An Introduction to Pronunciation Teaching

/enintre 'd/k[

si 'ei[

by George Vassilakis
/baido:dvasi 'lqkis/
Table of Contents
0. Purpose and Intended Readership of this Document 1
1. Introduction 1
2. Priorities in pronunciation teaching 2
2.1. Goals and models 2
2.2. Overall Approach 4
3. Teacher Knowledge and Awareness 5
4. Segmental Phonology 6
4.1. Vowels 6
4.2. Consonants 9
5. Suprasegmental Phonology 14
5.1. The nature of the syllable 14
5.2. Strong and weak syllables 17
5.3. Word stress 19
5.3.1. The nature of word stress 19
5.3.2. Stress in Simple Words 21
5.3.3. Stress in Complex Words 22
6. Problems of Greek Speakers 24
Appendix A: The International Phonetic Alphabet 27
Appendix B: Greek Vowels and Consonants 28
Appendix C: Underhill's Phonemic Chart for English 29
0. Purpose and Intended Readership of this Document
This text was specially written for teachers of English as a foreign language in
Greece who are interested in helping their learners improve their pronunciation but
feel that they themselves do not have adequate knowledge of the phonological
systems of English to be able to help effectively. It is hoped that of the teachers who
belong to this group, both those whose mother tongue is English and those who
have different mother tongues will benefit from studying the text and doing the
accompanying tasks.
It should be clear that this is a very introductory text and, as such, it may
occasionally contain information that is very basic and even oversimplified. The aim
is to make teachers more aware of the phonological systems of the language, not to
give them all of the information that a teacher needs in order to be able to teach
pronunciation. The focus is thus on developing teachers' initial awareness, rather
than equipping them with the tools they need in the classroom.
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1. Introduction
It is common knowledge that pronunciation teaching in Greece is the poor
relation of most ELT programmes. Although course books, especially in the last few
years, typically include pronunciation practice among their activities, most EFL
teachers in our country equally typically choose not to focus on pronunciation,
believing that the time gained in this way can more usefully be invested in more
grammar practice. And yet, pronunciation is assessed in all of the exams the
students are asked to take, while misunderstandings in spoken communication often
arise as a result of poor pronunciation!
There are a number of reasons why so little attention is paid to pronunciation and
they relate to both teachers and learner, as well as the materials that are available
for teaching pronunciation:
• Most teachers do not themselves have an adequate level of awareness of the
phonology of English to enable them to feel confident about teaching
pronunciation. At the same time, many feel (sometimes wrongly) that their
own phonological performance is not an appropriate model for learners to
imitate; as a result, they avoid teaching or correcting pronunciation altogether.
• EFL learners are also not always as highly motivated to improve their
pronunciation as they are with regard to other aspects of their spoken
production. It is true that pronunciation is closely linked to identity and it is
therefore quite understandable that some learners, especially adults, simply
do not wish to sound like native speakers. It is equally true, however, that
poor pronunciation is often to blame not only for communication breakdowns
due to the unintelligibility of what the learner is trying to say, but also for
problems in understanding what other speakers of English (native or
nonnative) are saying,
• Finally, pronunciation teaching materials, in spite of the recent publication of a
number of specialist titles, are still quite sparse, while coursebooks as a rule
fail to pay systematic attention to the development of pronunciation skills. In
addition, most of the pronunciation activities to be found in teaching materials
are based on a behaviourist drill-and-kill paradigm, which inevitably leads to
boredom among students and teachers alike. While there is clearly a variety
of activity types based on more sound pedagogic foundations in other areas
of the curriculum, pronunciation teaching seems to have changed very little in
the last fifty years.
However, a more principled approach to the teaching of pronunciation, coupled
with a higher level of awareness of the English phonological system among
teachers, could fairly easily lead to tangible results.
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2. Priorities in pronunciation teaching
2.1. Goals and models
The first thing to determine before we start thinking about the actual teaching of
pronunciation is what our goals are. Obviously, expecting learners to develop a
native or near-native pronunciation is quite a problematic goal. It is problematic
because (a) a native pronunciation expectation is usually unrealistic and often quite
irrelevant to the learners' needs; and (b) there is no such thing as a single, uniform
way in which native speakers of English pronounce their language: what is 'native'
and acceptable in one geographical and social context may be alien and/or
unacceptable in another. The issue of what kind of pronunciation we hope the
learners will develop and to what extent we expect them to develop it are therefore
more complicated than they might seem at first sight.
As far as the question of the model accent which we should teach our learners is
concerned, tradition and expediency have more or less dictated a decision to EFL
teachers in Greece: the vast majority of teaching materials (books, tapes, CDs, ELT
videos and multimedia) and all the major learners' dictionaries use the accent which
came to be known as RP (: Received Pronunciation), and which is nowadays often
called BBC English. This is the accent that has traditionally been taught in most of
Europe since the nineteenth century! The reasons why this accent was chosen,
although it is only spoken by a tiny minority of Southern English people, may to a
certain extent be political, but what is still true is that it is the most comprehensively
described accent, the one we therefore know the most about, and the one that is not
usually associated with the place its speakers come from, but rather with their level
of education and, often, social class. It is, in other words, quite a prestigious accent.
However, two factors have to be borne in mind with regard to our choice of BBC
English as the model accent to teach:
• Although BBC English can serve as a model for production (but still see
below), learners are likely to be exposed to a variety of other accents when
they eventually use English to communicate, native (including many other
British, American, Antipodean, African and Indian accents) as well as
nonnative. It is essential therefore that they should be trained in
understanding a number of accents and that we should not limit their
exposure to BBC English. Moreover, if their teacher is a native speaker
whose accent differs from BBC English, she or he should not attempt to
change her or his accent to make it sound more like BBC English, although
she or he should be aware of the systematic differences between BBC
English and her/his own accent.
• The goal cannot be for the learners themselves to develop all features of
BBC English to the extent that they might be mistaken for a native speaker!
Apart from the fact that for most this would be an impossible goal, we have
to also realise that many learners do not wish to sound like native speakers
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but prefer to retain their own ethnic and linguistic identity even when using a
foreign language. At the same time, we have to bear in mind that most
learners can expect to have to use their English not just with native speakers
(who, of course, use many different accents), but also with other nonnative
speakers from different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. The main goal
should therefore be for the learners to develop a pronunciation that is
intelligible and that does not stigmatise them.
