending on the dialect under consideration. When considering English as a whole, no specific phonemic symbols are chosen over others; instead, lexical set
Lexical set
- Wells Standard Lexical Sets for English :The Standard Lexical Sets for English introduced by John C. Wells in Accents of English are in wide usage...

s are used, each named by a word containing the vowel in question. For example, the vowel of the LOT set ("short o") is transcribed /ɒ/ in Received Pronunciation, /ɔ/ in Australian English, and /ɑ/ in General American. For an overview of these diaphonemic correspondences, see IPA chart for English dialects.

Monophthong
Monophthong
A monophthong is a pure vowel sound, one whose articulation at both beginning and end is relatively fixed, and which does not glide up or down towards a new position of articulation....

s of Received Pronunciation
Front
Front vowel
A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

Central
Central vowel
A central vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a central vowel is that the tongue is positioned halfway between a front vowel and a back vowel...

Back
Back vowel
A back vowel is a type of vowel sound used in spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a back vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Back vowels are sometimes also called dark...

long short long short long short
Close
Close vowel
A close vowel is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close vowel is that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.This term is prescribed by the...

ɪ ʊ
Mid
Mid vowel
A mid vowel is a vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned mid-way between an open vowel and a close vowel...

ɛ ɜː ə ɔː
Open
Open vowel
An open vowel is defined as a vowel sound in which the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue...

æ ʌ ɑː ɒ


Monophthongs of Australian English
Front
Front vowel
A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

Central
Central vowel
A central vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a central vowel is that the tongue is positioned halfway between a front vowel and a back vowel...

Back
Back vowel
A back vowel is a type of vowel sound used in spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a back vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Back vowels are sometimes also called dark...

long short long short long short
Close
Close vowel
A close vowel is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close vowel is that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.This term is prescribed by the...

ɪ ʉː ʊ
Mid
Mid vowel
A mid vowel is a vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned mid-way between an open vowel and a close vowel...

e ɜː ə ɔ
Open
Open vowel
An open vowel is defined as a vowel sound in which the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue...

æː æ a


The vowel of is closer to a Near-open central vowel ([ɐ]) in RP, though ⟨ʌ⟩ is still used for tradition (it was historically a back vowel) and because it is still back in other varieties.

The monophthong phonemes of General American
General American
General American , also known as Standard American English , is a major accent of American English. The accent is not restricted to the United States...

 differ in a number of ways from Received Pronunciation:
  1. The central vowel of nurse is rhotic [ɝ] (also transcribed as a syllabic [ɹ̩].
  2. Speakers make a phonemic distinction between rhotic /ɚ/ and non-rhotic /ə/.
  3. No distinction is made between /ɒ/ and /ɑː/, nor for some speakers between these vowels and /ɔː/.


Reduced vowels
Unstressed vowel
In English, vowel reduction is the centralization and weakening of an unstressed vowel, such as the characteristic change of many vowels at the ends of words to schwa. Stressed vowels are never reduced in English.-Reduced vowels :...

 occur in some unstressed syllables. (Other unstressed syllables may have full vowels, which some dictionaries mark as secondary stress
Secondary stress
Secondary stress is the weaker of two degrees of stress in the pronunciation of a word; the stronger degree of stress is called 'primary'. The International Phonetic Alphabet symbol for secondary stress is a short vertical line preceding and at the foot of the stressed syllable: the nun in ...

.) The number of distinctions made among reduced vowels varies by dialect. In some dialects vowels are centralized
Relative articulation
In descriptions of phonetics and phonology, the manner and place of articulation of a speech sound may be specified relative to some point of comparison...

 but otherwise kept mostly distinct, while in Australia, New Zealand and some US dialects all reduced vowels collapse to a schwa [ə]. In Received Pronunciation, there is a distinct high reduced vowel, which the OED writes ⟨ɪ⟩.
roses (merged with [ə] in Australian and New Zealand English): Rosa’s, runner: bottle: button: rhythm

English diphthongs
RP
Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

Australian
Australian English
Australian English is the name given to the group of dialects spoken in Australia that form a major variety of the English language....

American
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

low /əʊ/ /əʉ/ /oʊ/
loud /aʊ/ /æɔ/ /aʊ/
lied /aɪ/ /ɑe/ /aɪ/
lane /eɪ/ /æɪ/ /eɪ/
loin /ɔɪ/ /oɪ/ /ɔɪ/
leer /ɪə/ /ɪə/ /ɪɚ/
lair /ɛə/ /eː/ /ɛɚ/
lure /ʊə/ (/ʊə/) /ʊɚ/


Reduced vowels


Vowel reduction
Vowel reduction
In phonetics, vowel reduction is any of various changes in the acoustic quality of vowels, which are related to changes in stress, sonority, duration, loudness, articulation, or position in the word , and which are perceived as "weakening"...

 refers to the weakening of a vowel sound in certain situations. In English this typically involves decreasing its volume, decreasing its duration, and pronouncing it more like a schwa
Schwa
In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...

, as in the vowel sound in the second syllable of "typically".

Linguists such as Ladefoged and Bolinger argue that vowel reduction is phonemic in English (that is, that it allows otherwise identical words to be distinguished from each other), and that there are two "tiers" of vowels in English, full and reduced; traditionally many English dictionaries have attempted to mark the distinction by transcribing unstressed full vowels as having "secondary" stress
Secondary stress
Secondary stress is the weaker of two degrees of stress in the pronunciation of a word; the stronger degree of stress is called 'primary'. The International Phonetic Alphabet symbol for secondary stress is a short vertical line preceding and at the foot of the stressed syllable: the nun in ...

