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English Language Teaching


Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 1-6

Teaching the Five Ws About Rules of English Pronunciation: A Tutorial View for
English Learners (Episode I).

Bacem A. Essam[a],*

[a]

difficult to handle because of the emergence of differing


national standards of usage (in vocabulary, grammar,
pronunciation and spelling) in areas where large numbers
of people speak English as a first or second language.
That is to say, standard English is confined to textbooks.
British English (BrE) is the form of English used
in the United Kingdom. It includes all English dialects
used in the United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland,
Scotland and Wales). Received Pronunciation (RP) is
defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as
the standard accent of English as spoken in the south of
England. American English (AmE) is the form of English
used in the United States. It includes all English dialects
used in the United States. Since many regional dialects
and varieties exist, North American accent is cognitively
standardized. However, Many Englishes inhabit all over
the world including, of course, Canadian, Australian and
South-African Englishes. IELTS exams are supposed to be
unbiased. They might include any of the abovementioned
accents and so is the TOEFL exam. Relax; IELTS is
inclined to RP while TOEFL banks on North American
Accent.
This paper answers the five Ws about rules of
pronunciation in both British and American English. It
aims at familiarizing the reader with: Who is pronouncing
so? [Iconized ] What is that pronunciation? [Iconized ]
When is it pronounced like so? [Iconized ] Where is it
pronounced like so? [Iconized @] Why is it pronounced
like so? [Iconized ]. This presentation covers roughly
the base toward filtering the frequent errors. The next
episodes develop gradually into linking the change
of pronunciation that is bound to its sociolinguistic
background.

Department of English, Ain Shams University, Egypt.


*Corresponding author.
Received 18 September 2014; accepted 20 November 2014
Published online 26 November 2014

Abstract

From a very long dissertation, series of simplified


papers are extracted to tackle simply the English rules
of pronunciation. Given the complex and labyrinthine
nature of phonetics to a myriad of English learners, this
simplification is ushered to be the avant-garde publication
for all non-native English speakers. It pops out an
abundant package of technical terms to keep it simple and
straight. The theoretical part provides the reader shortly
with very few fundamental concepts before delving into
the practical section. Conventionally, previous papers
viewed their explanation using the classical sound pair,
contrasting voiced to unvoiced modes. To simplify, the
rules of pronunciation are fully explained letter by letter
using a narrative style where all involved sounds are
enrolled under each letter. The conclusion is postponed to
the finale for tutorial purposes.
Key words: American accent; British accent; Rules of
pronunciation; Phonetics; Phonetics manual
Essam, B. A. (2014). Teaching the Five Ws About Rules of English
Pronunciation: A Tutorial View for English Learners (Episode I)..
English Language Teaching, 1 (1), 1-6. Available from: http://www.
dcthink.org/index.php/elt/article/view/0002

INTRODUCTION
In Sociolinguistics, standard English denotes the
formal variety of English used as a communicative
norm throughout the English-speaking world. According
to Crystal (2003), the notion has become increasingly

1. STUDY OBJECTIVE
This study aims at simply teaching the basics of phonetics
and rules of pronunciation with compelling evidences

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Teaching the Five Ws About Rules of English Pronunciation: A


Tutorial View for English Learners (Episode I).

from the daily life toward a better interaction and


engagement with the readers interest.

