Update: 2011-12-31 06:07 PM +0630


English Pronunciation Guide: Consonant

A Phonetic Approach using Myanmar Akshara and the International Phonetic Alphabet in Teaching of English as a Second Language


by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA) and staff, Tun Institute of Learning, http://www.tuninst.net
Based on Pronunciation Guide, Learn to Speak English Part 1: Consonant, the Learning Company, Foreign Language Division - HyperGlot TM, 6493 Kaiser Drive, Fremont, CA 94555.

index.htm |Top

Contents of this page

Your computer must have Arial Unicode font installed to display the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) phonetic symbols as well as the graphemes of languages such as Hindi and Sanskrit in Devanagari.

The sound files are from the folder EPGE of the original CD #1 (of the package of 2 CDs). The file name is assumed to stand for English Pronunciation Guide. Since, I could not open the original CDs on my Vista-computers, the following is a reconstruction of my work of 000905.
In the next edition, I will incorporate info from DJPD16 -- UKT 100401

The POA of consonants
1.04 Combination sounds : sounds of digraphs
1.05 Consonants
1.06 Minimal pairs
1.07 Stress

UKT notes
allophone minimal-pair phonotactics stress

Contents of this page

The POA (Place of Articulation) of the Consonants

To properly orient the Myanmar students to the English consonants we need to introduce the places in the mouth (the visible part of the open mouth) where the consonantal sounds are articulated. The most prominent part is {lya-hking} or uvula - the little grape.


Even though every infant is born with the ability to articulate all human sounds, the child started losing this ability by about the age of six. By the age of early teens marked by the onset of puberty, it loses this ability and can produce only the sounds specific to its L1 (the first language or the mother tongue). However, in the case of bi- and multi-linguals where the child is exposed to the sounds of more than one language in its early years, the child can articulate sounds other than that of L1. What phonemes are available and how they are permitted to combine then become language specific for the person. This is known as phonotactics . We must not forget that Burmese and English are two separate languages each with its own phonotactics, and that in teaching the sounds of English to a Burmese speaking Myanmar what we are doing is to overcome the restraints set by the phonotactics of the Burmese language. And so, we must never expect our students to speak like a native-English speaker. Our best effort would only make him or her understand where and how each consonant is articulated and thereby set the person on firm phonemic grounds in speaking English.

UKT: If we are to accept that the Myanmar akshara, like all the aksharas derived from the akshara found on the Asoka pillars now known as the Brahmi, is a phonemic script, then there is no reason why it should not presented in the table of IPA Pulmonic consonants. In the above table, we find that there is "almost" a one-to-one correspondence between the IPA consonant and the "killed" Myanmar akshara, e.g, /p/ = {p} . Our problem is to find the correspondence between Burmese-Myanmar vowels and the IPA vowels. You will see my efforts in the next file: EPG-vow.htm .

A peculiarity of English is quite a few of its consonantal graphemes are not pronounced or articulated. This fact is not realized by most of us speaking English (or if you prefer "Burglish"). As an example, it is well known that the b in <plumber> /'plʌm.əʳ/ (US) /-ɚ/ is not pronounced: it is silent. Thus, we should say {pa-lm~ma} NOT {pa-lm~ba} or {pa-lm~Ba}. See also DJPD16-045.

UKT: In disyllabic and polysyllabic words, it is important to know which syllable is stressed. In IPA, primary stress is indicated by a high vertical line before the syllable, secondary stress by a low vertical line. Example: <syllabification> [sɪˌlbəfɪˈkeɪʃən] or /sɪˌlbəfɪˈkeɪʃən/.
   Thus in <plumber> /'plʌm.əʳ/, the stress is on the /'plʌm/ .

Another important rule of the thumb is: the sound of a consonantal phoneme is NOT necessarily the same in the onset and in the coda. Thus the digraph gh is always pronounced as /g/ in the onset, but can become /f/ in the coda. See DJPD16-225 .