The goals of intelligibility and non-stigmatisation need to be defined so that we
can set pronunciation goals. With regard to intelligibility, a useful distinction has
recently been drawn Cruttenden 2001 between minimal general intelligibility and high
acceptability. Minimal general intelligibility refers to a pronunciation which shares a
number of features with the model such that the listener can understand the
message if given enough time to tune in to the speaker's pronunciation. High
acceptability, on the other hand, refers to a pronunciation that is similar enough to
the model for listeners to be able to understand the message easily without having to
rely on the context and without the speaker betraying their regional origin too
blatantly. Whereas minimal general intelligibility would be an appropriate goal for
most learners up to a high intermediate level, high acceptability is a more suitable
aim for advanced learners or foreign teachers of English.
The notion of non-stigmatisation has to do with the sort of reaction that a
learner's pronunciation may cause on the part of native listeners. Pronunciation
problems that might lead to any of the following should be given a high priority
because of the fact that they might harm the relationship between speaker and
listener and the listener's perception of the speaker as a person:
listener impatience
listener irritation
the assumption that the speaker is of a low educational or social
the assumption that the speaker is being impolite
It is usually mistakes in rhythm and intonation, rather than the pronunciation of
individual sounds, that lead to stigmatisation as defined here. Therefore, rhythm and
intonation should generally be considered high priorities in pronunciation teaching.
2.2. Overall Approach
Having determined our goals with reference to the learners' wishes, level and
communicative needs, we then need to consider what approach we will adopt to the
teaching of pronunciation, whether, that is, our approach will be systematic,
integrated, remedial, or a combination of the three Celce-Murcia et al 1996.
A systematic approach to the teaching of pronunciation would require that a
pronunciation syllabus is drawn up, which is pre-determined and contains a
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specification of phonological phenomena to be taught, in dedicated pronunciation
lessons or 'slots' during the year. Thus, if a class devotes, for example, 20 minutes a
week to the development of pronunciation, and 'covers' items like the various
individual sounds, intonation patterns, word stress, etc. in some sort of pre-
determined order, the teacher can be said to have adopted a systematic approach.
An integrated approach takes advantage of the opportunities present for the
presentation and practice of pronunciation phenomena in lessons that are not
primarily aimed at pronunciation development. For example, it involves doing a
pronunciation slot when the main aim of the lesson is the presentation of the past
tense, focusing on the pronunciation of the -ed ending; doing pronunciation work on
the new vocabulary; isolating and practising pronunciation phenomena from a
recording previously used for listening skills development.
A remedial approach to pronunciation teaching focuses retroactively on the
pronunciation problems that the particular learners comprising the class have been
diagnosed to have. It usually involves recording the learners' production in order to
analyse it and diagnose problems, then devising specific activities that will help
learners overcome these problems.
Clearly, all approaches have advantages and it would be unfair to the learners to
use any one of them exclusively. It is therefore recommended that we should adopt a
combined approach with the following characteristics:
• Any opportunity for pronunciation work that arises during grammar,
vocabulary, speaking or listening work should be taken advantage of.
• Specific pronunciation phenomena that have been found to be of particular
difficulty to Greek learners should form part of our pronunciation syllabus, to
be covered in 10-minute weekly slots, preferably during the 'oral hour.'
• Individual learners' problems, as diagnosed through interaction and
recordings (audio and/or video) should be dealt with reactively, especially at
intermediate and advanced levels, when there is likely to be some mismatch
between the learners' overall language competence and their phonological
However, to implement such an approach, teachers need to know their
phonology in the same way as they are expected to know their grammar!
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3. Teacher Knowledge and Awareness
Few language teachers would feel comfortable without a sound knowledge of the
grammar and the vocabulary systems of the language they teach. Yet, most
teachers do not mind knowing very little about the phonological system of the
language. Of course, it is clear that it is usually not pedagogically desirable to give
learners detailed explanations of either grammatical or phonological phenomena.
However, the teacher ought to have that kind of knowledge to be able to explain
what kind of problems the learners have, why they have these problems and how
she or he can help them overcome such problems. At the same time, it will be
necessary for teachers to have explicit knowledge of the grammar, vocabulary and
phonology of the language so as to make informed decisions about what to teach
(and, more importantly, what not to teach) at each level and how to simplify what is
to be taught.
Thus, most teachers would not only be able to understand a grammatical
statement like the following, but they would also agree that this sort of knowledge is
essential to a teacher:
The passive voice verb phrase is formed by using t he appropriat e form
of t he verb t o be, followed by t he past part iciple of t he main verb.
And yet, very few teachers would understand, much less appreciate the
relevance of phonological statements like the following to our profession:
The lack of aspirat ion of syllable- init ial fort is plosives in accent ed
syllables can oft en lead t o t hem being perceived as t he equivalent
voiced lenis plosives.
In the case of phonology, explicit knowledge and language awareness may
actually be more important than in the case of grammar, as problems in
pronunciation often require remediation of a type which would be impossible without
such knowledge; for example, learners may need to be taught what the difference is
between the way a sound is pronounced in their native language and in English in
terms of how the sound is pronounced, how the tongue moves, etc.
Thus, English teachers need to have at least some basic knowledge of how the
various distinctive sounds in the English language are produced, how sounds are
affected by stress and lack of stress (or unstress), what tunes are used to convey
different types of meaning, etc. They may also find it helpful to know something
about the phonology of the native language of the learners they teach so that they
can identify differences and anticipate potential problems.
The part of the phonological knowledge base that analyses sounds and the way
they are classified and realised in the language is called segmental phonology, while
the part that analyses phenomena above the word level, such as stress, rhythm, and
intonation, is known as suprasegmental phonology. In the next sections, we will
review some very basic terminology and principles of both segmental and
suprasegmental phonology
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4. Segmental Phonology
The distinctive categories of sound (phonemes) in a language are normally
divided into two main categories: (a) the vowels, i.e. the sounds that are produced
when there is no obstruction to the airflow passing through the windpipe (trachea)
and out of the mouth; and (b) the consonants, i.e. the sounds that are produced
when some form of obstruction occurs in the airflow.
4.1. Vowels
Among the vowels, some are monophtongs, i.e. they sound like one sound, and
some are diphthongs, i.e. they consist in a glide from one sound to another.
Examples of monophthongs are the vowel sounds found in the words hat, run, far
and dog (respectively: /æ/, ///, /q:/ and /p/ while examples of diphthongs are the
vowel sounds in the words cake, toy, high and beer (respectively: /ei/, /oi/, /ai/ and
/ie/). We will mainly be concerned here with the monophthongal vowel sounds.
