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English Pronunciation         
           & English Spelling Rules
2007-present, by Leon of Leon's Planet


Phonics, Phonetics, Phonemics, Phonology, & Prosody


Dear Kids,


Look for me!
When you see me, you can listen to the sounds.

 

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It is helpful to review the content of this page multiple times (repetition is key).  You may freely (and free of charge) download all the audio files on this page and freely use them to teach your child or children.

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INTRODUCTION
to the nomenclature (for teachers):

This... ...is... ...for...


Q:  What's the difference between 'phonics', 'phonetics', 'phonemics' and 'phonology'?

A:  Here are the definitions:

Phonics:  the science that deals with the sound of the written symbols of a language, and often the teaching thereof

Phonetics:  [Education] the science that deals with the segmental sounds of the spoken language phoneme is the smallest unit of sound of a language]

Phonemics: [Linguistics]  the science of phonemes, and their relationships (i.e. changes based upon collocation).

"functioning as singular : that aspect of linguistics concerned with the classification, analysis, interrelation, and environmental changes of the phonemes of a language"  (Collins-Cobuild Online Dictionary)

Prosodic Features:  the 'suprasegmental' sounds (features) of a spoken language (i.e., intonation and voice quality)

          [ Teach Yourself Intonation of English (click here) ]

Phonology:  Phonetics / Phonemics / Phonics / Prosodic Features ALL together; Study of sounds in languages.

 

Kids, keep scrolling down.

&

 

North American Phonics

by Leon 2007-present

First of all, you need to know what the consonants and vowels are.

English Vowels:  a,e,i,o,u, and sometimes y, w

          When "y" or "w" appear at the beginning of a word or syllable, they are NOT vowels

English Consonants:  b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, x, z, (and w & y if occurring at the beginning of a word or syllable)

W Y
Consonant Vowel Consonant Vowel
will
would
twist
cow
crown
owe
yak
yes
you
boy
cycle
puppy

Vowel Sounds

 

(Phonics with Audio)

(IPA = International Phonetic Alphabet) (APA = American Phonetic Alphabet)

Short Vowel IPA APA Long Vowel  IPA APA
a a ei
e e e i:
i & y I i & y ai
o o ou
u u j u:

Click on me to download and listen to Mr Leon.

Click on me to download and listen to Mr Leon.

 

Irregular (strange) Vowel Sounds
APA = American Phonetic Alphabet
IPA = International Phonetic Alphabet

a u u & oo "Schwa"
(in unstressed syllables)
APA   //   APA   / / or // APA   // APA   //
IPA   /a/ IPA   /u:/ IPA   // IPA  //
father flu put ago
mama rude good cancel
wad dude wood pencil
tar suit hood button
dart fruit foot submit
ska crew soot subdue
Listen

click to download audio file

Listen

click to download audio file

Listen

click to download audio file

Listen

click to download audio file

NOTE:  The schwa // sound only appears in unstressed syllables.
NOTE:  The short u sound is almost the same as the schwa sound.
NOTE:  The sound is almost the same as the American short "o" sound.

 

 English Spelling Rules

Rule #1: CVC rule.
[CVC = Consonant-Vowel-Consonant]
The vowel is short!  (99% true)   [in CVCC the vowel is also short]  (99% true)

Examples: rat, hen, sit, not, cut  

(click to download audio file)


Rule #2: CVC + silent e rule
[Mr. Silent "e" says, "Change your sound!"]
The vowel is long!  (99% true)

Example: rate, here, site, note, cute   

(click to download audio file)


Rule #3: hard c / soft c rule
3a)  Hard "C" :  When c+a OR c+o OR c+u  exists, then "c" has the /k/ sound.
      (It doesn't matter if the vowel is short or long).

Examples: The con man can put a cane into a cone and a cub into a cube.

  

3b)  Soft "C" :  When c+e OR c+i OR c+y  exists, then "c" has the /s/ sound.
       (It doesn't matter if the vowel is short or long).

Examples: The city center has a circle.
More Ex.):  I will recite the cyclical cycles of circular cells.

  


Rule #4: k instead of c rule
K instead of "C" :  Why?  Because "c" changes it's sound when followed by e, i, and y, we needed a new letter in English.
When we need a hard "c" sound + e,i,y, then we have to use "k".  It doesn't matter if the vowel is short or long.

Examples: Kelly keeps kissing the kite, while Kym keeps kissing Kyle.