, though this was later abandoned by the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

. Though full unstressed vowels may derive historically from stressed vowels, either because stress shifted over time (such as stress shifting away from the final syllable of French loan words in British English) or because of loss or shift of stress in compound words or phrases (óverseas vóyage from overséas or óverséas plus vóyage), the distinction is not one of stress but of vowel quality (Bolinger 1989:351), and over time, if the word is frequent enough, the vowel tends to reduce.

English has up to five reduced vowels, though this varies with dialect and speaker. Schwa /ə/ is found in all dialects, and a rhotic schwa ("schwer") /ɚ/ is found in rhotic dialects. Less common is a high reduced vowel ("schwi") /ɪ̈/ (also "/ɪ/"); the two are distinguished by many people in Rosa's /ˈroʊzəz/ vs roses /ˈroʊzɪ̈z/. More unstable is a rounded schwa, /ö/ (also /ɵ/); this contrasts for some speakers in a mission /əˈmɪʃən/, emission /ɪ̈ˈmɪʃən/, and omission /ɵˈmɪʃən/. In words like following, the following vowel is preceded by a [w] even in dialects that otherwise don't have a rounded schwa: [ˈfɒlɵwɪŋ, ˈfɒləwɪŋ]. A high rounded schwa /ʊ̈/ (also "/ʊ/") may be found in words such as into /ˈɪntʊ̈/, though in many dialects this is not distinguished from /ɵ/.

Though speakers vary, full and reduced unstressed vowels may contrast in pairs of words like Shogun /ˈʃoʊɡʌn/ and slogan /ˈsloʊɡən/, chickaree /ˈtʃɪkəriː/ and chicory /ˈtʃɪkərɪ̈/, Pharaoh /ˈfɛəroʊ/ and farrow /ˈfæroʊ/ (Bolinger 1989:348), Bantu /ˈbæntuː/ and into /ˈɪntʊ̈/ (OED).

Allophones

  • A distinction is made between tense
    Tenseness
    In phonology, tenseness is a particular vowel quality that is phonemically contrastive in many languages, including English. It has also occasionally been used to describe contrasts in consonants. Unlike most distinctive features, the feature [tense] can be interpreted only relatively, that is, in...

     and lax vowels in pairs like beet/bit and bait/bet, although the exact phonetic
    Phonetics
    Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs : their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory...

     implementation of the distinction varies from accent to accent. However, this distinction collapses before [ŋ].
  • Wherever /r/ originally followed a tense vowel or diphthong (in Early Modern English
    Early Modern English
    Early Modern English is the stage of the English language used from about the end of the Middle English period to 1650. Thus, the first edition of the King James Bible and the works of William Shakespeare both belong to the late phase of Early Modern English...

    ) a schwa
    Schwa
    In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...

     offglide was inserted, resulting in centering diphthong
    Diphthong
    A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

    s like [iə] in beer [biəɹ], [uə] in poor [puəɹ], [aɪə] in fire [faɪəɹ], [aʊə] in sour [saʊəɹ], and so forth. This phenomenon is known as breaking. The subsequent history depends on whether the accent in question is rhotic
    Rhotic and non-rhotic accents
    English pronunciation can be divided into two main accent groups: a rhotic speaker pronounces a rhotic consonant in words like hard; a non-rhotic speaker does not...

     or not: In non-rhotic accents like RP
    Received Pronunciation
    Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

     the postvocalic [ɹ] was dropped, leaving [biə, puə, faɪə, saʊə] and the like (now usually transcribed [bɪə, pʊə] and so forth). In rhotic accents like General American
    General American
    General American , also known as Standard American English , is a major accent of American English. The accent is not restricted to the United States...

    , on the other hand, the [əɹ] sequence was coalesced into a single sound, a non-syllabic
    Semivowel
    In phonetics and phonology, a semivowel is a sound, such as English or , that is phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions as the syllable boundary rather than as the nucleus of a syllable.-Classification:...

     [ɚ], giving [biɚ, puɚ, faɪɚ, saʊɚ] and the like (now usually transcribed [bɪɹ, pʊɹ, faɪɹ, saʊɹ] and so forth). As a result, originally monosyllabic words like those just mentioned came to rhyme with originally disyllabic words like seer, doer, higher, power.
  • In many (but not all) accents of English, a similar breaking happens to tense
    Tenseness
    In phonology, tenseness is a particular vowel quality that is phonemically contrastive in many languages, including English. It has also occasionally been used to describe contrasts in consonants. Unlike most distinctive features, the feature [tense] can be interpreted only relatively, that is, in...

     vowel
    Vowel
    In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

    s before /l/, resulting in pronunciations like [piəɫ] for peel, [puəɫ] for pool, [peəɫ] for pail, and [poəɫ] for pole. becomes [ç˕] before [j] and [i], as in human [ˈç˕juːmən] or [ˈç˕uːmən] where it is not dropped.
  • The quality of the vowel /aɪ/ is influenced by a following unvoiced stop, fricative, or affricate, which makes the vowel less open. Thus, for example, writer is distinguished from rider even though the /t/ and /d/ are pronounced essentially identically in this environment; and the vowel quality in fife differs from that in five.