Contents of this page

1.04. Combination Sounds

UKT: By "combination sounds" Myanmar students should take them to be digraphs such as <ng>, <ny> and <th> (including medials such as <wh> (the {ha.hto:}-sound) and <qu> (the {wa.hsw:}-sound)). The digraphs <ng>, <ny> and <th> are similar to the Burmese-Myanmar {nga.}, {a.}/ {a.}, and {tha.}/{a.} sounds. On the other hand, <wh> and <qu> are similar to {wa.ha.hto:} and {ka.wa.hsw:} sounds.

Digraph <wh> {wha.}
Original program: Click on wh

The equivalent in Burmese-Myanmar is {wa.ha.hto:}. However, in the following, the speaker(s) has dropped the "h" - a practice that is becoming popular with many Americans. This practice should not be followed by Burmese-Myanmars. - UKT100915

where - /hweəʳ/ (US) /hwer/
when -  /hwen/
why - /hwaɪ/
what - /hwɒt/

whisper - /hwɪs.pəʳ/ (US) /pɚ/
somewhere - /ˡsʌm.hweəʳ/ (US) /hwer/
white - /hwaɪt/
whistle - /ˡhwɪs.l/

The following are confirmed 
C1_1_01 where C1_1_02 when C1_1_03 why C1_1_04 what
C1_1_05 whisper C1_1_06 somewhere C1_1_07 white C1_1_08 whistle
UKT: the above series seems to be a comparison of <WH> sounds / {wha.} -- 090125

Digraph <th> {a.}
Original program: Click on th unvoiced

The equivalent in Burmese-Myanmar is {tha.}/{a.} in disyllabic words such as {ma.tha} (meaning: funeral) where the first syllable is not stressed.

thin - /θɪn/
breath - /breθ/
author-  /ˈɔːθәʳ (US) / ˈɑː.θɚ/
through - /θruː/

thumb - /θʌm/ (note silent b at end)
theater - /θɪə.təʳ, ˡθː.ə-;θiˡet.əʳ/ (US) /ˡθː.ət̬ɚ/
earth - /ɜːθ/ (US) /ɝːθ/
thirty - /ˡθɜː.ti/ (US) /ˡθɝː.t̬i/

The following are confirmed
C1_2_01 thin C1_2_02 breath C1_2_03 author C1_2_04 through
C1_2_05 thumb C1_2_06 theater C1_2_07 earth C1_2_08 thirty
UKT: the above series seems to be a comparison of <TH> (voiceless) IPA [θ] sounds as in {tha.} of {thing:} -- 090125

Digraph <th> {a.}
Original program: Click on th voiced

The equivalent in Burmese-Myanmar is {tha.} in disyllabic words such as {ma.'tha} (meaning: Miss Pleasant - a female name) where the two syllables are equally stressed.

the - /iː/
those - /əʊz/ (US) /oʊz/
then - /en/  -- Problem note: Compare with than /n/ - from TIL sound collection 100915
father - /ˡfɑː.əʳ/

either - /ˡaɪ.əʳ/
other - /ˡʌ.əʳ/
rather - /ˡrɑːəʳ/
mother - /ˡmʌ.əʳ/

The following are confirmed
C1_3_01 the C1_3_02 those C1_3_03 than (there's a problem with this - UKT100915 C1_3_04 father
C1_3_05 either C1_3_06 other C1_3_07 rather C1_3_08 mother
UKT: the above series seems to be a comparison of <TH> (voiced) IPA [] sounds / as in {tha.} of {nn.tha} -- 090125

Digraph <sh>  / {Sha.} , {hya.} , {rha.}
Original program: Click on sh, ce, ci, ti, si

The phoneme that is involved here is /ʃ/. One way to represent this sound is {hya.}/{thhya.} spelled {tha.ya.ping.ha.hto:} in words such as:

{U.hyic} - n. bael fruit, Aegle marmelos - Myan-Engl-Dict 610
(source: Myanmar Medicinal Plants).

An alternate form of {hya.}/{thhya.} is {rha.} arbitrarily adopted by the MLC (Myanmar Language Commission) which is objectionable on phonemic grounds.