In describing the articulation of vowels, it is important to describe the following:
the horizontal position of the tongue
the vertical position of the tongue
the lip position
the typical duration (length) of the vowel
By varying one or more of the above while allowing the airstream to flow
unobstructed, we can produce different vowels. Greek has a fairly uncomplicated
vowel system, consisting of only five vowels: /i/, /u/, /s/, /o/, /q/. English, however,
has a fairly complicated system consisting of twelve distinct vowel phonemes as well
as eight diphthongs: /i:/, /i/, /o/, /u:/, /e/, /e/, /s:/, /o:/, /æ/, ///, /q:/, /p/, /ie/, /ei/, /oe/, /oi/
, /eo/, /ee/, /ai/ and /ao/. The following tasks, adapted from Underhill 1994, will help
us explore how the position of the articulators, and especially the tongue, can
determine the quality of the English vowels we produce.
Task 1: Horizontal Tongue Position
Say the vowels in bee /i:/ and pool /u:/ a few times. Then say the vowels slowly, the one after the
other, alternating between the two. In what direction does your tongue move? Which vowel is closer
to the front and which is closer to the back of the mouth? Do the same for the following pairs of
vowels. Which vowels would you describe as front and which as back?
• /e/ as in the word let and /o:/ as in the word saw
• /æ/ as in the word pat and /b/ as in the word pot
Now try gliding from each of the above front vowels to the back very slowly and notice what
sounds are produced while your tongue is moving towards the back. Next, say the vowels in each
series below without stopping. Which vowels would you describe as neither front nor back, but
• /i:/ /t/ as in bit /o/ as in took /u:/
• /e/ /e/ as in the first sound of ago /s:/ as in bird /o:/
• /æ/ /t/ as in luck /o:/ as in part /b/
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Task 2: Vertical Tongue Position
Say the vowels in bee /i:/ and pat /æ/ a few times. Then say the vowels slowly, the one after the
other, alternating between the two. In what direction does your tongue move? Which vowel requires
that the tongue is close to the roof of the mouth and which vowel requires that the tongue is low, near
the bottom of the mouth and the mouth is as open as possible?
Do the same for the following pairs of vowels. Which vowels would you describe as close and
which as open?
• /t/ as in the word bit and /t/ as in the word luck
• /o/ as in the word took and /o:/ as in the word part
• /u:/ as in the word pool and /b/ as in the word pot
Now try gliding from each of the above close vowels to the open ones very slowly and notice
what sounds are produced while your tongue is moving towards the bottom of the mouth.
Next, say the vowels in each series below without stopping. Which vowels would you describe as
neither close nor open, but mid?
• /i:/ /e/ as in bit /æ/
• /t/ /e/ as in the first sound of ago /t/
• /o/ /s:/ as in bird /o:/
• /u:/ /o:/ as in the word saw /b/
Task 3: Lip position
Say each of the above vowels again while looking at a mirror. Which of the three lip positions
below corresponds to each vowel?
• spread
• neutral
• rounded
Task 4: Length
Say the following words. Underline the word in each pair whose vowel is longer.
• pick /ptk/ peak /pi:k/
• pull /pol/ pool /pu:l/
• bed /bed/ bird /bod/
• luck /ltk/ lark /lo:k/
• pot /pbt/ port /po:t/
The following diagram (called the vowel quadrilateral) shows the main vowels in
BBC English. To understand how it works, imagine that the left hand side of the
diagram represents the front of the mouth, while the right represents the back of the
mouth. The top represents the roof of the mouth. Thus, /i:/ is a close front vowel, //
is a mid centre vowel and // is an open back vowel.
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Front Centre Back
Here is, then, a summary of characteristics of the English vowels in this accent:
Vowel Tongue (Horizontal) Tongue (Vertical) Lips
i: front close spread
i front-centre close loosely spread
o back close loosely rounded
u: back close rounded
e front mid very loosely spread
e centre mid relaxed and neutral
s: centre mid neutrally spread
o: back mid-open rounded
æ front open neutrally open
/ centre open neutrally open
q: back open open
p back open lightly rounded
4.2. Consonants
As we stated above, consonants characteristically obstruct the air flow. This
sometimes involves a complete stoppage, so that no air can escape through the
mouth or nose, but it can also involve different degrees of obstruction or delay in the
release of air.
In describing the articulation of consonants, the following features seem to be
particularly important:
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the presence or absence of voicing (= vocal fold vibration) as the air passes
through the vocal folds
the force with which the consonant is articulated
the place of articulation, i.e. the position of the tongue and/or other
the manner of articulation, i.e. the movement of the articulators and the type
of obstruction to the air flow that occurs.
Task 5: Voiced and unvoiced consonants
Say the following pairs of words, paying special attention to the initial consonant sounds in red:
• pet /pet/ bet /bet/
• tin /ttn/ din /dtn/
• hush /htj/ measure /meze/
• charm /tjo:m/ jar /dzo:/
• cot /kbt/ got /gbt/
• fear /fte/ veer /vte/
• thought /0o:t/ though /ðeo/
• sit /stt/ zit /ztt/
Now put your hand on your neck, approximately where your Adam's apple is (or should be) and
press while you say the following sequences of sounds. Make a note of which sounds produce a
tangible vibration, i.e. which sounds are voiced, and which do not, i.e. are unvoiced.
• p b p b p b
• t d t d t d
• tj dz tj dz tj dz
• k g k g k g k g
• f v f v f v f v
• 0 ð 0 ð 0 ð 0 ð
• s z s z s z s z
• j z j z j z j z
Task 6: Fortis and Lenis Consonants
Say the following sounds slowly and carefully. Pay attention to the force of your breath as you
say each sound. To 'feel' the difference in force you could try putting your open palm close to your
lips. Which consonants require more force in the expelled air (and are therefore fortis consonants)?
Which require less force in the expelled air (and are therefore lenis consonants)?
• p b p b p b
• t d t d t d
• tj dz tj dz tj dz
• k g k g k g k g
• f v f v f v f v
• 0 ð 0 ð 0 ð 0 ð
• s z s z s z s z
• j z j z j z j z
Is the following statement true or false?
In English all voiced consonants are fortis, while unvoiced consonants are lenis.
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Task 7: The Names of the Articulators
Match the names of the articulators on the left with the definitions (some definitions adapted from
Roach 2002) on the right.