a modernity requirement. Languages are malleable and


pliable of their users. The linguistic knowledge now is
stemmed from the linguistic corpora that bank on the
population speech and communication. Tracing changes
should not be ushered in highlighting and cutting away.
In the same vein, no regional accent can be despised. The
rejection or mocking attitude, exhibited by the Americans
when it comes to the British accent, or vice versa, is no
longer justifiable.
A predestined question poses itself Is written English
inoculated against hectic changes? Mair and Leech
in their chapter Current Changes in English Syntax
in the heart of The Handbook of English Linguistics
(2006, p.344) have a stated [a] recent striking case of
written language progressively adopting norms of spoken
language is the marked increase in the use of contracted
forms evidenced in the four corpora. This applies both
to verb contractions (as in Its, Ill) and to negative
contractions (-nt). The shift towards contracted forms is
much more dramatic in AmE, but is also strong in BrE.
They also postulated that if writers were not entirely free
in their choice and restricted by conventions of housestyle, a change in house-style would just be a belated
reection of actual change in community preferences.
Overall, such findings support the argument for a growing
tendency towards the colloquialization of written English.
Krug (2000, p.251) studied the development of the
modal expressions have got to/ gotta, have to/hafta
and want to/wanna in a number of diachronic and
contemporary corpora. Apart from concluding that they
all show signs of ongoing auxiliarization, that is, they
now display more of the formal characteristics of modal
auxiliaries, he also observed that frequency seems to be a
fundamental parameter in the genesis of the new category
[i.e. the modal expressions have got to/gotta, have to/hafta
and want to/wanna]
Again, Mair et al. (2003, p.49) have compared the
tag frequencies in two corpora, LOB (1961) and F-LOB
(1991), to investigate whether English has become more
nominal. They found that nouns, particularly proper
nouns, and adjectives were signicantly more frequent
in FLOB, as were noun + common noun sequences.
Leech (2003) examined a number of British and American
English corpora to show that there was a decline overall in
the use of central modals, and an increase in the frequency
of semi-modals.

2. LITERATURE REVIEW
Rogers in his book The Sounds of Language: An
Introduction to Phonetics (2012) has viewed a very
scholarly phonetic outlook with characterization of the
English sounds: an effort ushered within the scope of
articulatory phonetics.
Recently, Hancock (2012) has exerted a very nice
effort in his course-book English Pronunciation in Use:
Intermediate Self-study and Classroom Use therein
many illustrations and exercises are provided after every
pair of related sounds (e.g., /b/ and /p/ ). The coursebook gives numerous color-coded examples but it lacks
the justification and elaboration: the utility that the
reader would use to conclude similar exemptions from
the rules.
Sylven has discussed phonetics and the pronunciation
of English with an overview of the sound system of
English, stress and intonation, as well as sociolinguistics
in relation to pronunciation in The Ins and Outs of
English Pronunciation: An Introduction to Phonetics
(2013). The printed version went hand in hand with
an interactive e-version of the book to provide a good
opportunity to listen to the entire book as read by native
speakers.

3. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK:
3.1 The Philosophy of Language Changes and
Progression
Not only old, Middle, Early Modern and Modern
English are the four norms of study and categorization.
A subdivision of written and spoken English of all these
periods would deliver specific characterization. Moreover,
within the very modern age, spoken varieties are too
numerous to be entirely traced. Linguistic changes are
evident within the same generation of a certain locale.
The pronounced change is too prolific to be confined
to a generation. Changes are pronounced in various age
groups, social classes, educational advancement and other
multidimensional causative factors.
Modern computational linguists have shaken the
patrimonial linguistic traditions. As neither linguists nor
anyone else can teach the body politic how to speak, how to
tolerate or abide by anything; the discourse of addressing
people must not be: [In the name of linguistics Say
and Say not; or Do and Dont]. It is unacceptable
anymore. Linguists and polyglot have to show more
flexibility because the same vocabulary and denotation,
which had been used within the first millennium cannot
be safeguarded. How many native English speakers avoid
the Shakespearean! It would not be Shakespeares fault;

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3.2 Some Basic Definitions and Concepts


Universally, letters unite to produce a syllable. Syllables
articulate to give words. Words are flowing with a
sentence. Pronouncing properly depends on correctly
articulating and producing the written sounds. Regardless
of defining syllables and the simplest unit of sonority
and using many technical terms as nucleus, coda and
rhyme to describe the syllable; simplification is much
aimed. Accordingly, this paper will never try explaining

Bacem A. Essam (2014).