Do not forget that the sound involved here is the dental-fricative /ʃ/ (sometimes called a hisser). How to represent it has been a problem in Burmese-Myanmar. It is the first member of the Devanagari series, श ष स , which corresponds to the IPA /ʃ/ /s/ /θ/ and the Myanmar {Sha.} {Sa.} {a.}.
   Now let's step back a little and start with the problem of /c/ (palatal-stop) and /s/ (dental-fricative) both of which are represented by a single grapheme . We really need two graphemes to represent the two phonemes. Fortunately in Burmese-Myanmar syllables, /c/ is only present as the coda, and therefore can stand for /c/ and can stand for /s/. Burmese-Myanmar words do not end in hissing sounds and there is no need for a coda-/s/. However, when Romabama has to incorporate Sanskrit-Devanagari and English-Latin, we are forced to adopt two separate graphemes, one for /c/ and another for /s/. At the present, I am using to represent both the onset-/c/ and /s/. For coda-/c/ I am using and for coda-/s/ .
   Now, we can continue with /ʃ/. This has a element of the {ha.hto:} sound, but since Burmese phonotactics do not allow the {ha.hto:} to be applied to , we will have to make an exception for borrowed English and Sanskrit words and adopt . However, since the appearance of a {ha.hto:} under  is quite troublesome for most Burmese-Myanmar (including myself), we have to compress the grapheme vertically and write .

At this moment, I have no comment on <ti>.

shell - /ʃel/ . Problem note: Compare with shall /ʃl/ (variation shall) - from TIL sound collection 100915
ocean - /ˡəʊ.ʃən/
delicious - /dɪˡɪʃ.əs, də/
action - /ˡk.ʃən/

push - /pʊʃ/
shine - /ʃaɪn/
depression - /dɪˡpreʃ.ən, də/
shop - /ʃɒp/ (US) /ʃɑːp/

The following are confirmed
C1_4_01 shall (there's a problem with this - UKT100915 C1_4_02 ocean C1_4_03 delicious C1_4_04 action
C1_4_05 push C1_4_06 shine C1_4_07 depression C1_4_08 shop
UKT: the above series seems to be a comparison of <SH> IPA [ ʃ ] sounds / {rha.} or {thhya.} -- 090125

Original program: Click on right arrow : Click on su, ge, si

The closest in Burmese-Myanmar is {za.}. The equivalent would have been {zya.} -- the counterpart of {gya.} -- not found in Burmese-Myanmar orthography. It should be noted that the sibilants of row 2 of Burmese-Myanmar akshara, {sa.}, {hsa.}, and {za.} cannot form medials with {ya.}, even though their counterparts of row 1 can. This is because the {ya.ping.} formation is equivalent to making the consonant sibilant, and since the {sa}, {hsa.}, and {za.} are already sibilant, they cannot be made more sibilant.

usual - /ˡjuːʒəl, -ʒu.əl/
leisure - /ˡleʒ.əʳ/
rouge - /ruːʒ/
garage - /ˡgr.ɑːʒ/

division - /dɪˡvɪʒ.ən/
casual - /ˡkʒ.ju.əl/
excursion - /ɪkˡskɜː.ʃən/
collision - /kəˡlɪʒ.ən/

The following are confirmed
C2_1_01 usual C2_1_02 leisure C2_1_03 rouge (red) C2_1_04 garage
C2_1_05 division C2_1_06 casual C2_1_07 excursion C2_1_08 collision
UKT: the above series seems to be a comparison of <ZH> sounds. I am certain of IPA transcripts. Absent in Burmese -- 090125

Digraph <ch> {hkya.}
Original program: Click on ch, tu

The equivalent in Burmese-Myanmar is {hkya.} . An unfortunate pronunciation problem is found here because of the inability of English to differentiate between the c1 and c2 consonants which to them are the same sound (allophones). However, in narrow transcription IPA tries to differentiate them: allophones of /k/ - [k] and [kʰ] and /s/ - [s] and [sʰ]. Note that [k] has sound of {ka.}, [kʰ] of {hka.}, [s] of {sa.} and [sʰ] of {hsa.}.