Transcription variants


The choice of which symbols to use for phonemic transcriptions may reveal theoretical assumptions or claims on the part of the transcriber. English "lax" and "tense" vowels are distinguished by a synergy of features, such as height, length
Vowel length
In linguistics, vowel length is the perceived duration of a vowel sound. Often the chroneme, or the "longness", acts like a consonant, and may etymologically be one, such as in Australian English. While not distinctive in most dialects of English, vowel length is an important phonemic factor in...

, and contour
Contour (linguistics)
In phonetics, contour describes speech sounds which behave as single segments, but which make an internal transition from one quality, place, or manner to another. These sounds may be tones, vowels, or consonants....

 (monophthong vs. diphthong); different traditions in the linguistic literature emphasize different features. For example, if the primary feature is thought to be vowel height, then the non-reduced vowels of General American English may be represented according to the table to the left and below. If, on the other hand, vowel length is considered to be the deciding factor, the symbols in the table to the below and center may be chosen (this convention has sometimes been used because the publisher did not have IPA fonts available, though that is seldom an issue any longer.) The rightmost table lists the corresponding lexical set
Lexical set
- Wells Standard Lexical Sets for English :The Standard Lexical Sets for English introduced by John C. Wells in Accents of English are in wide usage...

s.
General American full vowels,
vowel height distinctive
i u
ɪ ʊ
e ɚ o
ɛ ʌ ɔ
æ ɑ
General American full vowels,
vowel length distinctive
i u
ɹ̩ː
e ʌ o
a
Lexical sets representing
General American full vowels
FLEECE GOOSE
KIT FOOT
FACE NURSE GOAT
DRESS STRUT THOUGHT
TRAP PALM


If vowel transition is taken to be paramount, then the chart may look like one of these:
General American full vowels,
vowel contour distinctive
ij uw
i u
ej ər ow
e ə o
æ ɑ
or
General American full vowels,
vowel contour distinctive
ɪi̯ ʊu̯
ɪ ʊ
ɛɪ̯ ɚɹ ɔʊ̯
ɛ ʌ ɔ
æ ɑ


(The transcriber at left assumes that there is no phonemic distinction between semivowel
Semivowel
In phonetics and phonology, a semivowel is a sound, such as English or , that is phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions as the syllable boundary rather than as the nucleus of a syllable.-Classification:...

s and approximants, so that /ej/ is equivalent to /eɪ̯/.)

Many linguists combine more than one of these features in their transcriptions, suggesting they consider the phonemic differences to be more complex than a single feature.
General American full vowels,
height & length distinctive
ɪ ʊ
ɝː
ɛ ʌ ɔ
æ ɑː
or
General American full vowels,
height & contour distinctive
ij uw
ɪ ʊ
ej ɜr ow
ɛ ʌ ɔ
æ ɑ

Prosody


Prosody
Prosody (linguistics)
In linguistics, prosody is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. Prosody may reflect various features of the speaker or the utterance: the emotional state of the speaker; the form of the utterance ; the presence of irony or sarcasm; emphasis, contrast, and focus; or other elements of...

 consists of stress, rhythm, and intonation, which occur in English as follows.

Stress


Stress
Stress (linguistics)
In linguistics, stress is the relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word, or to certain words in a phrase or sentence. The term is also used for similar patterns of phonetic prominence inside syllables. The word accent is sometimes also used with this sense.The stress placed...

 is phonemic in English. For example, the words desert and dessert are distinguished in part by stress (and in part by vowel reduction in unstressed syllables), as are the noun a record and the verb to record. Stressed syllables in English are louder than non-stressed syllables, as well as being longer and having a higher pitch. They also tend to have a fuller realization than unstressed syllables.

Examples of stress in English words, using boldface to represent stressed syllables, are holiday, alone, admiration, confidential, degree, and weaker. Ordinarily, grammatical words (auxiliary verbs, prepositions, pronouns, and the like) do not receive stress, whereas lexical words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.) must have at least one stressed syllable.

Traditional approaches describe English as having three degrees of stress: Primary, secondary, and unstressed. However, if stress is defined as relative respiratory force (that is, it involves greater pressure from the lungs than unstressed syllables), as most phoneticians argue, and is inherent in the word rather than the sentence (that is, it is lexical rather than prosodic
Prosody (linguistics)
In linguistics, prosody is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. Prosody may reflect various features of the speaker or the utterance: the emotional state of the speaker; the form of the utterance ; the presence of irony or sarcasm; emphasis, contrast, and focus; or other elements of...

), then these traditional approaches conflate two distinct processes: stress, and vowel reduction
Vowel reduction
In phonetics, vowel reduction is any of various changes in the acoustic quality of vowels, which are related to changes in stress, sonority, duration, loudness, articulation, or position in the word , and which are perceived as "weakening"...

. In this case, primary stress is actually prosodic stress, whereas secondary stress is simple stress in some positions, and an unstressed but not reduced vowel in others. Either way, there is a three-way phonemic distinction: either three degrees of stress, or else stressed, unstressed, and reduced. The two approaches are sometimes conflated into a four-way 'stress' classification: primary (tonic stress), secondary (lexical stress), tertiary (unstressed full vowel), and quaternary (reduced vowel). See secondary stress
Secondary stress
Secondary stress is the weaker of two degrees of stress in the pronunciation of a word; the stronger degree of stress is called 'primary'. The International Phonetic Alphabet symbol for secondary stress is a short vertical line preceding and at the foot of the stressed syllable: the nun in ...

 for details.