English Language Teaching, 1 (1), 1-6

the pronunciation rules using jargon such as articulatory


phonetics, phonemes, minimal pairs, allophones and
metathesis rules.
Very enough for me is to differentiate between
vowels [a, i, o, u, e], semi-vowels [w, y] and consonants
[every otherwise]. Pardon me for repeating words like
combination (as in combination of two vowels instead
of diphthong, or combination of three vowels instead of
triphthongetc.) because I want to plunge the jargon as
the critical minimum.
Notwithstanding, the explanation of the rules and
exemptions in every section will pertain to an optional joint
(for teachers and toppers) where many technical terms are
used. This is gonna be boxed and highlighted as beginners
do not have to examine any of these boxes for now.

have imposed more stipulation, keeping in mind the


easiness and appeal of the lexical produce to the reader,
which aimed at standardizing the numerously enrolled
charts. To standardize, the International Phonetic
Association as a standardized representation of the
sounds of oral language has issued a marvelous chart
the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to be used
by lexicographers, foreign language students, teachers,
linguists, speech-language pathologists, as well as
translators. The IPA is designed to represent only those
qualities of speech that are part of oral language: phones,
phonemes, intonation, and the separation of words and
syllables.
All recent dictionaries recruited the IPA: a strategy
that necessitated the good comprehension of this chart by
most of readers. In this paper, we need to modify it a little
bit to best serve our tutorial in both accents. The slightly
modified IPA chart will read as follows:
A- Consonants
/b/ bank /d/ do + AmE /t/ better, pretty /d/ judge
/f/ food /g/ gold /h/ hot /k/ class /l/ Long
/l/ Level /m/ master /n/ no // Sing, long /
p/ put /r/ marry /R, r / chauffeur /ofR, -r/ /s/
sit // shoe /t/ tank @ /t/ tree /t/ stroke, strike
// think //there /v/ love /w/wife /w/
when /y/ You /z/ zero, these // pleasure AME /t/
twenty- artist /t/ artist- // hot, copy, body.
B-Vowels
// bad/i/ need // win // father // all /
u/ ooze // get // book // hot (BrE) // run
// about // Bird /r/ Better /a/ ice // ear /
o/ below // boy /a/ now // air /ar/ tire
/ar/ flower/r/ employer

3.3 The Bad Need to a Transliterated English


Corpus
To date, there are no transliterated corpora. Had we
had created a transliterated corpus of English movies,
non-native speakers wouldve felt much confidence in
speaking out what they hear. Academically speaking,
descriptive approach to language has been increasingly
used in applied linguistics and language teaching.
Pedagogical materials and reference books for learners
embrace the ndings of an ever-increasing and diverse
body of corpus-based research. Research on nativespeaker corpora has yielded a more accurate and detailed
description of English which, in turn, informs the content
of pedagogical grammars and dictionaries, as well as the
design of syllabuses and course-books.
The Cobuild dictionary, for example, is based on a
corpus of 4.5 billion words gathered from websites,
newspapers, magazines and books published around
the world, and spoken material from radio, TV and
everyday conversations. It is monthly updated detecting
any linguistic change in a meaning of a word. This new
empirical trend has become dominant over the theoretical
prescriptive one. Similarly, a transliterated English
corpus based on real life data is needed for a successful
phonetic teaching. Knowledge driven from such a corpus
should bridge the gap between traditional phonetic books,
dictionary-transcriptions and what is really said by native
speakers. Noah Webster has spent forty years to pave
a golden way to the American accent by advancing the
American pronunciation of words to its lexical one. He
simply used the spelled pronunciation. (e.g, photo is
transcribed /fodo, foto/ ). Toward unifying the population
of the very diverse background and establishing the socalled American entity, language and linguistic tools
could not be inevitable.
Formerly, a large number of lexicographer used their
own charts which were annotated initially or eventually
at one side of the inner covers of the dictionary. This was
directed within the most convenient way to the author. By
time, project management and institutional interferences