chair - /ʧeəʳ/
lunch - /lʌnʧ/
reached - /riːʧ/
chicken - /ˡʧɪk.ɪn/

hatch - /hʧ/
adventure - /ədˡven.ʧ/
picture - /ˡpɪk.ʧəʳ/
feature - /ˡfiː.ʧəʳ/

The following are confirmed - ready to be erased
C2_2_01 chair C2_2_02 lunch C2_2_03 reached C2_2_04 chicken
C2_2_05 hatch C2_2_06 adventure C2_2_07 picture C2_2_08 feature
UKT: the above series seems to be a comparison of <CH> IPA [ ʧ ] sounds. In Burmese-Myanmar it is {hkya.}

Digraph <gy> or monograph <j>
Original program: Click on j, gi, ge, di

The equivalent in Burmese-Myanmar is {gya.} .

jail - /dʒeɪl/
joy - /dʒɔɪ/
joke - /dʒəʊk/
jeep - /dʒiːp/

magic - /ˡmdʒ.ɪk/
image - /ˡɪm.ɪdʒ/
cordial - /ˡkɔːdi.əl/
frigid - /ˡfrɪdʒ.ɪdɪ/

The following are confirmed
C2_3_01 jail C2_3_02 joy C2_3_03 joke C2_3_04 jeep
C2_3_05 magic C2_3_06 image C2_3_07 cordial C2_3_08 frigid
UKT: the above series seems to be a comparison of <J> IPA [ ʤ ] sounds. In Burmese-Myanmar it is {gya.} .

Digraph <ng>
Original program: Click on ng

The equivalent in Burmese-Myanmar is {nga.} and in Sanskrit-Devanagari ङ (U0919) . The absence of a dedicated grapheme for this important phoneme, which is very important in the Indian and Myanmar languages, is a major difficulty in transcription of English in our scripts. IPA has rectified this problem by assigning a dedicated grapheme /ŋ/.

tongue /tʌŋ /
king /kɪŋ/
sank /sŋk/
ring /rɪŋ/

language /lŋ.gwɪdʒ/
English /ɪŋ.glɪʃ/
wing /wɪŋ/
long /lɒŋ/

C2_4_01 tongue C2_4_02 king C2_4_03 sank C2_4_04 ring
C2_4_05 language C2_4_06 English C2_4_07 wing C2_4_08 long 
UKT: the above series seems to be a comparison of <NG> [ ŋ ] sounds. Because of the IPA grapheme ŋ , the sounds should be that of Burmese-Myanmar {nga.tht}, however at least to my ears, there is an element of {ga.tht} sound. I am waiting input from my peers.

Original program: Click on ye, lo, la
UKT: Though the original programme has given the above three together, there is no reason why they should be so grouped except for the reason that they are phonemically approximant sounds. Accordingly, I have split this group into two: ye, and lo, la

Original program: Click on ye

The equivalent of y in Burmese-Myanmar is {ya.} and is represented in IPA as /j/ .

year - /jɪəʳ, jɜːʳ/
yes - /jes/
yet - /jet/
you - /juːʳ/

Original program: Click on lo, la

The equivalent of l in Burmese-Myanmar is {la.} . It is a lateral approximant where the tongue plays an important part. It is the only lateral present in English-Latin which cannot even properly transcribe the Welsh sounds that are spelled with double l as in <Llanberis> /hlnˈber.ɪs , θln-/ (US) /hln-/ (See DJPD16-318). Incidentally, the Welsh ll is Burmese-Myanmar {lha.} (IPA /ɬ/) usually transcribed as <hla> in Myanmar which is present as a very common name Maung Hla (for male) and Ma Hla (for female).

