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Phonetics.

1
st
Year.
Julio Torrecillas Ramírez
1

English Vowels. Contrasting elements.

• Vowels are determined by changes in position of the lips, tongue and palate.
• These changes can be very slight and difficult to detect.
• In English, vowels can also glide into (move quietly) one another to form
diphthongs and even triphthongs.

/i: /


Approximate Castilian Production.

Being a long vowel, it almost sounds like a diphthong in RP. It is long enough to be
one, but it does not actually glide into another vowel sound. The lips are only slightly
spread. It is found in the tonic Castillian /i/ accompanied by dental or palatal
consonants.
e.g. capilla, castillo, sí (emphatic), chino

Quantity is a very important distinctive feature of this phoneme; to produce this
vowel give approximately double duration to the approximate Castilian phoneme.

b. Most important spellings that represent /i:/

ee see, feed, bee.
ea read, be
ie shield, field.
e scene [si:n], be, these.
eo people
ey key
ay quay [ki:]

c. Minimal Pairs.

/ i: / in contrast to /i/
Phonetics. 1
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Julio Torrecillas Ramírez
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read
peach
leap(saltar)
seen
feet
sheep
beach
bean

rid
pitch
lip
sin
fit
ship
bitch
bin
/ i /
Approximate Castilian Production.

When you say this vowel sound, the front of the tongue is raised towards the
palate. The position of the whole tongue is relatively high in the mouth, making it a
closed vowel. The lips are slightly spread.
In the first stages of learning English, Spanish-speakers usually have difficulties
in distinguishing / i / and / i: /, since both are varieties but don’t make any difference in
meaning.

We can find an approximate production when the Castilian /i/ is in unstressed
position:

e.g. Último, cursi, pitar.

The Castilian vowel is more closed and tenser, nevertheless; as the /i / English /i
/ is more relaxed and lightly more centralized, some perceive it as / e /, especially in
words like these:

e.g. milk, fill, pin.

Most important spellings that represent /i:/

i, y rich, lady, body, milk, tin.

In unstressed position it can be represented by any vowel.

- Language [‘l+qgw±d¿],
- wanted [‘wontid]/[wa:ntid],
- Money [‘mzn±],
- minute.[‘m±n±t]

c. Minimal Pairs.

Phonetics. 1
st
Year.
Julio Torrecillas Ramírez
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sit
bid
rid
will
till
fill
built

Set
bed
red
well
tell
fell
belt


/ e /



Approximate Castilian Production.

The Castilian /e/ is usually more closed and tenser that the English equivalent.
Nevertheless you can get a more open realization in the following cases:

1. when it is in contact with the vibrant / r /: cerro,reto.
2. followed by / x / (jota):
3. diphthong / ei /:

b. Most important spellings that represent /e/

e bed, have, pen, sell.
ea head, dead
a many, any.

/æ /



Approximate Castilian Production.

It is the lowest front vowel of English. It is a short, lax, unrounded vowel, a little
higher than the cardinal vowel [a].

In Castilian there is not a similar vowel, on the other hand it is in the speech of
many valencianos. The most approximate sound can be found in syllables containing
a palatal consonant.

e.g. chanza, wide, plain, failure.
A didactic resource to get an approach would be to pronounce the phoneme /e/
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Julio Torrecillas Ramírez
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with a much bigger separation between the jaws.

b. Most important spellings that represent

a mass, flash, match, lamp, hand.

c. Minimal Pairs.

/æ /

/e /

flash
mass
rack
bad
bag
man
pat

flesh
mess
wrech
bed
beg
men
pet

/a: /

Approximate Castilian Production.

There is no similar vowel in Castilian; this vowel and / æ / and / z / are a focus of
confusion for beginners. Some Spanish people pronounce / g / as a guttural instead
of velar, specially between vowels, this /a/ is similar to the English corresponding.
• e.g. haga, traga, saga, ...

The important aspect is to give double quantity, because it’s a long vowel.

b. Most important spellings that represent

It is normally spelt by the letter a followed by a silent r in syllable or word-final
position: jar, carpet. It is often followed by a silent l in words like palm, calm, balm.
Sometimes f or ff can follow: after, staff; or ss: pass, class, or s or n followed by
another consonant: past, demand; or th in word-final position: path, bath or,
exceptionally, other letters: aunt [a:nt], Berkeley [ba:klı], hearth [ha:], father [fa:],
sergeant [sa:d¿e nt].

a ask, grass, car.
er,ear clerk, heart
al half, calm.
au aunt, laugh

c. Minimal Pairs.