4. THE PRACTICAL PART


Before starting up, I would like to notify you that the
long dash () will denote some letters, () marks Who
either British or American, () means What is that
pronunciation, () implies When this trend is most likely
and it characterizes a trend that vary within the same
locale, (@) signifies Where else this rule is applied, ()
designate why do we have to do so?, the dot separate
syllables and ( ) indicates a new rule. Moreover, the
parentheses ( ) indicate explanation, square brackets
incorporate spelled pronunciation, slashes / / clasp
IPA pronunciation, // encodes primary stress and //
denotes secondary stressed syllable. Lets have a go!
Before starting to tackle the various rules of
pronunciation, lets keep in mind that vowels have much
greater phonetic movements and junctures than semivowels and consonant. Semi-vowels act as consonant at
the beginning of the word; yet, they behave as vowels in
the middle and finale of words. (e.g., window: the first [w]
is a consonant and the last one is a vowel). In this section
we commence with the first consonant letter in English: [b]

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Teaching the Five Ws About Rules of English Pronunciation: A


Tutorial View for English Learners (Episode I).

Letter B:
This letter is always pronounced /b/ as in Bike /bak/,
Brad /brd/ and globe /glob/ where the /b/ sound
is normally heard. Sometime, this sound is not fully
heard:
() at the end of words especially when followed by
another word that begins with phonetically close sound
unless it were for emphatic purposes (e.g., bulb, A single
electric bulb dangled from the ceiling: the /b/ sound is
rarely heard)
The sound /b/ is always mute in the following
positions:
mb. () if the /b/ sound follows /m/ at the end
of a syllable or a word.
Examples are
bomb /bm, bm/ iamb /am/, dumb / dm/, jamb
/ dm /, lamb / lm /, limb /lm/, numb / nm/, plumb
/ plm/ succumb / skm / thumb / m / tomb / tum /
womb /wum/ and climb /klam/
() Every British // is pronounced // in AmE.
Accordingly, the symbol // is used to highlight this rule.
(e.g., yacht /jt/ meaning /BrE jt, AmE jt/)
() Adding a syntactic letter or a syllable doesnt reutter the mute letter.
Examples:
b omb /bm/: bombs /bmz/, bomb.er /bmr/,
bomb.ing /bm/

s imilarly numb: numbed, numbs, numbing, and


numbness
() Both BrE and AmE
() The /b/ sound is: voiced plosive articulating
bilabially. Similarly, the /m/ sound is voiced nasal sound
articulating bilabially (unless followed by /f/). Since,
the two sounds share the same voicing mechanism
and place of articulation; it will be of great difficulty
to pronounce them successively without relaxing the
vocal cords or reopening the lips. Accordingly, the
former sound is pronounced while the later one is
muted ().
 bt. () if the /b/ sound is succeeded by /t/ at the
penultimate of a syllable or a word.
Examples:
doubt /dt/ and debt /det/
() Both BrE and AmE
() Can you yell while closing your lips? The /
b/ sound is voiced plosive articulating bilabially while
the /t/ sound is voiceless plosive articulating alveolarly.
Hence, it is impossible to produce the two sounds
successively.
 btl. () if the /b/ sound is succeeded by /tl/, it
may and may not be pronounced: preferably muted.
Examples:
Subtle /stl/ subtlety /stlti/
() Both BrE and AmE

Modified IPA CHART I IPA Chart


/b/ bank/d/ do + AmE /t/ better, pretty /d/ judge /f/ food /g/ gold /h/ hot -- /k/ class /l/ Long /l/ Level /m/ master /
n/ no // Sing, long /p/ put /r/ marry /R, r / chauffeur /ofR, -r//s/ sit // shoe /t/ tank @ /t/ tree /t/ stroke,
strike // think //there /v/ love /w/wife /w/ when /y/ You /z/ zero, these // pleasure AME /t/twenty- artist /t/
artist // hot, copy, body.
// bad /i/ need // win // father // all /u/ ooze // get // book-- // hot (BrE) // run// about// Bird /r/
Better/a/ ice // ear /o/ below// boy /a/ now// air /ar/ tire /ar/ flower /r/ employer

