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The Sounds Of English

Alphabets

Traditionally, English has 26 alphabets, adopted from the Roman script as mentioned below:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

To be able to speak any language, it is very important to be able to listen to the language and understand it. Words are made up of sounds and as such, it is only viable that we are able to identify, produce and differentiate the sounds of a language. Written English has 26 alphabets each corresponding to a sound, which are further subdivided into 5 Vowels and 21 Consonants.

Spoken English is however way ahead in reality. Turn to the next section to find out.

Vowels and Consonants

Before moving on to the sounds in details, have you ever asked yourself why are the sounds differentiated into two categories: Vowels and Consonants? What is the basic difference(s) between the sounds?

Let’s look into the difference. Sounds are produced by us with the help of the air passing through our mouth and nose into or out of our lungs.

The air pumping out of the lungs passes through the glottis (Adam’s Apple) and then through the oral and nasal cavity. In the oral cavity, the airstream passes through the uvula, tongue, teeth and lips. The major difference between vowels and consonants is the fact that vowels do not face any obstruction passing through the cavity after the glottis /a, o, u/, whereas in producing consonants, the air comes across obstruction(s) in the form of lips, teeth, tongue, etc. For example, in producing /p/, the airstream gets obstructed by the lips before coming out.

VOWELS

English is known to have five vowels (/a, e, i , o, u/). This, however, is a characteristic feature of written English, not of the English that we speak. While speaking, we come across not less than ten vowels. For example, the alphabet /a/, considered to be one vowel, can be pronounced in two different ways; viz., /a/ in ‘car’ and /æ/ in ‘cat’. In both the instances, the vowel /a/ is produced in two different ways, giving us two different vowels sounds. In the same way, /i/ can have two different pronunciations as in ‘bit’ and ‘beat’. The other vowel sounds are:

    /e/- take
    /ɛ/- then
    /ɘ/- cut
    /u/- put
    /ʊ/- shoot
    /o/- know
    /ɔ/- cot

CONSONANTS

There are 21 consonants in the English script. However, spoken English encounters much more consonant sounds in reality. For example:

  • /b/- bat[k, s]
  • /c/- cat, cement
  • /d/- dog
  • /f/- fat
  • /g/- goat, gel   [g, j]
  • /h/- hope, honest     [h, -]
  • /j/- jug
  • /k/- kite
  • /l/- lion
  • /m/- mouth
  • /n/- nose
  • /p/- paint
  • /q/- queen, unique [kw, k]
  • /r/- rose
  • /s/- sun
  • /t/- teeth
  • /v/- vase
  • /w/- win
  • /x/- xylophone, exam, exercise [z, kz, ks]
  • /z/- zebra

ALPHABET DRILL

The Vowel A:

Apple- Almira- alm- algebra- ark- ant- back- banana- basket- branch- brat- cat- far- fate- gate- mango- match- packet- pan- sank- vase

The Consonant B:

Bag- bait- branch- bug- beetle- brown- brew- bride- big- blooper- able- stable- tumble- jumble- pebble- tub- cub- comb- climb- cab- herb- garbage

The Consonant C:

Cat- cake- crush- calibre- cattle- crew- crane- cinema- cement- cow- citrus- cinnamon- clove- accept- acumen- association- wicket- packet- tackle- accident- receipt- deceive- maniac- picnic- mic

The Consonant D:

Dog- dip- douchebag- deep- dignitary- drama- damsel- drum- drink- paddle- fiddle- bundle- ponder- sound- sad- raid- rapid- speed- collide- residence

The Vowel E:

Eye- elephant- euphoria- elaborate- egg- excess- excellent- exercise- mesh- measure- help- garden- market- kindergarten- cake- scrabble- cute

The Consonant F:

Far- fear- fare- fish- fade- fluid- flower- flour- flood- fool- figure- future- fusion- difference- affair- baffle- toffee- self- puff- giraffe- relief- of- behalf

The Consonant G:

Gate- gun- goose- gel- giant- gig- germ- groom- agile- agitate- again- against- aghast- abysmal- abyss- fig- figure- guarantee- guard- guess- language- english- finger- fridge- brigade- burger