Initial-stress-derived noun
Initial-stress-derived noun
Initial-stress derivation is a phonological process in English, wherein stress is moved to the first syllable of any of several dozen verbs when they become nouns or adjectives. This is called a suprafix in linguistics...

s are nouns that are derived from verbs by changing the position of their stress. For example, a rebel [ˈɹɛb.ɫ̩] (stress on the first syllable) is inclined to rebel [ɹɨ.ˈbɛɫ] (stress on the second syllable) against the powers that be. The number of words using this pattern as opposed to only stressing the second syllable in all circumstances doubles every century or so, and includes words such as object, convict, and addict.

Prosodic stress is extra stress given to words when they appear in certain positions in an utterance, or when they receive special emphasis. It normally appears on the final stressed syllable in an intonation unit. So, for example, when the word admiration is said in isolation, or at the end of a sentence, the syllable ra is pronounced with greater force than the syllable ad. (This is traditionally transcribed as /ˌædmɨˈreɪʃən/.) This is the origin of the primary stress-secondary stress distinction. However, the difference disappears when the word is not pronounced with this final intonation.

Prosodic stress can shift for various pragmatic
Pragmatics
Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. Pragmatics encompasses speech act theory, conversational implicature, talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, and linguistics. It studies how the...

 functions, such as focus or contrast. For instance, consider the dialogue
"Is it brunch tomorrow?"
"No, it's dinner tomorrow."


In this case, the extra stress shifts from the last stressed syllable of the sentence, tomorrow, to the last stressed syllable of the emphasized word, dinner. Compare
"I'm going tomorrow." /aɪm ˈɡoʊɪŋ təˈˈmɒroʊ/

with
"It's dinner tomorrow." /ɪts ˈˈdɪnɚ təˈmɒroʊ/


Although grammatical words generally do not have lexical stress, they do acquire prosodic stress when emphasized. Compare ordinary
"Come in"! /ˈˈkʌm ɪn/

with more emphatic
"Oh, do come in!" /oʊ ˈˈduː kʌm ˈɪn/

Rhythm


English is a stress-timed
Timing (linguistics)
Isochrony is the postulated rhythmic division of time into equal portions by a language. Isochrony is one of the three aspects of prosody, the others being intonation and stress.Three alternative ways in which a language can divide time are postulated:...

 language. That is, stressed syllables appear at a roughly steady tempo, and non-stressed syllables are shortened to accommodate this.

Intonation


English declarative sentences generally have a pattern of rising pitch on the final stressed syllable followed by falling pitch on the subsequent unstressed syllables (or on the last part of the final stressed syllable itself, if it is also the last syllable of the sentence). But if something is left unsaid, the final fall in pitch occurs only to a lesser extent. Wh-questions, and tag questions with declarative intent, follow the same pattern as do declarative sentences.

In contrast, yes-no questions show pitch rising on the last stressed syllable, and remaining high on any subsequent syllables.

Phonotactics


Most languages of the world syllabify CVCV and CVCCV sequences as /CV.CV/ and /CVC.CV/ or /CV.CCV/, with consonants preferentially acting as the onset of a syllable containing the following vowel. According to one view, English is unusual in this regard, in that stressed syllables attract following consonants, so that ˈCVCV and ˈCVCCV syllabify as /ˈCVC.V/ and /ˈCVCC.V/, as long as the consonant cluster CC is a possible syllable coda. In addition, according to this view, /r/ preferentially syllabifies with the preceding vowel even when both syllables are unstressed, so that CVrV occurs as /CVr.V/. However, many scholars do not agree with this view.

Syllable structure


The syllable structure
Syllable
A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

 in English is (C)3V(C)5, with a near maximal example being strengths (/ˈstrɛŋkθs/, although it can be pronounced /ˈstrɛŋθs/). Because of an extensive pattern of articulatory overlap, English speakers rarely produce an audible release in consonant clusters. This can lead to cross-articulations that seem very much like deletions or complete assimilations.

For example, hundred pounds may sound like [hʌndɹɛb pʰaʊndz] but X-ray and electropalatographic studies demonstrate that inaudible and possibly weakened contacts may still be made so that the second /d/ in hundred pounds does not entirely assimilate a labial place of articulation, rather the labial co-occurs with the alveolar one.

When a stressed syllable contains a pure vowel (rather than a diphthong
Diphthong
A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

), followed by a single consonant and then another vowel, as in holiday, many native speakers feel that the consonant belongs to the preceding stressed syllable, /ˈhɒl.ɨ.deɪ/. However, when the stressed vowel is a long vowel or diphthong, as in admiration or pekoe, speakers agree that the consonant belongs to the following syllable: /ˈæd.mɨ.ˈreɪ.ʃən/, /ˈpiː.koʊ/. Wells (1990) notes that consonants syllabify with the preceding rather than following vowel when the preceding vowel is the nucleus of a more salient syllable, with stressed syllables being the most salient, reduced syllables the least, and secondary stress / full unstressed vowels intermediate. But there are lexical differences as well, frequently with compound words but not exclusively.

For example, in dolphin and selfish, he argues that the stressed syllable ends in /lf/, but in shellfish, the /f/ belongs with the following syllable: /ˈdɒlf.ɪn/, /ˈsɛlf.ɪʃ/ → [ˈdɒlfɨn], [ˈsɛlfɨʃ] vs /ˈʃɛl.fɪʃ/ → [ˈʃɛlˑfɪʃ], where the /l/ is a little longer and the /ɪ/ not reduced.

