The “Letter A”

(Pronunciation – Lesson)

Considering all the letters, letter-combinations, & words in The English Language — and since The Letter “A” is the first letter in The English Alphabet — this seems like a logical place to start…  So let’s get to it!  😀

The Letter Aa

In the video below, “Rachel” demonstrates the many different pronunciations of The Letter “A” in The Common Tongue of The English Language.  In some of the examples — you will see & hear that The Letter “A” is actually pronounced like a completely different vowel!

However — these different pronunciations are not necessarily different pronunciations of The Letter “A”, by itself — but are merely demonstrations of how The Letter “A” is pronounced when it is used in different words.

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 almost all of her pronunciation videos.

  • 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 Idiomatic Adjectival Phrase:  One-On-One — However, her use of this phrase is incorrect, as she uses it to mean:  Equally orDirectly — however, this is not what this Phrase means, or how it is commonly 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 — despite what she said — there is nothing “Unfortunate” about this.  It simply is what it is, and there are good reasons for this.  The same is true with literally EVERY language in existence.  So there is no need to make this an “unfortunate” situation…  Just learn how it is done, and do it! 😉

(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 wordFather — 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 wordAbout — is what is called (as she says):

The Schwa Sound – (ə)

  • However — what she does not say (and what virtually no other 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-SchwaSound – (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.  This is 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 wordFall — 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 wordAble — 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.
  • You will also notice that the phonetic symbol above is different than in the video.  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 wordShare — is completely WRONG.  This is NOT a disagreement of opinion either.  It should be quite clear, simply by listening to the sounds, that these are not the same as what she is describing.

  • The letter “a” in the wordShare — is NOT the “eh” sound — which is actually The Short “E” – (ɛ / eh / ĕ) — which she, herself, actually demonstrates!
  • This is, unfortunately not un-common in the world of English Language Teachers.  (Which is exactly why I created GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!) 😉
The letter “a” in the wordShare — demonstrates an example of yet 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 wordPrivate — is what she claims is:

The Short “I” Sound – (ɪ / ih /ĭ)

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, there is not-yet a phonetic symbol or diacritic mark for this sound.  This 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 you dis-agree with so much of what was said in the video — why would you, then, 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, overall, excellent information — specifically when she demonstrates how to actually make the sounds with one’s mouth, tongue, throat, and voice.  I only aim to clarify, EVEN MORE, the good information that she presents, so that it is 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 already 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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