Articulators Definitions
• alveolar ridge
• back of the tongue
• epiglottis
• front of the tongue
• glottis
• hard palate
• root of the tongue
• tip of the tongue
• tongue blade
• uvula
• velum
the rear, soft part of the roof of the mouth
the part of the tongue that is a little further than the middle, towards
the back
the hard, bony ridge behind the upper front teeth
the part of tongue that is between the middle and the front
the front part of the tongue just after the edge, where most of the
movement occurs
the uppermost front part of the tongue; the edge
the middle part of the roof of the mouth
the opening between the vocal folds
the little lump of soft tissue that you can observe in the back of your
mouth dangling from the end of your soft palate
the flap of cartilage lying behind the tongue and in front of the
entrance to the larynx
Task 8: Place of Articulation
Say the consonants in each group below slowly and carefully and use the following labels to
describe their place of articulation (descriptions adapted from Kelly 2000).
bilabial: both lips are used
labio-dental: the lower lip and the upper teeth are used
dental: the tongue tip is placed between the teeth or close to the upper teeth
alveolar: the blade of the tongue is close to the alveolar ridge
palato-alveolar: the blade of the tongue is just behind the alveolar ridge
palatal: the front of the tongue is raised close to the palate
velar: the back of the tongue touches the velum
glottal: the gap between the vocal folds is used to produce audible friction
• //, //
• /t/, /d/, /s/, /z/, /n/, /l/
• /p/, /b/, /m/
• /h/
• /k/, //, // (this is the consonant in -ing endings), /w/
• /f/, /v/
• /t/, /d/, //, //, /r/
• /j/ (the initial consonant in yes)
Task 9: Manner of articulation
Manner of articulation refers to the way in which the air stream is obstructed and released in the
production of consonants. There are the following possibilities:
• Plosives: The velum is raised and a complete closure is made somewhere in the vocal
tract (the lips, the alveolar ridge or the velum). Air pressure builds up behind the closure
and the air is then suddenly released.
• Affricates: The velum is raised and a complete closure is made just behind the alveolar
ridge. Air pressure builds up just behind the closure, but the air is then released more
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slowly than in plosives.
• Fricatives: Two articulators (e.g. the lips, the tongue, the roof of the mouth) come close
together so that there is audible friction.
• Nasal consonants: A complete closure is made somewhere in the oral cavity and the air
can only escape through the nose.
• Lateral consonants: The blade of the tongue touches the alveolar ridge so that air flows
around the sides of the tongue.
• Approximants: The vocal organs come near to each other, but not so close as to cause
audible friction.
Say the following consonants, paying attention to the way the air stream is obstructed and
released and decide what kind of consonants they are with reference to their manner of articulation.
/t/, /d/
/r/, /j/, /w/
/p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, //
/m/, /n/, //
/f/, /v/, //, //, /s/, /z/, //, //, /h/
Task 10: Review of consonants
Match the consonants on the left to their descriptions on the right.
voiceless velar plosive
d voiced dental fricative
b voiceless palato-alveolar fricative
voiced alveolar lateral
m voiced bilabial plosive
l voiced bilabial nasal
k voiced palato-alveolar affricate
The table below is a summary of information on the English consonant
phonemes. Unvoiced phonemes appear in brown type.
plosive affricate fricative nasal lateral approximant
p b m
f v

t d s z nl
t r
k w
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5. Suprasegmental Phonology
5.1. The nature of the syllable
In phonetics and phonology, a syllable is defined with reference to the way it is
produced, the way it sounds and the combinations of phonemes that can comprise a
syllable. In phonetic terms, a syllable can be:
• a minimum syllable which consists of a vowel in isolation, for example the
words are //, or // and err //.
• a syllable which has an onset, i.e. more than silence preceding the centre of
the syllable, for example bar /b/, key /ki/, more /m/
• a syllable which does not have an onset, but has a coda, i.e. more than
silence following the centre of the syllable: am /æm/ , is /z/, ought /t/
• a syllable which has both an onset and a coda: run /rn/, sat /sæt/, fill /fl/
In English, it is possible to have the following types of syllable:
• a syllable with zero onset, i.e. one that begins with a vowel.
• a syllable with one initial consonant
• a syllable beginning with two or more consonants, whose onset is then said to
be a consonant cluster:
• If the consonant cluster consists of /s/ followed by another consonant, then /s/
is the pre-initial consonant and the other consonant is the initial consonant.
If the consonant cluster begins with a consonant other than /s/, then
the first consonant is the initial consonant and the next consonant is
the post-initial consonant.
Thus, in a monosyllabic word like spleen /spli:n/, /s/ is the pre-initial
consonant, /p/ is the initial consonant and /l/ is the post-initial
• A syllable with no final consonant is a syllable with zero coda.
• When there is one consonant in the coda, it is called the final consonant.
• When there are more than one consonants in the coda, then one of them is
the final consonant and the other either the pre-final or the post-final
Pre-final consonants are /m/, /n/, //, /l/, /s/. We can see them in words
like bump /bmp/, bent /bent/ , bank /bæk/, belt /belt/ , ask /sk/.
Post-final consonants are /s/, /z/, /t/, /d/, // as in the words bets /bets/,
beds /bedz/, backed /bækt/, bagged /bæd/, eighth /et/.
• The possible combinations of consonants in the coda are laid out in the
following table
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• It is also possible in some cases to have a syllable with no vowel, when there
is a syllabic consonant in the syllable. For example, students /stju.dn ts/ (the
fullstop symbol (.) denotes a syllable division, whereas the diacritic denotes
a syllabic consonant)
In recent phonological work, the term rhyme has also been introduced. The
rhyme consists of the vowel and the coda (which is optional) and is divided into the
peak (which is normally the vowel) and the coda. Therefore, the structure of the
syllable can be represented as follows:
Task 11: Syllable structure
Identify the onset, rhyme, peak and coda in the following monosyllabic words and fill in the first
table. Then identify the consonants in the onset and coda and fill in the second table. The first word
has been analysed as an example
Table 1: onset, rhyme, peak and coda
Word Transcription Onset Rhyme Peak Coda
blocked blkt bl kt kt
clouds kladz
facts fækts
freed frid
peaks piks
proms prmz
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Word Transcription Onset Rhyme Peak Coda
rhymes ramz
springs sprz
straight stret
straw str
twelfths twelfs
Table 2: analysis of onset and coda
Word Trans-
Initial Post-
Pre-final Final Post-
final 1
final 2
blocked blkt b l k t
clouds kladz
facts fækts
freed frid
peaks piks
proms prmz
rhymes ramz
springs sprz
straight stret
straw str
twelfths twelfs
Regarding syllable division, the most widely accepted rule seems to be the
maximum onsets principle. This states that where two syllables are to be divided,
any consonants between them should be attached to the second syllable as far as
possible, within the restrictions governing syllable onsets and codas.
5.2. Strong and weak syllables
In English, as in many other languages, though not in Greek, some syllables are
noticeably weak, whereas others are strong. Whether a syllable is phonetically weak
or strong depends on the properties of the vowel in its peak. Thus, weak syllable
contain vowels which are shorter, less intense and of different quality than the
vowels in strong syllables.