Letter C:
This letter is mostly pronounced /k/ as in Car /kr/
Category /ktgri/ reluctant /rlktnt/ physics/fzks/.
Exceptions are numerous. It is, alone and combining,
pronounced /s/, //, /t/, or muted.
(1) The sound /s/ is always produced when the letter
C is followed by /, i , e/ and some lowering schwas /
/. That is to say when the letter C is succeeded by /
i, e, y & ae/]. Moreover, when the word is Anglicized
from French, originally spelling in its core
(e.g, faade):
Examples are: eccentricity eccentricity /k
sntrsti, k sn-/
Please notice that /y/ and /j/ in the IPA chart represent
different versions for the same sound and so do // and /e/.
that is to transcribe yelling /yl/ or previously /jel/
c + i, e, y & ae /s/, C + i, e, y & ae /s/ and
/s/.
Gazillions of examples strike our minds:
accidence /ksdns/, capacitance /kpstns/,
circumference /skm(p)frns/, city/sti/, circle /

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srkl/ bicycle /baskl/ circumstance/srkmstns/,


coincidence /konsdns/ incidence /nsdns/,
recalcitrance /rklstrns/, faade / fsd/ and caesar
(BrE) or Cesar (AmE) /si zr/.
() cae or, generally speaking, ae in BrE
writings were shortened to ce and e respectively.
(e.g., caephlosporins, aetiology and anaemia in BrE texts
are spelled cephalosprins, etiology and anemia in AmE
writings.
() Both BrE and AmE
Complicating matters, the letter [c] can combine
with more than one letter. Such combinations include
cia, cea, cious and cien. Examples include
special, ocean, delicious and efficient.
It will cost you a little more effort. Please, pay
attention!
Given that c + i, e, y /s/, c + ia, ea, ya, iou,
eou // () if the letter [c] that sounds /s/ is followed
by either //, /e/ or /e/ and // at the same syllable, the
combination of the three sounds will be // with the //
muted.

Bacem A. Essam (2014).


English Language Teaching, 1 (1), 1-6

() Both BrE and AmE


Examples read:
Beneficial /benfl/ beneficiary /benfieri/
commercial /kmrl/ crucial /krul/ facial /fel/
financial /fnnl/ judicial /dudl/ maxillofacial /
mkslofel/ official /fl/ patrician /ptrn/
prejudicial /preddl/ provincial /prvnl/ racial /
rel/ sacrificial /skrfl/ social /sol/ socialist /
solst/
Ocean /on/, cetacean /sten/ and crustacean /
krsten/.
Gracious /gres/, auspicious /sps/, judicious /
duds/, delicious /dls/, conscious /kns/ and
malicious /mls/.
Amylaceous /m le s/, argillaceous /rdles/,
butyraceous /byutres/, carbonaceous /krbnes/,
curvaceous/krves/, foliaceous/folies/,
papyraceous /pp re s/, sebaceous /sbes/ and
solanaceous /solnes/
() Both BrE and AmE
This rule is not applicable if cia was divided
into two syllables ci.a. It occurs in the following
cases:
cia was followed by te, ted, tive or tion. and
located at the end of the word/syllable:
Examples are: associate associate /v. so iet, -si-;
n., adj., so i t, -et, -si-/
()Associate /v. so iet,n., adj., so i t, -et/ is
BrE and Associate /v. so siet,n., adj., so si t, -et/
is AmE. () ciat(e/ed/ive/ion): BrE /i/ while AmE is ()
mostly /si/ save for Pronunciation.
Pronunciation/prnnsien/, association /
sosien, -si-/, associative /soietv, -si-/,
dissociate /dsoiet, -si-/, dissociative /dsoietv/,
emaciated /meietd/
 cia was preceded by [s] and located at the
beginning of the word/syllable: sciatic nerve /
satk/