More Ex.):  Kyle the king is kind, even though he is only a kid.

What about K + a, o, u?!!!

Words that have k + a,o,u  are "loan words" from other languages.

Examples: kangaroo (Aus.Aboriginal word), Korea (Korean word), kung fu (Chinese word)



Rule #5: hard g / soft g rule
3a)  Hard "G" :  When g+a OR g+o OR g+u  exists, then "g" has the /g/ sound.
      (It doesn't matter if the vowel is short or long).

Examples: The bad guy got a gun and put a gag on the gal.
More Ex.):  The good guy gave the bad guy a gallon of gas in his galoshes.

  

3b)  Soft "G" :  When g+e OR g+i OR g+y  exists, then "g" has the /j/ sound.
       (It doesn't matter if the vowel is short or long).

Examples: The gentle gypsy put gel in her hair, then gyrated her hips.
More Ex.):  I like ginseng and ginger.

  


Exceptions: give, gill, get, geyser, girl

Why?  Because "C" has a friend named, "K", but "G" has nobody, nobody, but you!
Ha, ha, ha; I crack myself up!



Rule #6: double consonant rule
Explanation: There's a SHORT VOWEL before a double consonant.  (99% TRUE!!!)

 

Examples
(short vowels)
Non-examples
(long vowels)
Listen
(click on pic)
planner planer
dinner diner
hopping hoping
supper super

NOTE:  there are many exceptions to this rule.
SOME EXCEPTIONS:  caller, stalling, falling, etc.

ALSO:  Occasionally, there may be a single consonant after a short vowel sound.  It drives me crazy.
SOME EXAMPLES:  elephant, 



Rule #7: CV rule
Explanation: If the word ends in a vowel, it is usually long.

Examples: he, me, we, hi, go, no, so, flu, Katmandu, and Timbuktu.

Some super weird exceptions: to, do, ma, pa, ska, bla, bla, bla



Rule #8: final a = schwa sound ()
Examples:
Linda
pizza
Zebra
Korea
India
America

Rule #9:  Change the 'y' to 'i' and add 'es'/'er'/'est'

Explanation:  If there is a vowel before the 'y', as in 'day', just add 's' (days).

Examples:  day-days, play-plays, way-ways, toy-toys, boy-boys

Explanation:  If there is a consonant before the 'y', as in 'try', change the 'y' to 'i' and add 'es'.

Examples:  try-tries, cry-cries, dry-dries, fly-flies, sky-skies, country-countries

Explanation:  Change the 'y' to 'i' and add 'er' or 'est'

Examples:  happy-happier-happiest;  funny-funnier-funniest;  pretty-prettier-prettiest;  dirty-dirtier-dirtiest

 

Rule #10:  Change the 'f' to 'v' and add 'es'

Explanation: If there is an 'f' at the end of a word, we make it plural by changing the 'f' to 'v' and add 'es'.

Examples:  calf-calves, half-halves, wolf-wolves, wife-wives, knife-knives

 

Rule #11:  Change the 'y' to 'i' and add 'ed' or 'ing'

Explanation:  If there is a vowel before the 'y', just add 'ed' or 'ing'.

Examples:  play-played-playing, destroy-destroyed-destroying

Explanation:  If there isn't a vowel before the 'y', change the 'y' to 'i' & add 'ed' (but not for 'ing').

Examples:  dry-dried-drying, cry-cried-crying, try-tried-trying

Exceptions:  fly-flew-flying

 

Rule #12:  Change the 'ie' to 'y' when adding 'ing'

Explanation:  If the verb ends in 'ie', change the 'ie' to 'y' when adding 'ing'.

Examples:  die-died-dying,
                    lie-lied-lying (if 'lie' = to tell a falsehood)
                    tie-tied-tying

Exceptions:  lie-lay-lain (to put one's self in horizontal position on the floor or ground)

 

 Consonants

Part 2: Digraphs  (Ch & Th)

The symbols that we use for English today are from the Roman language. Yet English contains words from Old English, Middle English, German, Latin, Greek, Arabic, Italian, and French. This makes English pronunciation quite complicated. Of course, all of Europe uses Roman symbols, but the Romanization of each language is quite different from one country to another. Sometimes digraphs were invented to represent consonant sounds, which dont exist in Latin. For example, Latin doesnt have the // sound. In English, we represent this sound with the digraph Sh. In French, the same sound is represented with the digraph Ch. Sometimes digraphs were invented to distinguish the origin of the word. For example, the Greek letter /x/ (spelled: chi, pronounced, /kai/) is transliterated as the digraph Ch, but it sounds like /k/. Why did they do this? I dont know. It really makes things confusing. So in English, the digraph Ch has three sounds, depending on the origin of the word. See table below.