Similarly, in toe-strap the /t/ is a full plosive, as usual in syllable onset, whereas in toast-rack the /t/ is in many dialects reduced to the unreleased allophone it takes in syllable codas, or even elided: /ˈtoʊ.stræp/, /ˈtoʊst.ræk/ → [ˈtʰoˑʊstɹæp], [ˈtoʊs(t̚)ɹʷæk]; likewise nitrate /ˈnaɪ.treɪt/ → [ˈnʌɪtɹ̥ʷeɪt] with a voiceless /r/, vs night-rate /ˈnaɪt.reɪt/ → [ˈnʌɪt̚ɹʷeɪt] with a voiced /r/. Cues of syllable boundaries include aspiration of syllable onsets and (in the US) flapping of coda /t, d/ (a tease /ə.ˈtiːz/ → [əˈtʰiːz] vs. at ease /æt.ˈiːz/ → [æɾˈiːz]), epenthetic plosives like [t] in syllable codas (fence /ˈfɛns/ → [ˈfɛnts] but inside /ɪn.ˈsaɪd/ → [ɪnˈsaɪd]), and r-colored vowels when the /r/ is in the coda vs. labialization when it is in the onset (key-ring /ˈkiː.rɪŋ/ → [ˈkʰiːɹʷɪŋ] but fearing /ˈfiːr.ɪŋ/ → [ˈfɪəɹɪŋ]).

Onset


The following can occur as the onset:
All single consonant phonemes except /ŋ/  
Plosive plus approximant other than /j/:
/pl/, /bl/, /kl/, /ɡl/, /pr/, /br/, /tr/,[1] /dr/,[1] /kr/, /ɡr/, /tw/, /dw/, /ɡw/, /kw/, /pw/
play, blood, clean, glove, prize, bring, tree,[1] dream,[1] crowd, green, twin, dwarf, language, quick, puissance
Voiceless fricative plus approximant other than /j/:[2]
/fl/, /sl/, /θl/,[3] /fr/, /θr/, /ʃr/, /hw/,[4] /sw/, /θw/, /vw/
floor, sleep, thlipsis,[3] friend, three, shrimp, what,[4] swing, thwart, reservoir
Consonant plus /j/ (before /uː/ or /ʊr/):
/pj/, /bj/, /tj/,[5] /dj/,[5] /kj/, /ɡj/, /mj/, /nj/,[5] /fj/, /vj/, /θj/,[5] /sj/,[5] /zj/,[5] /hj/, /lj/[5]
pure, beautiful, tube,[5] during,[5] cute, argue, music, new,[5] few, view, thew,[5] suit,[5] Zeus,[5] huge, lurid[5]
/s/ plus voiceless plosive:[6]
/sp/, /st/, /sk/
speak, stop, skill
/s/ plus nasal other than /ŋ/:[6]
/sm/, /sn/
smile, snow
/s/ plus voiceless fricative:[3]
/sf/, /sθ/
sphere, sthenic
/s/ plus voiceless plosive plus approximant:[6]
/spl/, /skl/,[3] /spr/, /str/, /skr/, /skw/, /smj/, /spj/, /stj/,[5] /skj/
split, sclera, spring, street, scream, square, smew, spew, student,[5] skewer
/s/ plus voiceless fricative plus approximant:[3]
/sfr/
sphragistics

Notes:
  1. In many dialects, /tr/ and /dr/ tend to affricate, so that tree resembles "chree", and dream resembles "jream". This is sometimes transcribed as [tʃr] and [dʒr] respectively, but the pronunciation varies and may, for example, be closer to [tʂ] and [dʐ] or with a fricative release similar in quality to the rhotic, i.e. [tɹ̝̊ɹ̥], [dɹ̝ɹ], or [tʂɻ], [dʐɻ].
  2. In some dialects, /wr/ (rather than /r/) occurs in words beginning in wr- (write, wrong, wren, etc.).
  3. Words beginning in unusual consonant clusters that originated in Latinized Greek loanwords tend to drop the first phoneme, as in }, }, }, }, }, }, }, }, }, }, }, }, }, and }, which have become /d/ (bdellium), /θ/ (phthisis), /n/ (gnome), /r/ (rhythm), /n/ (cnidoblast), /z/ (xylophone), /t/ (ctenophore), /θ/ (chthonic), /n/ (mnemonic), /n/ (pneumonia), /s/ (psychology), /t/ (pterodactyl), /m/ (tmesis), and /m/ (asthma). However, the onsets /sf/, /sfr/, /skl/, /sθ/, and /θl/ have remained intact.
  4. The onset /hw/ is simplified to /w/ in many dialects (wine–whine merger).
  5. There is an on-going sound change (yod dropping) by which /j/ as the final consonant in a cluster
    Consonant cluster
    In linguistics, a consonant cluster is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word splits....

     is being lost. In RP, words with /sj/ and /lj/ can usually be pronounced with or without this sound, e.g., [suːt] or [sjuːt]. For some speakers of English, including some British speakers, the sound change is more advanced and so, for example, General American
    General American
    General American , also known as Standard American English , is a major accent of American English. The accent is not restricted to the United States...

     does not contain the onsets /tj/, /dj/, /nj/, /θj/, /sj/, /stj/, /zj/, or /lj/. Words that would otherwise begin in these onsets drop the /j/: e.g., tube (/tuːb/), during (/ˈdʊrɪŋ/), new (/nuː/), Thule (/ˈθuːliː/), suit (/suːt/), student (/ˈstuːdənt/), Zeus (/zuːs/), lurid (/ˈlʊrɪd/). In some dialects, such Welsh English
    Welsh English
    Welsh English, Anglo-Welsh, or Wenglish refers to the dialects of English spoken in Wales by Welsh people. The dialects are significantly influenced by Welsh grammar and often include words derived from Welsh...