 cien was preceded by [s] and located at the


beginning of the word/syllable: science /sans/,
scientific /santfk/ and scientist /santst/.
() Both BrE and AmE
() lity versus lty: The AmE uses lty to convert
adjectives into noun while the BrE spelling is lity.
Therefore, the noun of the adjective special will be
specialty (AmE) and speciality (BrE)with the resulting
change in syllabification: speciality (speciality),
specialty (specialty). This would, in turn, produce two
different pronunciations /BrE spilti/ and /AmE
splti/
The combination [ch] is either pronounced /t/, //, /k/,
or muted.
[ch] is always pronounced /t/: church /trt/ search
/srt/, searching /srt/, chat /tt/ chatting /
tt/, chair /ter/
[ch] is consistently /k/ within the nomenclature of
school subjects, academia, and technical sciences:
technology /teknldi/, psychology /sakldi/,
psychiatry /skatri/, chemistry /kemstri,
kemtri /.
[ ch] is //,without fail, in loanwords of French
origin: chauffeur /ofR/, chef /ef/, machine /
min/ and machinery /minri/
() Both BrE and AmE
[ ch] is always /k/ when preceded by s- (sch--):
school /sku:l/ and schizophrenia /sktsfrini ,
-friny/ except for schedule /AmE skdul, -l, -ul;
BrE dyul, d ul/ and schism /sz m, skz-/
[ch] is systematically silent in loan words of (West)
Germanic origin like the Dutch word: yacht /
jt /
() The [ch] is silent in such words because not all
English speaker cannot pronounce that glottal sound that
can be heard in either the German auch /ax/ or Scots
loch /lx/
() Both BrE and AmE

Modified IPA CHART IPA Chart

/b/ bank -- /d/ do + AmE /t/ better, pretty -- /d/ judge -- /f/ food -- /g/ gold -- /h/ hot -- /k/ class -- /l/ Long -- /l/ Level -- /m/ master -- /n/ no -// Sing, long-- /p/ put -- /r/ marry -- /R, r / chauffeur /ofR, -r/-- /s/ sit -- // shoe -- /t/ tank -- /t/ tree -- /t/ stroke, strike -- // think -//there -- /v/ love -- /w/wife -- /w/ when -- /y/ You -- /z/ zero, these // pleasure AME /t/twenty- artist -- /t/ artist- // hot, copy, body.
// bad-- /i/ need -- // win -- // father -- // all -- /u/ ooze -- // get -- // book-- // hot (BrE)-- // run-- // about-- // Bird -- /r/ Better-/a/ ice-- // ear-- /o/ below-- // boy -- /a/ now --// air -- /ar/ tire -- /ar/ flower-- /r/ employer

all the stochastic vocalizations. This effort is recruited for


avoiding and edifying the fatal pronunciation mistakes
among English learners.

CONCLUSION
To conclude, the standard variety of English, after
the global use of English as L1 and L2, cannot be
standardized any more. This paper addresses the
phonological variants of English sounds with reference to
the Received Pronunciation of the British accent as well
as the North American accent. It descriptively analyzes
authentic data of spoken English. Throughout this episode,
the first two consonants are discussed in detail, enrolling

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to acknowledge my professor and redactor:
Dr Khaled El Gamry and EsraMoustafa for their help
and guidance. My hearties acknowledgement is, surely,
extended to my old friends: Abigail, Martha stone,

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Teaching the Five Ws About Rules of English Pronunciation: A


Tutorial View for English Learners (Episode I).

Michelle Kernel and Simon Willis for benevolently


teaching me about accents and lexicography.

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