/ a: /

/æ /
Phonetics. 1
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March
lark
bark
carp
Barn

match
lack
back
cap
ban

/o/

Approximate Castilian Production.

For the realization of / o / the articulation organs maintain very similar positions to
those of / a: /, with the difference that the lips can be lightly widened for / o /. Another
difference is the double duration of / a: / and their potion.

e.g. Portal, cortar, cordial, loro.

b. Most important spellings that represent

o not, box, dog.
a want, what, watch
au because
ou cough

c. Minimal Pairs.


/ o /

/z /

cop
shot
lock
strong
mock
long
gone

cup
shut
luck
strung
muck
lung
gun

/: /
For many English speakers in the
opposition between /o / and / / quantity
is a fundamental feature. In these cases,
the Castilian realizations are the same
ones that those presented when speaking
of / o /.

Approximate Castilian Production.

But it is evident that / / it is a much more open vowel that the next Castilian
Phonetics. 1
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Julio Torrecillas Ramírez
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one, and nowadays more English people do not base the opposition on quantity but on
other features, as, for example, rounding of the lips, almost null in /o/. To many
Spanish-speakers it sounds more proximate to /u/ than to /o /.

b. - Most important spellings that represent /o:/

or horse
oor poor
ore more
aw saw
oar board.
ou bought
our four.
a all

c. Minimal Pairs.


/ o: /

/o /

caught
sport
short
stalk

cot
spot
shot
stock

/ 0 /



Approximate Castilian Production.

Articulation: The tongue and jaw are raised as the back of the tongue is used to
articulate this vowel. Hence it is a back, close (high) vowel.

Approximate Castilian Production.
The Spanish sound is produced at the back and it is more tenser. A similar sound can
be heard when it is next to “r” and “l”: hurto, pulso, …

b. Most important spellings that represent.
o full put.
oo book, look.
ou could, should.
o woman.

/ u: /

Phonetics. 1
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Production: This vowel is towards the back and is a close sound. The lips are
only moderately rounded.

Approximate Castilian Production:

It is more closed and tenser than the Spanish “u” ( apart from being longer)

b. Most important spellings that represent that represent / u: /

oo spoon, shoot, troop, boom.
ou soup, route
o do
u June, flu.
ew, ue, ui, oe jew, blue, suit, shoe

c. Minimal Pairs.

/ u: /

/ 0/


fool
Luke
cooed
shoed
pool

full
Look
could
should
pull
/ z/
Articulation:This is a central vowel, and one which is more open than mid-ranged. The
lip position is a neutral one.

Approximate Castilian Production:
This phoneme together with /a:/ and // is a focus of confusion for Spanish speakers
who can assimilate it to an “a” sound. This sound seems to be more approximate to the
Spanish “A” when it is accompanied by velar consonants: regate, coja, jaque, …


b. Most important spellings that represent.

u sun, run, fun.
o won, come, done.
ou country, southern, young.
oo blood, flood.


c. Minimal Pairs.


z

æ
Phonetics. 1
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cup
but
run
some
uncle
much

cap
bat
ran
Sam
ankle
match



/z/

/e /

money
but
won
done

many
bet
when
den

/:/ - /:/

Approximate Castilian Production.

o There is no similar sound in Spanish.
o This is a central vowel. The lips are not rounded.
o A didactic procedure would be to produce a Spanish “e” and, little by little,
to approximate it to an “o”, not reaching it.

b. Most important spellings that represent.

ir first
er serve
ear earth
ur nurse
or word
our journey

c. Minimal Pairs.



/s: /

/e /

bird
learned
turn
burn
world

bed
lend
have
Ben
wed.

/e /
Approximate Castilian Production.
o The schwa is an unstressed central vowel and is the most common vowel
to appear in English.
Phonetics. 1
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o There is no similar sound in Spanish. We tend to assimilate it to an
unstressed “e” when it is not final (another- 'nzðe)
o In final position we assimilate it to an “a”. (letter)

Spellings.
o It has no regular character to represent it.
o Any vowel or group of vowels may, in unstressed position, represent //.

e.g. famous [feimes], woman [w0men], letter [lete], cupboard [kzbed], should
[¸ed]

Minimal Pairs.

As it never occurs in stressed position, there are no contrastive elements. On the
other hand it is fundamental for the correct formation of rhythm in English.