Weak syllables can only have one of a small number of possible peaks:
• in syllables with no coda at the end of a word, the possibilities are:
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the vowel //: better /bet/
a close front vowel, phonetically somewhere between // and /i/,
symbolized /i/: city /sti/
a close back vowel, phonetically somewhere between // and /u/,
symbolized /u/: thank you /ækju/
• In syllables with a coda whether at the end or within a word, the most
common vowel phoneme is //, and most other vowels will tend to be more
centralized when in weak syllables.
In addition, many well-known English function words have both a weak and a
strong form. The weak form of these words is generally the preferred form and it is
only when they are given special prominence that the strong form of these words is
pronounced. This seems to be an especially difficult area for Greek learners, who
tend to pronounce the strong forms in all contexts.
Below is a list of the most common weak form words in English:
• the: // before consonants; /i/ before vowels
• a, an: // before consonants; /n/ before vowels
• and: /n/
• but: /bt/
• that: /t/ only when introducing a relative clause
• than: /n/
• his: /z/ and /hz/ only at the beginning of a sentence
• her: // before consonants; /r/ before vowels
• your: /j/ before consonants; /jr/ before vowels
• he: /i/ and /hi/ only at the beginning of a sentence
• him: /m/
• her: // and /h/ at the beginning of a sentence
• them: /m/
• us: /s/
• at: /t/
• for: /f/ before consonants and /fr/ before vowels
• from: /frm/
• of: /v/
• to: /t/ before consonants and /tu/ before vowels
• as: /z/
• some: /sm/
• there (only in existential phrases, e.g. there is): // before consonants and
/r/ before vowels
• can, could: /kn/, /kd/
• have, has, had: /v/, /z/, /d/ and /hv/, /hz/, /hd/at the beginning of a
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• shall, should: /l/, /d/
• must /ms/ before consonants and /mst/ before vowels
• do: /d/ before consonants and /du/ before vowels
• does: /dz/
• am: /m/
• are: // before consonants and /r/ before vowels
• was: /wz/
• were: /w/ before consonants and /wr/ before vowels
Task 12: Strong and weak syllables
Provide the strong forms of the following weak-form words. The first one has been provided as
an example.
Word Weak Form Strong Form
and n ænd
were w
must ms
have v
them m
your j
should d
that t
us s
5.3. Word stress
5.3.1. The nature of word stress
Most English speakers intuitively perceive word stress easily. Thus, it is clear
that in the words English, speaker and easily the first syllable is stressed. However,
when asked to define word stress, one could easily be mistaken in thinking that it is
loudness, above all, that determines which syllable is stressed. In fact, four different
factors contribute to our perception of a syllable as stressed:
• loudness is definitely a factor that adds to the prominence of a stressed
syllable, though it is not the most important one
• a difference in pitch between the stressed syllable and the unstressed ones,
or, even more, a pitch movement (e.g. rising or falling pitch) within the
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syllable, seems to be more important than loudness. Pitch should be defined
here as a difference in the frequency of vibration of the vocal folds, which can
be related to the musical notions of high and low pitched notes.
• stressed syllables also tend to differ in length from unstressed ones. Thus,
stressed syllables are always longer than unstressed ones and this seems to
be the second most important factor in determining syllable prominence.
• finally, the quality of the vowel in the peak of stressed syllables is often
different; as we saw in the previous section, weak syllables mostly contain
central, neutralised vowels such as /u/, //, /i/ and //. In stressed syllables,
more tense vowels are often used, e.g. //, /æ/, //, /i/, etc.
While most two-syllable words in English contain only one stressed syllable,
polysyllabic words normally contain more than one levels of stress. Some
phoneticians have actually suggested up to five levels of stress for one word, but for
practical phonological work it seems that two levels are sufficient: primary stress and
secondary stress. The most prominent syllable in a word is the one that receives
primary stress. In many words of more than two syllables, there is also a syllable that
is less prominent than the one receiving primary stress, but more prominent than the
rest of the syllables: this syllable is said to receive secondary stress.
Thus, a word like easy /izi/ only has primary stress on the first syllable (the
diacritic before a syllable indicates that it receives primary stress). On the other
hand, the word independent / ndpendnt/ has primary stress on the third syllable
and secondary stress on the first syllable (the diacritic before a syllable indicates
secondary stress).
In Greek word stress placement, the monotonic rule operates, which states that
a word can only have primary stress; in addition, the trisyllabic constraint applies,
which states that words can only be stressed on the ultimate, penultimate or
antepenultimate syllable. As a result, both perception and production of secondary
stress can be a problem for Greek learners. Moreover, English words whose primary
stress is on a syllable before the antepenultimate will usually be almost impossible
for many Greek learners to pronounce accurately.
Still, English does have some rules for primary stress placement, albeit rather
complicated ones and with many exceptions. As general tendencies, though, the
word stress rules are important and productive enough, so it is a good idea to briefly
review them here. The determination of the stress placement tendency within a word
depends on the following factors:
• the phonological structure of the syllables the word comprises
• whether the word is morphologically simple or complex; complex words are
those that contain affixes (prefixes and/or suffixes) and those that are
• the class to which the word belongs (whether it is a noun, adjective, verb,
• the number of syllables the word comprises
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As far as the phonological structure of the syllables is concerned, the point to be
borne in mind is that only strong syllables can be stressed. A strong syllable is one
whose rhyme either has a syllable peak which is a long vowel or diphthong or a
vowel followed by a coda. Weak syllables, which are never stressed, have a short
vowel in the peak and usually no coda, unless the vowel is // or //. Whereas it is
possible for a strong syllable not to be stressed, a weak syllable can never be
5.3.2. Stress in Simple Words
Bearing in mind this basic rule to do with the phonological structure of the
syllable, we can state the following tentative rules of stress placement in simple
words (i.e. not stems + affixes or compound words):
• Two-syllable words that are nouns are stressed on the first syllable if the
second syllable contains a short vowel. If the second syllable contains a long
vowel, it will be stressed.
• Two-syllable words that are verbs, adjectives, prepositions or adverbs
generally have the following tendencies:
If the second syllable is strong, then it is stressed.
If the second syllable is weak, then the first syllable is stressed.
The final syllable is not stressed if it contains //.
• Three-syllable words behave as follows:
In verbs, the stress falls on the first strong syllable from the end;
thus, if the last syllable is strong, it will be stressed; if the last syllable
is weak and the penultimate syllable is strong, the penultimate
syllable will be stressed; if both the last and the penultimate syllable
are weak, the antepenultimate syllable will be stressed.