1. Ch Rule(s)

Original English words, which begin with "ch" are pronounced like ""

Greek-English words, which begin with "ch" are pronounced like a "k".

French-English words, which begin with "ch" are pronounced like ""

Examples:

Pure-English
 Words
Greek-English
 Words
French-English
 Words
"ch" = // "ch" = /k/ "ch" = //
champion ache champagne (wine)
chalk stomach chauffeur (driver)
cherry chemistry Cheri (name)
chip chiropractor chic (cool)
chop chorus / choir Chopin (name)
church Christmas -
- chrome -
- chronicle -

NOTE:  there are some exceptions, like the English word "channel" is from French, but it has the pure-English pronunciation.



2. Th Rule(s)

There are TWO "th" sounds:  / /    &   / /.

Notice that the latter symbol looks much like a "d".  That's because it sounds much like a "d", and many non-native English speakers (or Pidgin/Creole speakers), will substitute the "d" sound for the sound.  The former symbol looks unlike any other alphabetical letter in English (or Roman), and that's because it is unlike any other sound in English (or Roman).  Since the symbol is a Greek symbol, many words with that sound are from Greek (but not all).

Look at the diagrams (below) of the articulations of , , and d...

Practice "th" sounds by using

Tongue Twisters

(It is a Leon's Planet Page)

 

In the first diagram, we see that the tongue is clenched tightly between the teeth, blocking all air from going in or out.  Then, the tongue is drawn in very quickly, and by the laws of physics, air must go out, but also combined the intercostal muscles in the chest contracting, a very strong, almost plosive wind comes out of the mouth.  (some say it is a fricative, but I firmly believe it to be a plosive).

In the second diagram, the tongue is pressed up against the back of the upper teeth and alveolar ridge.  Like the , the initial articulation blocks the would-be hole between the open teeth, not allowing any air to go in or out.  BUT, unlike the , the movement forces the tongue out of the mouth between the teeth (slowly), and then slowly the tongue goes back in and down.  Because of the slow movement of the tongue, it is labeled a fricative.

In the third diagram, we see that the "d" movement is almost identical to the movement, except that the tongue doesn't actually leave the mouth.  The initial articulations are different as well, but not far apart, which would account for the similarity in sound.

In fact, many native speakers will use the "d" sound in place of the sound, when trying to be funny.

Example:  "Duh Bears!"  (Chicago Bears are a football team, and Chicagoans will often call them "Duh Bears!").

Also, many non-native English speaker, which speak a Creole of English, like in Jamaica, will use the "d" sound in place of the ;  AND, they will use the "t" sound in place of the sound.  This works well, because both "d" and are fricatives, and both "t" and are plosives.

 

 Vowel Teams

Part 3:  Vowel Teams (or Vowel Strings) with more than 1 sound

'ea' (short e sound);  bread, breath, dead, death, head, lead, read, wealth, 

'ea' (long e sound);   bead, beat, breathe, eat, feat, heat, lead, leak, meat, neat, read, treat, weak, wheat

'ea' (long a sound);  break, great, steak

 

'ew' ( /u:/ );  dew, blew, chew, crew, flew, grew, knew, lewd, mew, stew, 

'ew' ( /ju:/ );  few, new, pew

 

'oo' (short sound //);  book, foot, good, hood, hook, look, nook, rook, soot, took, wood, 

'oo' ( /u:/ ); balloon, boot, cartoon, goose, loose, moose, loop, loot, moon, noon, poop, root, stoop, toon, toot, 

'oo' (schwa sound //);  blood, flood

'oo' (long o sound);  boor, floor, door, moor

 

'ou' ('au' "short" sound);  bough, grouse, house, louse, mouse, plough

'ou' ('ou'  "long" sound);  though

'ou' (schwa sound //);  enough, rough, tough

 

'ow' ('au' "short" sound); brown, cow, how, now, wow

'ow' ('ou' "long" sound);  blow, flow, grow, know, low, sow, tow, 

 

If you liked this page, you'll get a Hoot out of my Tongue Twisters page.
It's so fun! (even for adults).  Just click on the image below.


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