    , /j/ may occur in more combinations; for example in /tʃj/ (chew), /dʒj/ (Jew), /ʃj/ (sure), and /slj/ (slew).
  6. Many clusters beginning with /ʃ/ and paralleling native clusters beginning with /s/ are found initially in German and Yiddish loanwords, such as /ʃl/, /ʃp/, /ʃt/, /ʃm/, /ʃn/, /ʃpr/, /ʃtr/ (in words such as schlep, spiel, shtick, schmuck, schnapps
    Schnapps
    Schnapps is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage. The English word schnapps is derived from the German Schnaps , which can refer to any strong alcoholic drink but particularly those containing at least 32% ABV...

    , Shprintzen's, strudel). /ʃw/ is found initially in the Hebrew loanword schwa
    Schwa
    In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...

    . Before /r/ however, the native cluster is /ʃr/. The opposite cluster /sr/ is found in loanwords such as Sri Lanka, but this can be nativized by changing it to /ʃr/.


Other onsets
Certain English onsets appear only in contractions: e.g., /zbl/ ('sblood), and /zw/ or /dzw/ ('swounds or 'dswounds). Some, such as /pʃ/ (pshaw), /fw/ (fwoosh), or /vr/ (vroom), can occur in interjections. An archaic voiceless fricative plus nasal exists, /fn/ (fnese), as does an archaic /snj/ (snew).

A few other onsets occur in further (anglicized) loan words, including /bw/ (bwana), /mw/ (moiré), /nw/ (noire), /zw/ (zwieback), /kv/ (kvetch), /ʃv/ (schvartze), /tv/ (Tver), /vl/ (Vladimir), and /zl/ (zloty).

Some clusters of this type can be converted to regular English phonotactics by simplifying the cluster: e.g. /(d)z/ (dziggetai), /(h)r/ (Hrolf), /kr(w)/ (croissant), /(p)f/ (pfennig), /(f)θ/ (phthalic), and /(t)s/ (tsunami).

Others can be substituted by native clusters differing only in voice
Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

: /zb ~ sp/ (sbirro), and /zɡr ~ skr/ (sgraffito).

Nucleus


The following can occur as the nucleus:
  • All vowel sounds, /n/ and /l/ in certain situations (see below under word-level rules) in rhotic varieties
    Rhotic and non-rhotic accents
    English pronunciation can be divided into two main accent groups: a rhotic speaker pronounces a rhotic consonant in words like hard; a non-rhotic speaker does not...

     of English (e.g. General American
    General American
    General American , also known as Standard American English , is a major accent of American English. The accent is not restricted to the United States...

    ) in certain situations (see below under word-level rules)

Coda


Most (in theory, all) the following except those that end with /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/ or /dʒ/ can be extended with /s/ or /z/ representing the morpheme
Morpheme
In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. A morpheme is not identical to a word, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not stand alone, whereas a word,...

 -s/z-. Similarly, most (in theory, all) the following except those that end with /t/ or /d/ can be extended with /t/ or /d/ representing the morpheme -t/d-.

argues that a variety of syllable codas are possible in English, even /ntr, ndr/ in words like entry /ˈɛntr.ɪ/ and sundry /ˈsʌndr.ɪ/, with /tr, dr/ being treated as affricates along the lines of /tʃ, dʒ/. He argues that the traditional assumption that pre-vocalic consonants form a syllable with the following vowel is due to the influence of languages like French and Latin, where syllable structure is CVC.CVC regardless of stress placement. Disregarding such contentious cases, which do not occur at the ends of words, the following sequences can occur as the coda
Syllable coda
In phonology, a syllable coda comprises the consonant sounds of a syllable that follow the nucleus, which is usually a vowel. The combination of a nucleus and a coda is called a rime. Some syllables consist only of a nucleus with no coda...

:
The single consonant phonemes except /h/, /w/, /j/ and, in non-rhotic varieties
Rhotic and non-rhotic accents
English pronunciation can be divided into two main accent groups: a rhotic speaker pronounces a rhotic consonant in words like hard; a non-rhotic speaker does not...