Nouns and adjectives are normally stressed on the first syllable, as
long as the second syllable is weak, even if the final syllable is
strong. If, however, the second syllable is strong, then they will be
stressed on the second syllable.
Task 13: Stress placement in simple words
How do the stress placement rules account for the placement of stress in the following words?
Which word appears to be an exception to the rule?
• reduce /r djus/
• arrive / rav/
• lovely / lvli/
• correct /k rekt/
• honest / nst/
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• larynx / lærks/
• entertain /ent ten/
• disaster /d zast/
• emperor / empr/
• intellect / ntlekt/
5.3.3. Stress in Complex Words
Complex words can be defined for our purposes here as either words that are
made from a basic word (the stem) with the addition of an affix (prefix or suffix), for
example dependable, undo or compound words, which are derived from two other
words, for example glasshouse, downgrade. Special rules apply to stress placement
in complex words, as the production or affixation process affects initial stress
Whereas prefixes do not usually affect stress placement, so that in most cases
we can safely say that the rules that apply are the same as for simple words, suffixes
do seem to affect stress placement in a more systematic manner. Some suffixes do
not affect stress placement at all, while others either result in the movement of stress
in the stem or receive the stress themselves. The most common of the suffixes that
do not affect stress placement are:
• -able: person /ps:sen/, personable /ps:senebl/
• -age: person /ps:sen/, personage /ps:senid¿/
• -al: person /ps:sen/, personable /ps:senel/
• -en: length /lenk0/, lengthen /lenk0en/
• -ful: beauty /bju:ti/, beautiful /bju:tifel/
• -ing: drive /draiv/, driving /draivin/
• -like: animal /ænimel/, animal like /ænimel laik/
• -less: power /paoe/, /paoeles/
• -ly: beautiful /bju:tifel/, beautifully /bju:tifeli/
• -ment: enjoy /ind¿oi/, enjoyment /ind¿oiment/
• -ness: callous /kæles/, callousness /kælesnes/
• -fy: beauty /bju:ti/, beautify /bju:tifai/
There are also suffixes that always receive the primary stress; the most common
ones are:
• -ee: employee / emploii:/
• -eer: engineer / end¿inie/
• -ese: Japanese / d¿æpeni:z/
• -ette: cigarette / sigeret/
*This very simplified introduction to basic word stress rules is based on
Roach 2000
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• -esque: arabesque / ærebesk/
Finally, there are suffixes which influence stress placement in the stem. The
following suffixes normally move the stress to the last syllable of the stem:
• -eous: advantage /edvq:ntid¿/, advantageous / ædventeid¿es/
• -ic: photo graph /feotegrq:f/, photographic / feotegræfik/
• -ion: subject /s/bd¿ikt/, subjection /sebd¿ek[en/
• -ive: subject /s/bd¿ikt/, subjection /sebd¿ektiv/
With regard to compound words, the question is, which of the two words that
make up the compound should receive the primary stress. The general tendency is
that compounds which consist of two nouns have primary stress on the stressed
syllable of the first noun:
typewriter /taipraite/
tea cup /ti:k/p/
The same rule seems to generally apply to other compounds (e.g. greenhouse
/gri:nhaos/, underline //ndelain/); however, there are certain exceptions, which take
the primary stress on the stressed syllable of the second word:
• compounds in which the first word is an adjective and the second ends in -
ed: bad-tempered / bædtemped/
• compounds in which the first word is a number: third class / 0s:dklq:s/
• compounds functioning as adverbs: downstream / daonstri:m/
• compounds functioning as verbs whose first word is an adverb: upgrade
Having said all this, it has to be borne in mind that rules governing stress
placement are more complicated than this necessarily simplistic introductory account
may have suggested: what we have described are mere tendencies, and the
exceptions are plentiful. Moreover, as we will see in the next section, the rhythm of
English often requires that there should be some stress movement, which means
that in many cases the actual stress of words in context is different from their stress
in isolation.
Task 14: Stress Placement in complex words
Underline the syllable that receives primary stress in the following words. How can you account
for the stress placement?
• three-wheeler
• suitcase
• head-first
*Note that the same rules apply whether the compound word is spelt as one word
or is hyphenated or is spelt as two words.
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• heavy-handed
• picturesque
• volunteer
• wonderful
• poisonous
• perfection
5.4. Sentence Stress and Rhythm
5.4.1. Sentence Stress
The term sentence stress is not entirely accurate, but it is used extensively in
pronunciation teaching materials to refer to the way stress functions beyond the word
level. Word and sentence stress combine in English to create the rhythm of an
utterance, i.e. the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables and pauses.
Whereas the rules of word stress are independent of context, sentence stress is
dependent on the context and the speaker’s intention. In other words, while the
stressed syllable in a word is given, the most prominent syllable in an utterance is
not necessarily given. The following two tasks exemplify this point.
Task 15: Understanding Sentence Stress
Say the sentence below in such ways as to give it the meaning indicated in each case.
Which syllable is the most prominent in each case?
John is going to come to the party with us.
• John, not Martha.
• There is no doubt about the fact that hes coming.
• He is not going to come to the cinema with us.
• He is not going to meet us there later.
• He is not going to the party with Ella.
Task 16: Sentence Stress vs. Word Stress
Fill in each blank in the statements below with either the words word stress or the words sentence
• In the case of multisyllable words, the speaker normally places ___________ on the syllable
that normally carries the word ___________.
• ___________ normally falls on the syllable that receives ___________ in the last content
word of the utterance.
• Word stress and sentence stress have different roles, but in connected speech, the role of
___________ is subordinated to that of ___________.
Because an utterance that is significant and analysable in terms of phonology is
not necessarily a grammatical sentence (it could be smaller or larger than a
sentence), it is more appropriate to refer to tone groups and tonic stress, rather than
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sentences and sentence stress. Thus, we will reserve the term stressed syllable for
the syllable that receives word stress, but we will use the term tonic syllable for the
syllable that receives tonic stress. The reason why we prefer to refer to tones in this
case is because the tonic syllable is made especially prominent due to the tone
movement that occurs within it (see the following section)
The tonic syllable is sometimes followed by one or more other syllables. These
are called the tail. In the tone unit Fine, thank you, the tonic syllable is normally fine,
whereas the syllables thank you form the tail:
Fine, thank you.
In a tone unit there can be more than one prominent syllables. If this is the case,
the first prominent syllable is the onset and the second is the tonic syllable. The part
of the utterance between the onset and the tonic, including the onset but excluding
the tonic, is called the head. Obviously, if a tone unit only contains one prominent
syllable, then that syllable is the tonic and there can be no head. All the
nonprominent syllables before the onset (if there is one) or before the tonic (if there
is no onset) form the prehead. So there can be a prehead without a head!
