The “Letter A”

(Pronunciation – Lesson)

Having decided that it is far past the time to start making posts about pronunciation, I figured that a good place to start is with the first letter of the alphabet… 😀

The Letter Aa

Since I have not gotten into the video lesson “game” yet, I have decided to let Rachel tell you all about it, as she seems to be the most popular “pronunciation person” on YouTube.

My notes and comments are listed below, with times corresponding to the places in the video which I am referring to. 

Video Notes

(Click The Times To See The Drop-Down Notes)

0:00 - 0:50
You can disregard everything from 0:00 – 0:50 – This is simply the introduction that she uses for all of her pronunciation videos

(with the exception of some of her earlier work which you may see in another post here)

  • Especially Disregard what she says from 0:15 – 0:50 – This is because she mentions the words, Chicago and Choice, and makes reference to the “ch” sound…  This obviously has nothing to do with the subject of this video.
  • She also uses the adjectival phrase:  One-On-One in a very strange manner, to mean:  Equally orDirectly – however, this is not what this phrase means, or how it’s used…
    • If you are interested in learning the correct usage and meaning of this phrase you can click the phrase above or right here.
    • What she should have said is…

“…the letters in English have many different sounds depending on what other letters they are in combination with, or (sometimes) depending on the origin of the words themselves…”

(And… unlike what she said… there is nothing “Unfortunate” about this…  it is what it is, and there are good reasons for this… one merely has to look for them)

(Though the IPA is a useful tool, it certainly isn’t perfect.  This is why you will see both IPA AND phonetic spellings when you look up a word on the pronunciation portal)

0:58 - 1:04
The first sound that Rachel speaks of, using the example wordExact“, is what is most commonly known as:

The Short “A” sound – (æ / aa / ă)

1:05 - 1:12
The second sound that Rachel speaks of, using the example word, Father“, is what is most commonly known as:

The Short “O” sound – (ɑ / ah / ŏ)

1:13 - 1:21
The third sound that Rachel speaks of, using the example word, About“, is what is called (as she says):

The Schwa sound – (ə)

  • However, what she does not say (and what virtually no teacher or text-book ever mentions) is that there are at least three different Schwa sounds.  If you listen to what she is saying, you can clearly hear that the sound is similar to what is called:

The Short “U” sound – (ʌ / uh / ŭ)  –  (however the sound itself is cut very short, which is the main characteristic of any Schwa sound)

The “U-Schwa” sound – (ə(ʌ) / uh)  –  (since this is a term that I invented, there is not yet a phonetic symbol or diacritic mark for this sound, which is why I use the traditional symbol for the Schwa sound, along with the symbol for the Short “U” in parenthesis, so that it is understood which Schwa sound should be used.)

1:22 - 1:28
The fourth sound that Rachel speaks of, using the example word, Fall, is what is referred to on The GiveMeSomeEnglish!!! Pronunciation Portal as:

The “AW” Combination – (ɔ / aw)  –  (This is because the sound she is demonstrating is the standard pronunciation of The “AW” Combination in The Common Tongue)

1:29 - 1:36
The fifth sound that Rachel speaks of, using the example word, Able, is what is commonly referred to as:

The Long “A” sound – (eː / ay / ā)

  • However, you will notice that she uses the word Diphthong.  This is the term for a sound which is a vowel combination; the sound starts with one vowel sound and finishes with another.
  • But, similar to The Schwa sound, what is mistakenly referred to as, The Long “A”, actually refers to three different pronunciations…
  • Here, it is actually a True Long “A”, and is not really a diphthong.
  • You will also notice that the phonetic symbol above is different than in the video.  Unfortunately it is beyond the scope of this post to explain all of this here.  However, I will fully explain all the different pronunciations and phonetic symbols in a different blog post, which will be specifically about this topic.
1:36 - 1:42
The sixth sound that Rachel speaks of, using the example word, Share, is completely wrong.  This is not a disagreement of opinion.  It should be quite clear, simply by listening to the sounds, that these are not the same.

  • The letter “a” in the wordShare is not the “eh” sound – which is actually The Short “E” – (ɛ / eh / ĕ) – that she herself demonstrates, but apparently does not listen to…

This is not un-common in the world of English language teachers.

The letter “a” in the word Share is another pronunciation of what is mistakenly referred to as:

The Long “A” sound – (eː / ay / ā)

This is what I call:

The Long “A” / Short “I” Diphthong – (eɪ / ay / ā)

(Which is fully explained in THIS BLOG POST)

1:43 - 1:50
The seventh sound that Rachel speaks of, using the example word, Private is what she claims is:

The Short “I” sound – (ɪ / ih /ĭ)

  • However, this is not a common pronunciation of The Letter “A”.  It just happens to be the pronunciation of The Letter “A” with-in the “-ate” suffix in MOST (but not all) words that end with the “-ate” suffix.
  • And, you will notice that The Short “I” sound in the wordPrivate is not the same as in the word Idiot.

This is because the suffix is not stressed, and therefore, the “a” in the wordPrivate is another version of The Schwa sound mentioned above.

On The GiveMeSomeEnglish!!! Pronunciation Portal, I refer to this sound as:

The “I-Schwa sound – (ə(ɪ) / ih / ĭ)

  • This sound is the same as The Short “I”, only the duration of the sound gets cut very short.

(And, as with the “U-Schwa”, explained above, since this term is my own invented, there is not yet a phonetic symbol or diacritic mark for this sound.  This which is why I use the traditional symbol for the Schwa sound, along with the symbol for The Short “I” in parenthesis, so that it is known which Schwa sound should be used.)

So…  After all of that…  you might be asking yourself…

“If he dis-agrees with so much of what was said in the video, why the hell would he post it on such an awesome blog like GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!?”  😀

That’s A Good Question…

It is because, most of what Rachel says in her videos is excellent information – specifically when she demonstrates how to actually make the sounds with one’s mouth, tongue, throat, and voice.  It’s just that sometimes, there are only a few things that I hope to clarify, in order to make them even more useful for everyone.

One of those things I feel needs clarification is that she never uses the traditional terms which represent all of the different sounds that she talks about.  So I am endeavoring to eliminate any confusion for those who have learned this terminology, but then watch her videos and are curious about why she never uses them.

I can only assume that she does this for the same reasons that I stated above…  that the system for naming these sounds is an imperfect system.  But one needs to at least be able to see where the problems are, in order to avoid them, and ultimately overcome them.

So I Will Happily Continue To Use Her Videos…

Have An Excellent Day!





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