The Consonant H:

Hat- hum- hammer- Hamilton- humming- hunch- hope- hoard- honour- honesty- hour- thought- although- the- halt- hate- ham- hallucination- rhythm

The Vowel I:

Ice- India- intern- independence- isotope- issue- idea- idle- idol- ideal- pig- fish- ginger- mist- biscuit- circuit- mister- mannequin- pipe- fierce- friend- risk- prioritize- stimuli- radii- jibe

The Consonant J:

Jug- jolt- jam- juggle- jingle- jewish- jalapeno- joker- judge- prejudice- jurisdiction- juice

The Consonant K:

Kite- kill- kick- kaleidoscope- key- knowledge- knight- jackal- hockey- donkey- jukebox- sky- jackpot- lock- quick- black- hammock- rock- pink

The Consonant L:

Lamp- long- lion- luxury- lame- love- liquid- limp- liquor- lizard- slip- bullock- little- climb- clamp- scramble- lipid- isle- island- skill- label- liable- topple- bill- foil- shameful- clinical- colonel

The Consonant M:

Mango- maze- munch- month- monkey- muscle- manage- mammal- mammoth- moth- majesty- maximum- magnificent- microscopic- murmur- lamb- tummy- warm

The Consonant N:

Nose- nap- neck- naked- negro- nape- navel- naive- norms- learned- onomatopoeic- number- nomenclature- ninny- sunny- pant- pancake- cinema- cinnamon- chicken- billion- citizen

The Vowel O:

Owl- over- ovary- outspoken- ooze- origami- orangutan- offspring- offshore- doom- dome- spoke- sports- fort- afford- opportunity- delegation- develop- moth- deodorant- neo- domino- embryo- buffalo- volcano

The Consonant P:

Pack- pan- pit- pink- pluck- spit- pool- powder- peculiar- perspective- perspire- procure- product- precipitate- pebble- perimeter- supper- anticipate- dip- receipt- concept- except- accept- expect- overlap

The Consonant Q:

Queen- queue- quite- quiet- queer- quick- quiver- acquire- conquer- acquaintance- unique- technique- mannequin- masquerade- bouquet

The Consonant R:

Rat- rabbit- ramp- record- register- reschedule- reimburse- renovate- racquet- random- cigarette- remember- injury- perfect- persistent- enquire- persuade- character- camera- store- purge- teacher- shiver

The Consonant S:

Sun- sob- sober- sing- sank- shimmer- sand- shine- shadow- science- sign- severe- signature- serene- response- respect- miser- trust- disco- sinister- salvation- misfortune- abyss- dismiss- cannabis- oesophagus- obvious- license

The Consonant T:

Teeth- tame- tail- take- talk- tram- transport- trim- transient- tranquilizer- better- stutter- cute- mistake- coordination- absent- lament- tent- pint- heart- short- pickpocket- picket

The Vowel U:

Umbrella- usurp- urge- utopian- unstoppable- urinary- uvula- duck- put- laureate- misuse- guide- guard- guess- genius- gun- glamour- adieu

The Consonant V:

Van- vowel- vase- vanity- victory- vicious- vindictive- vision- vocal- vary- variant- variety- vixen- survive- revive- juvenile- dive- cave- pavement- valve- value- improve

The Consonant W:

War- win- wild- window- wasp- wicked- work- owe- awake- awe- wax- worry- jewellery- qwerty- walk- paw- saw- jigsaw- widow- cow- show- know- waltz

The Consonant X:

Xylophone- xenophobia- exam- exist- exit- xerox- exercise- exaggerate- fox

The Consonant Y:

Yak- yawn- yam- yoke- yummy- rhythm- rhyme- asylum- syllabus- syllable- synonym- dizzy- lazy- festivity- celebrity- quality- abysmally.

The Consonant Z:

Zebra-zen-zenith-zest-dazzle-zephyr-zigzag-zap-zap-fuzzy-daze-doze-whiz-pizza

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