Thus, in the tone unit I’ll see him tomorrow, the components can be represented
as follows:
I’ll see him to mor row
onset tonic
prehead head tail
Task 17: Components of the tone unit
Identify the components (onset, tonic syllable, prehead, head, tail) of the following tone units:
I havent spoken to him.
See you later.
Good bye George.
Shut your face!
An interesting phenomenon can be observed in the placement of word stress
when certain types of word are juxtaposed in speech: a word may change its stress
depending on its context within a phrase. The phenomenon is known as stress shift.
For example, a word like ‘Heathrow’ / hir/ may be produced in isolation with the
same syllables stressed in terms of relative duration and amplitude. However, in a
phrase like ‘Heathrow airport’ /hir ept/ the primary stress on ‘Heathrow’
shifts to the first syllable. A number of words with final primary stress and initial
secondary stress are affected in a similar manner.
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Task 18: Stress Shift
Underline the stressed syllables in the following sentences. Which words seem to shift their
• Im thirteen.
• Shes just a thirteen-year-old girl.
• Id like some champagne.
• Hes only a champagne socialist.
• These missiles are air-to-surface.
• Its an air-to-surface missile.
5.4.2. Rhythm
The phenomenon of stress shift seems to be aiming for avoidance of stress-clash
in the juxtaposition of two stressed syllables and forms evidence that there is an
internal rhythm to the English language, which depends on the alternation of
stressed and unstressed syllables, such that the stresses occur at relatively regular
intervals. Thus, English rhythm is sometimes described as stress-timed, in the sense
that the interval between each stressed syllable and the next one is roughly the
same, regardless of the number of intervening unstressed syllables.
Whereas more recent evidence suggests that this claim is an oversimplification
(Roach 1982), it is definitely the case that there is at least a tendency in English for
unstressed syllables to be shorter and more lax than stressed ones. This tendency
can be seen both within a word and across word boundaries.
You may have noticed in the previous section how pairs of morphologically
related words may contain different phonemes because of the different stress
• Japan /d¿æpæn/ Japanese / d¿æpeni:z/
• cigar /sigq:/ cigarette / sigeret/
• advantage /edvq:ntid¿/ advantageous / ædventeid¿es/
• photograph /feotegrq:f/ photographic / feotegræfik/
• subject /s/bd¿ikt/ subjection /sebd¿ek[en/
The general tendency in English is for syllables that are unstressed to contain
more centralised vowels. The following diagram indicates how the vowels are likely
to change if the stress shifts from stressed to unstressed:
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In addition, so that strings of syllables that are not prominent can be pronounced
faster and the overall rhythm of a tone group can be maintained, a number of sound
linking phenomena often occur at word boundaries, which may affect the realisation
of both vowels and consonants. We will not go into these phenomena in detail, as
they pertain to rapid colloquial speech Brown 1990 and foreign learners will not
usually be expected to reproduce them. However, an awareness of such phenomena
may be beneficial to learners on the receptive level, as it is often the case that
learners fail to recognise words that are otherwise familiar to them when they hear
them pronounced in this manner.
Very briefly, then, sound linking phenomena which may occur between words
include the following:
• Alveolar consonants at the end of a word often assimilate to the place of
articulation of the next consonant sounds. For example:
‘good boy’ /god boi/ is often realised /gob boi/
‘hit man’ /hit mæn/ is realised /hip mæn/
‘this shop’ /ðis [pp/ is realised /ði[ [pp/
‘these shops’ /ði:z [pps/ is realised /ði:¿ [pps/
• Voiced consonants at the end of a word are often devoiced when a voiceless
consonant follows.
‘have to go’ /hev te geo/ is often realised /hef te geo/
In rapid speech, certain consonants in consonant clusters at word boundaries
tend to be deleted. This is most often the case with the alveolar plosives /t/ and /d/
as well as the dental fricative /0/. Thus, the rapid colloquial pronunciation of the
following phrases is as shown:
• ‘next please’ /nekspli:z/
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• ‘old man’ /eolmæn/
• ‘sixth place’ /sikspleis/
Interestingly, there are words in which elision occurs internally:
• sandwich /sænwid¿/
• cupboard /k/bed/
You have probably noticed that it is not always possible to determine when one
word ends and the next begins. This is due to the phenomenon known as liaison. To
achieve liaison, you often need to insert a sound which, orthographically, does not
seem to be there:
• ‘law and order’ /lo:reno:de/
• ‘they are’ /ðeijq:/
• ‘go off’ /geowo:f/
5.5. Intonation
5.5.1. The Nature of Intonation
Intonation refers to the nature and movement of pitch in a tone unit. When we
examine the pitch movement in a tone unit there are three variables to observe:
• direction of the pitch movement
whether the pitch rises (), falls (), first rises and then falls (), first
falls and then rises () or whether it is level ().
• degree of pitch movement
to what extent the pitch rises or falls
• placement of pitch movement within the speaker's own voice range
whether the speaker uses their normal pitch or they speak higher or lower
than their normal range
Thus, a pitch movement upwards or downwards may start in the high, middle or
low range of a speaker’s voice (placement of movement), and may involve one, two
or three ranges (degree of movement):
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Intonation carries a communicative function in English. The meaning of
intonation has traditionally been described in grammatical and affective (or
attitudinal) terms (see Cruttenden 1997), but most recent analyses take account of
its discoursal function (see Brazil 1997) either additionally, or exclusively.
5.5.2. Grammatical Functions of Intonation
Although variations are possible, there is a tendency in English for certain
sentence types to be linked to specific intonation contours:
• declarative: We went to the theatre.
• wh- question: Who’s calling?
• yes/no question: Is she there?
• multiple interrogative: Did she fall or was she pushed?
• imperative: Go away
• exclamation: What terrible weather!
• confirmation tag: Lovely, isn’t it?
• question tag: You like him, don’t you?
• polite request: Could you close the door?
Task 18: Intonation and Grammar
Can you explain why the intonation contour might be different in the following cases?
• You went to the theatre.
• What is his name?
• How are you?
• Go away.
• Could you shut the door?
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5.5.3. Aective Functions of Intonation
Although most listeners would intuitively interpret certain intonation patterns as
signals of a particular emotion, or an indication of the speaker’s attitude towards the
listener, there seems to be little agreement among phonologists in assigning specific
pronunciation contours to emotional states.
In general, though, it seems that emotion is expressed in intonation per se not so
much by the contour selected, as by the pitch range used and the degree of
compliance with the intonational norm. Thus, a wide pitch range is normally
associated with high emotional involvement, whereas a narrow pitch range is
associated with low emotional involvement, even if the intonation contour remains
the same. Compare, for example, the following:
Speaker 1: Really? Speaker 2: Really?