, /r/
 
Lateral approximant + plosive or affricate: /lp/, /lb/, /lt/, /ld/, /ltʃ/, /ldʒ/, /lk/ help, bulb, belt, hold, belch, indulge, milk
In rhotic varieties, /r/ + plosive or affricate: /rp/, /rb/, /rt/, /rd/, /rtʃ/, /rdʒ/, /rk/, /rɡ/ harp, orb, fort, beard, arch, large, mark, morgue
Lateral approximant + fricative: /lf/, /lv/, /lθ/, /ls/, /lʃ/ golf, solve, wealth, else, Welsh
In rhotic varieties, /r/ + fricative: /rf/, /rv/, /rθ/, /rs/, /rz/, /rʃ/ dwarf, carve, north, force, Mars, marsh
Lateral approximant + nasal: /lm/, /ln/ film, kiln
In rhotic varieties, /r/ + nasal or lateral: /rm/, /rn/, /rl/ arm, born, snarl
Nasal + homorganic plosive or affricate: /mp/, /nt/, /nd/, /ntʃ/, /ndʒ/, /ŋk/ jump, tent, end, lunch, lounge, pink
Nasal + fricative: /mf/, /mθ/, /nθ/, /ns/, /nz/, /ŋθ/ in some varieties triumph, gloomth, month, prince, bronze, length
Voiceless fricative + voiceless plosive: /ft/, /sp/, /st/, /sk/ left, crisp, lost, ask
Two voiceless fricatives: /fθ/ fifth
Two voiceless plosives: /pt/, /kt/ opt, act
Plosive + voiceless fricative: /pθ/, /ps/, /tθ/, /ts/, /dθ/, /dz/, /ks/ depth, lapse, eighth, klutz, width, adze, box
Lateral approximant + two consonants: /lpt/, /lfθ/, /lts/, /lst/, /lkt/, /lks/ sculpt, twelfth, waltz, whilst, mulct, calx
In rhotic varieties, /r/ + two consonants: /rmθ/, /rpt/, /rps/, /rts/, /rst/, /rkt/ warmth, excerpt, corpse, quartz, horst, infarct
Nasal + homorganic plosive + plosive or fricative: /mpt/, /mps/, /ndθ/, /ŋkt/, /ŋks/, /ŋkθ/ in some varieties prompt, glimpse, thousandth, distinct, jinx, length
Three obstruents: /ksθ/, /kst/ sixth, next


Note: For some speakers, a fricative before /θ/ is elided so that these never appear phonetically: /ˈfɪfθ/ becomes [ˈfɪθ], /ˈsiksθ/ becomes [ˈsikθ], /ˈtwelfθ/ becomes [ˈtwelθ].

Syllable-level rules

  • Both the onset and the coda are optional at the end of an onset cluster (/pj/, /bj/, /tj/, /dj/, /kj/, /fj/, /vj/, /θj/, /sj/, /zj/, /hj/, /mj/, /nj/, /lj/, /spj/, /stj/, /skj/) must be followed by /uː/ or /ʊə/
  • Long vowels and diphthongs are not found before /ŋ/ except for the mimetic word boing! is rare in syllable-initial position
  • Stop + /w/ before /uː, ʊ, ʌ, aʊ/ (all presently or historically /u(ː)/) are excluded
  • Sequences of /s/ + C1 + + C1, where C1 is a consonant other that /t/ and is a short vowel, are virtually nonexistent

Word-level rules

does not occur in stressed syllables does not occur in word-initial position in native English words although it can occur syllable-initial, e.g., luxurious /lʌɡˈʒʊəriəs/, /n/, /l/ and, in rhotic varieties
Rhotic and non-rhotic accents
English pronunciation can be divided into two main accent groups: a rhotic speaker pronounces a rhotic consonant in words like hard; a non-rhotic speaker does not...

, /r/ can be the syllable nucleus (i.e. a syllabic consonant
Syllabic consonant
A syllabic consonant is a consonant which either forms a syllable on its own, or is the nucleus of a syllable. The diacritic for this in the International Phonetic Alphabet is the under-stroke, ⟨⟩...

) in an unstressed syllable following another consonant, especially /t/, /d/, /s/ or /z/
  • Certain short vowel sounds, called checked vowels
    Checked and free vowels
    In phonetics and phonology, checked vowels are those that usually must be followed by a consonant in a stressed syllable, while free vowels are those that may stand in a stressed open syllable with no following consonant.-Usage:...

    , cannot occur without a coda in a single-syllable word. In RP
    Received Pronunciation
    Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

    , the following short vowel sounds are checked: /ɪ/, /ɛ/, /æ/, /ɒ/, /ʌ/, and /ʊ/.

History of English pronunciation


English consonants have been remarkably stable over time, and have undergone few changes in the last 1500 years. On the other hand, English vowels have been quite unstable. Not surprisingly, then, the main differences between modern dialects almost always involve vowels.

Around the late 14th century, English began to undergo the Great Vowel Shift
Great Vowel Shift
The Great Vowel Shift was a major change in the pronunciation of the English language that took place in England between 1350 and 1500.The Great Vowel Shift was first studied by Otto Jespersen , a Danish linguist and Anglicist, who coined the term....

, in which
  • The high long vowels [iː] and [uː] in words like price and mouth became diphthongized, first to [əɪ] and [əʊ] (where they remain today in some environments in some accents such as Canadian English
    Canadian English
    Canadian English is the variety of English spoken in Canada. English is the first language, or "mother tongue", of approximately 24 million Canadians , and more than 28 million are fluent in the language...

    ) and later to their modern values [aɪ] and [aʊ]. This is not unique to English, as this also happened in Dutch
    Dutch language
    Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

     (first shift only) and German
    German language
    German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

     (both shifts).
  • The other long vowels became higher:
    • [eː] became [iː] (for example meet).
    • [aː] became [eː] (later diphthongized to [eɪ], for example name).
    • [oː] became [uː] (for example goose).
    • [ɔː] become [oː] (later diphthongized to [oʊ], for example bone).


Later developments complicate the picture: whereas in Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer , known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey...

