Lesson 9: Vowels, Part Three

This week we’ll do some quizzes on IPA English vowels to make sure you’ve got them down pat, then we’ll continue to work on differentiation and production.

There are a few other vowels that are sometimes used in English IPA transcription (like the schwa); most of them aren’t as common or occur only in certain American dialects. Once you get the basic long and short vowels down, your assignment for this lesson is to familiarize yourself with these other vowels as well. Then we’ll move on to consonants, and later, to reading entire sentences in IPA.

Dictionary.com has IPA transcriptions for all of its words. Just click on “Show IPA” next to each bracketed pronunciation to see the IPA transcription. (But don’t use it for Quiz 2! 🙂

IPA Long/Short Vowel Notes
1. The long “u” vowel is taught as a diphthong, /juː/, as in cub/cube and the letter u.
However, in terms of IPA, the long “u” sound in most American English words is just the /u/ sound without the /j/ consonant (which is the “y” sound, as in the word “yam”).

2. A colon featuring two triangles facing other (ː) is used to denote a long sound in IPA.
Its use varies, so what you really need to know is the relative length of sounds.
In English, vowel length usually works like this:
long vowels > short vowels
short vowels > consonants

Long/Short Vowels Quiz 1
Please identify which word the IPA transcription represents.
1. /bɪt/ – bit, bite
2. /boʊt/ – bot, boat
3. /beɪt/ – bat, bait
4. /tɪm/ – Tim, time
5. /dʌn/ – done, dune
6. /riːd/ – red, reed
7. /kæt/ – cat, Kate
8. /tuːb/ – tub, tube
9. /dɒt/ – dot, dote
10. /sɛt/ – set, seat

(adapted from Pronunciation Practice Activities, p. 52-53)
11. /stiːl/ – steal, still
12. /spɪl/ – spill, spell
13. /pleɪs/ – place, plus
14. /plæn/ – plane, plan
15. /bʌn/ – bun, boon
16. /hoʊm/ – hum, home
17. /laɪv/ – leave, live (as in “live in concert”)
18. /pɒt/ – pet, pot
19. /foʊn/ – fun, phone
20. /bɛd/ – bead, bed

Long/Short Vowels Quiz 2 (Pronunciation Practice Activities, p. 52-53)
Please transcribe the following word pairs into IPA.
Don’t worry about getting the consonants correct for now; just focus on getting the vowels correct.
1. tell, teal
2. neck, knock
3. bust, boost
4. piss, peace
5. gnat, knit
6. wheel, whale
7. must, most
8. made, mud
9. vet, vat
10. Mott, moat

Long/Short Vowels Quiz 3
In each word set, all of the words should contain the same vowel sound(s) when you transcribe them into IPA.
Please identify the word in each set that does not match, if there is one.
1. bought, lot, caught, post, cost
2. late, fret, wait, gait, freight
3. truss, dust, croon, none, flood
4. pin, ship, chin, fit, mint
5. billet, lichen, filling, millet, giblet
6. mice, nigh, jive, cry, wrist
7. best, knell, pew, check, crest
8. least, tread, peace, tree, ream
9. bough, crow, dough, flow, no
10. rule, pool, cute, boom, luck
Extra credit: dude, cute, butte, queue, muse

Other Vowels in American English
Besides the basic long and short vowels, there are other vowel sounds that you’ll want to be able to recognize by themselves and/or in diphthongs.

book, woof, pull, should
This is pronounced halfway between /u/ and /ʌ/. You may recognize it from the /oʊ/ diphthong.

(in some American dialects: dog, hot, coffee, caught)
The /ɔ/ sound is interchangeable with or replaces /ɒ/ in certain areas, such as the New York metropolitan area. It is also used in the /ɔɪ/ diphthong (coin, toy, ploy).

In American English, the /e/ sound only occurs in the diphthong //. It is much more prominent in Australian English, where /e/ and /ɪ/ taking the place of the /ɛ/ sound in words like bet, head, and dress.

spa, calm, ramen, lager, saga, Roald Dahl, Somalia
This is another vowel that is usually lengthened (ɑː) in American English. In British English it is used for many more words than would use the “ar”, /a/ or /æ/ sounds in American English.
(Examples of /ɑː/ in British English: answer, chant, march, craft)
The difference between ɑ and ɒ is the rounding of the lips.

The /a/ sound often becomes /æ/ in American English when alone. It mostly occurs in the diphthongs // and //.

You should be able to differentiate between these different vowel sounds, especially:
– between æ and ɛ (pat and pet)
– between ɑ and ɒ (spa and pot)
– between ʌ and ʊ (putt and put)

Below are some resources with audio so you can hear and compare the different vowel sounds.

IPA Vowel Charts and Audio
IPA vowels chart with audio
IPA Vowel Symbols (Macquarie University)
IPA and English Vowels (e Learn English Language)

IPA specific to Nepalese sound system
I found a few sites that transcribe the sounds of Nepal Bhasa into IPA and thought you might find them useful.
See if you can identify which sounds exist in Nepalese but not English, and vice versa.
Nepali alphabet, pronunciation and language (Omniglot)
Nepal Bhasa – Writing systems and grammar (Wikipedia)

IPA English Vowels Practice Quiz
IPA symbol quiz (York University)
This university is Canadian, which means some of its vowels are different (for example, I would make the “o” in command a schwa), but it’s a good exercise that incorporates the vowels that you should be familiar with.

Marking stress in IPA
To denote stress in IPA, put a straight apostrophe (not a curly one!) before the main stressed syllable in the word. Example: /ˈsɪləbəl/ – SYllable

Transcription Assignment
Please transcribe the words in bold into IPA. (Again, don’t worry too much about the consonants for now.)
Within each word you transcribe, mark the main stress syllable as described above.

Excerpt from “On Deferring and Bulking Up” (Oracle Magazine) http://bit.ly/mpY4xX

By default, constraints are implemented in an IMMEDIATE fashion—integrity constraints are checked immediately after the entire SQL statement has been processed.

Since Oracle8 Database, the database program has had the ability to defer constraint checking, which can be quite advantageous for various operations. One that immediately leaps to mind is the requirement to cascade an UPDATE of a primary key to the child keys. Many people claim that you should never need to do this—that primary keys are immutable (I am one of those people)—but many others persist in their desire to have a cascading UPDATE. Deferrable constraints make this possible.

1. data – refer to the pronunciation of the Star Trek character Data in Wikipedia.
2. quite – “kw”
3. claim – “c” in English is usually pronounced as /k/ or /s/
4. keys – Is the “s” pronounced as /s/ or /z/?

Answer Key

Long/Short Vowels Quiz 1
1. /bɪt/ – bit, bite
2. /boʊt/ – bot, boat
3. /beɪt/ – bat, bait
4. /tɪm/ – Tim, time
5. /dʌn/ – done, dune
6. /riːd/ – red, reed
7. /kæt/ – cat, Kate
8. /tuːb/ – tub, tube
9. /dɒt/ – dot, dote
10. /sɛt/ – set, seat

This entry was posted in International Phonetic Alphabet, IPA, Vowels. Bookmark the permalink.

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