It is clear that the first speaker shows more interest in what their interlocutor has
said and is more encouraging than the second.
Apart from such general statements about the degree of emotional involvement
betrayed by intonation, though, there is very little that intonation on its own can tell
us about the speaker’s emotions. However, if we consider in what ways the
speaker’s intonation deviates from what would be normal in each specific context of
communication, it is possible to reach some safer conclusions regarding the affective
function of intonation.
Recent analyses (Cruttenden 1997, Wichmann 2002) suggest that we can relate
each of the two main pitch directions to an overall meaning: ultimately rising tones
(, ) are associated with tentativeness, lack of finality, or openness, while
ultimately falling tones (, ) are associated with certainty, finality, closeness.
This seems to be consistent with the grammatical intonational norms mentioned in
the previous section. When the intonation system is used in an unexpected way, i.e.
in a way that differs from the norm, then the speaker’s intention must be that the
listener should read some additional affective meaning into the utterance. Thus, in a
polite request like Could you close the door? the normal intonation pattern is
ultimately rising. If instead a falling contour is used, the impression conveyed is one
of abruptness and rudeness.
Attitude, then, can be conveyed by intonation if there is a deviation from the
expected intonation pattern.
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Task 19: Attitudinal Functions of Intonation
All of the following intonation patterns are irregular (capitals indicate tonic syllables). What
attitudinal meaning are they likely to convey?
You went to the THEATRE.
WHO is calling.
Thank you very MUCH.
Im SORry.
5.5.4. Discoursal Functions of Intonation
Consider the following two utterances:
• When is the next seminar?
• When is the next seminar?
In the first utterance the speaker uses a falling intonation, because she/he has
never had any information about the date of the forthcoming seminar. Presumably,
the listener knows the date and the information asked about is new to the speaker.
The falling contour is known as the proclaiming tone, because it marks new
In the second utterance, the speaker indicates that she/he has previously been
informed of the date of the forthcoming seminar by using a falling-rising intonation.
The implication is that the date of the forthcoming seminar is shared knowledge
between speaker and listener. This is why a falling-rising contour is employed; this
contour is also known as the referring tone, as it refers back to something that the
speaker and the listener(s) share.
Task 20: Intonation and Discourse
What difference in meaning does a proclaiming or referring tone make in each of the following
• When Ive finished Roach/ Ill start reading Giegerich.
• Ill help you if youll help me.
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6. Problems of Greek Speakers
The list of problems and difficulties below is based on Kenworthy 1987, Kelly
2000 as well as my own observations.
6.1. Segments
/p, t, k/
These sounds may be produced with not quite enough aspiration in syllable
initial position, so that they may sound like /b,d,g/ respectively to the English ear.
/b, d, g/
These sounds do occur in Greek, but learners may have difficulty in hearing the
difference between /d/ and /nd/ and /nt/; between /b/ by itself and /mb/ and /mp/; and
between /g/ and /k/ and /g/
The Greek /r/ sound is midway between a /d/-like sound and a trilled /r/. It is an
acceptable substitute for English /r/. The /r/ produced after /p, t, k/, however, may be
too full a sound. If high acceptability is the goal, then learners should be encouraged
to soften and reduce it.
/j, w/
The Greek learner tends to hear and pronounce these two sounds as full vowels
(/i/ and /u/ respectively). Although these two sounds are very similar to the
consonants the problem is that /j/ and /w/ pronounced in this way will tend to be
interpreted by the English listener as separate syllables.
/s, /
Greek has a sound which is midway between these two English sounds
phonetically, so there will be problems in perception and production. The difficulty is
compounded by the fact that speakers of some varieties of Greek have a negative
stereotype of the // sound, so some Greek learners, particularly those from Athens,
may be reluctant to make the sound.
/z, /
These two sounds will be confused in perception and production.
Greek learners tend to produce this sound with too much force and 'hissing'
quality. The Greek /x/ phoneme can be realised as a velar, uvular, or palatal
voiceless fricative, while the English /h/ is glottal.
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/t/ and /d/
Learners often pronounce these like /ts/ as in 'cats' and /dz/ as in 'fads'.
Learners frequently mishear and mispronounce this consonant cluster as /mb/.
Learners frequently mishear and mispronounce this consonant cluster as /nd/.
Learners frequently mishear and mispronounce this consonant cluster as /ng/.
Learners frequently mishear and mispronounce this consonant cluster as /zm/.
Greek learners often mishear and mispronounce the following vowel groups:
/i:/ and /i/
/q:/, /æ/ and ///
/s:/ and /e/
/o:/, /p/ and /eo/
/u:/ and /o/
There is no schwa in Greek. Learners tend to substitute either /e/ or the Greek
vowel /a/ for schwa.
6.2. Suprasegmentals
Because of the Greek trisyllabic constraint and monotonic principle, word stress
is sometimes a problem for Greek speakers, who usually fail to produce stressed
syllables in positions before the antepenultimate and may also fail to produce
secondary stress.
The rules of sentence stress are more or less the same in the two languages, so
there will be no problems in perception. However, because Greek is less stress-
timed than English and its pronunciation involves little or no vowel reductions, Greek
speakers’ rhythm often sounds unnatural, as unstressed syllables tend to sound
almost as prominent as stressed ones.
Finally, with regard to intonation, there are two main problems: one is the
generally narrower pitch range employed by Greek speakers, which may give an
impression of lack of interest, and the other is the tendency to use an ultimately
rising intonation in all questions.
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7. Further Reading
This brief introduction has only attempted to give some basic background
information on the English phonological system. A more through presentation of the
main features can be found in Roach 2000. Those who are interested in an even
more detailed treatment should consult Cruttenden 2001 (on segments), Giegerich
1992 (on English Phonology) and Cruttenden 1997 (on intonation).
If you find the many phonetic and phonological terms difficult to remember,
Roach 2002 is a very helpful glossary.
As far as the teaching of pronunciation is concerned, the most accessible books
available are Kelly 2000 and Celce-Murcia et al 1996 (the latter focuses on American
English, but the techniques described apply equally to British English)
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© George Vassilakis 2007
Appendix A: The International Phonetic Alphabet
(please visit
course/chapter1/chapter1.html to hear the sounds of the IPA)
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© George Vassilakis 2007
Appendix B: Greek Vowels and Consonants
(reproduced from IPA 1999)
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© George Vassilakis 2007
Appendix C: Underhill's Phonemic Chart for English
Introduction to pronunciation teaching - page 35 of 37
© George Vassilakis 2007

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