's time food, good, and blood all had the vowel [oː] and in William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's time they all had the vowel [uː], in modern pronunciation good has shortened its vowel to [ʊ] and blood has shortened and lowered its vowel to [ʌ] in most accents. In Shakespeare's day (late 16th-early 17th century), many rhyme
Rhyme
A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words and is most often used in poetry and songs. The word "rhyme" may also refer to a short poem, such as a rhyming couplet or other brief rhyming poem such as nursery rhymes.-Etymology:...

s were possible that no longer hold today. For example, in his play The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1591.The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself...

, shrew rhymed with woe.

æ-tensing


æ-tensing is a phenomenon found in many varieties of American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

 by which the vowel /æ/ has a longer, higher, and usually diphthong
Diphthong
A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

al pronunciation in some environments, usually to something like [eə]. Some American accents, for example those of New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, make a marginal phonemic distinction between /æ/ and /eə/ although the two occur largely in mutually exclusive environments.

Bad–lad split


The bad–lad split refers to the situation in some varieties of southern British English
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

 and Australian English
Australian English phonology
Australian English is a non-rhotic variety of English spoken by most native-born Australians. Phonologically, it is one of the most regionally homogeneous language varieties in the world...

, where a long phoneme /æː/ in words like bad contrasts with a short /æ/ in words like lad.

Cot–caught merger


The cot–caught merger is a sound change by which the vowel of words like caught, talk, and tall (/ɔ/), is pronounced the same as the vowel of words like cot, rock, and doll (/ɒ/ in New England
New England English
New England English refers to the dialects of English spoken in the New England area. These include the Eastern New England dialect , the Western New England dialect , and some Subdialects within these two regions...

 /ɑː/ elsewhere). This merger is widespread in North American English
North American English
North American English is the variety of the English language of North America, including that of the United States and Canada. Because of their shared histories and the similarities between the pronunciation, vocabulary and accent of American English and Canadian English, the two spoken languages...

, being found in approximately 40% of American
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

 speakers and virtually all Canadian
Canadian English
Canadian English is the variety of English spoken in Canada. English is the first language, or "mother tongue", of approximately 24 million Canadians , and more than 28 million are fluent in the language...

 speakers.

Father–bother merger


The father–bother merger is the pronunciation of the short O /ɒ/ in words such as "bother" identically to the broad A /ɑː/ of words such as "father", nearly universal in all of the United States and Canada save New England
New England English
New England English refers to the dialects of English spoken in the New England area. These include the Eastern New England dialect , the Western New England dialect , and some Subdialects within these two regions...

 and the Maritime provinces
Maritimer English
Canadian Maritime English or Maritimer English is a dialect of English spoken in the Maritime provinces of Canada. Quirks include the removal of pre-consonantal sounds, and a faster speech tempo...

; many American dictionaries use the same symbol for these vowels in pronunciation guides.

See also


  • Australian English phonology
    Australian English phonology
    Australian English is a non-rhotic variety of English spoken by most native-born Australians. Phonologically, it is one of the most regionally homogeneous language varieties in the world...

  • English pronunciation of Greek letters
    English pronunciation of Greek letters
    This table gives the common English pronunciation of Greek letters using the International Phonetic Alphabet It is the pronunciation of the ancient Greek names of the Greek letters using the English teaching pronunciation...

  • English spelling
  • General American
    General American
    General American , also known as Standard American English , is a major accent of American English. The accent is not restricted to the United States...

  • Japanese speakers learning r and l
    Japanese speakers learning r and l
    Japanese possesses one liquid consonant, a flap that varies between lateral and central . English has two: an alveolar lateral approximant and rhotic consonant of varying phonetic properties centered around...

  • Non-native pronunciations of English
    Non-native pronunciations of English
    Non-native pronunciations of English result from the common linguistic phenomenon in which non-native users of any language tend to carry the intonation, phonological processes and pronunciation rules from their mother tongue into their English speech...

  • Old English phonology
    Old English phonology
    The phonology of Old English is necessarily somewhat speculative, since it is preserved purely as a written language. Nevertheless, there is a very large corpus of Old English, and the written language apparently indicates phonological alternations quite faithfully, so it is not difficult to draw...

  • Phonological history of the English language
    Phonological history of the English language
    The phonological history of English describes changing phonology of the English language over time, starting from its roots in proto-Germanic to diverse changes in different dialects of modern English....

  • Phonological history of English vowels
    Phonological history of English vowels
    In the history of English phonology, there were many diachronic sound changes affecting vowels, especially involving phonemic splits and mergers.-Great Vowel Shift and Trisyllabic laxing:...

  • Phonological history of English consonants
    Phonological history of English consonants
    The phonological history of English consonants is part of the phonological history of the English language in terms of changes in the phonology of consonants.-H-cluster reductions:* The wine–whine merger is the merger of with...

  • Pronunciation of English th
    Pronunciation of English th
    In English, the digraph ⟨th⟩ represents in most cases one of two different phonemes: the voiced dental fricative and the voiceless dental fricative...

  • Received Pronunciation
    Received Pronunciation
    Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

  • Regional accents of English
  • Rhotic and non-rhotic accents
    Rhotic and non-rhotic accents
    English pronunciation can be divided into two main accent groups: a rhotic speaker pronounces a rhotic consonant in words like hard; a non-rhotic speaker does not...

  • Vocalic r

:Category:Splits and mergers in English phonology

External links