million /mɪl.jən/
amuse /əˡmjuːz/
Italian /ɪˡtl.i.ən/
opinion /əˡpɪn.jən/

The following are confirmed
C3_1_01 year C3_1_02 yes C3_1_03 yet C3_1_04 you
C3_1_05 million C3_1_06 amuse  C3_1_07 Italian C3_1_08 opinion

Original program: Click on qu

Though English does not use q alone, it is present in borrowed words. In English proper it is always used in combination with u . The POA (place of articulation) of q is far into the interior of the mouth than k (IPA [k] and [kʰ] , or Burmese-Myanmar {ka.} and {hka.}). The closest sound to /q/ in Burmese-Myanmar is {ka.} (not {hka.} - remember {ka.} and {hka.} are not allophones in Myanmar and Indic languages. They are separate phonemes.). English also does not have the sound of /q/ which put Burmese and English on the same footing in articulation of /q/. The equivalent of qu then becomes {kwa.} or IPA /kw/ .

quite - /kwaɪt/
quit - /kwɪt/
queen - /kwiːn/
queer - /kwiəʳ/

quart - /kwɔːt/
question - /ˡkwes.ʧən/
quiz - /kwɪz/
quell - /kwel/

The following is to be confirmed
C3_2_01 quite C3_2_02 quit C3_2_03 queen C3_2_04 queer
C3_2_05 quart C3_2_06 question C3_2_07 quiz C3_2_08 quell

Original program: Click on gh
UKT: The original programme has unnecessarily confused the pronunciations of this digraph by lumping all the possible pronunciations together. I have given the presentation from DJPD16 below.

through - /θruː/
cough - / / (Listen carefully. Does it rhyme with <tough> below? -- UKT 090513)
tough - /tʌf/
though - /əʊ/

thorough - /ˡθʌr.ə/
rough - /rʌf/
ghost - /gəʊst/
slough - /slaʊ/

The following is to be confirmed
C3_3_01 through /θruː/ C3_3_02 cough /kɒf/ C3_3_03 tough /tʌf/ C3_3_04 though /əʊ/
C3_3_05 thorough /ˡɵʌr.ə/ C3_3_06 rough /rʌf/ C3_3_07 ghost /gəʊst/ C3_3_08 slough /slaʊ/ /slʌf/ slew /sluː/

letters <GH>

From: DJPD16-225

p225. The consonant digraph [gh] can be pronounced as /g/, /f/ or may be silent.

In syllable-initial position ( UKT: see onset), [gh] is always pronounced as /g/, e.g.:

<ghost>  /gəʊst/  (US)  /goʊst/ [UKT: remember the sound clip is GA or US pronunciation!)
<aghast>  /əˈgɑːst/  (US)  /-ˈgst/

Following a vowel letter, the pronunciation may be silent. This is always the case after i and ei, e.g.:

<high>  /haɪ/
<height>  /haɪt/
<plough>  /plaʊ/
<caught>  /kɔːt/  (US)  /kɑːt/

Alternatively, the pronunciation may be /f/, e.g.:

<rough>   /rʌf/
<laugh>  /lɑːf/  (US)  /lf/

In addition

A unique pronunciation of the consonant digraph [gh] is /p/, e.g.:

<hiccough>  /ˈhɪk.ʌp/

Contents of this page

1.05. Consonants

Burmese-Myanmar consonantal (akshara) matrix

UKT: Whenever you are listening to the sounds of the English consonants remember that you are listening to the consonant part of the syllable of the word. Remember also that English syllables have the canonical form CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant). The beginning consonant is known as the onset, the vowel is the peak or nucleus, and the end consonant is the coda . We have the same form in Burmese-Myanmar. However the coda-consonant is in the form of a "killed" consonant or {a.tht}. By the word "kill" we mean that the inherent vowel (likened to the short English a ) of the akshara {ak~kha.ra} has been muted and is indicated by a {tn-hkwan}. Here we must note that we find the same form in Sanskrit written in Devanagari. However, the {a.tht} in Devanagari has a different shape. It is known as the "vowel-killer" or viram in Sanskrit.

It is not well recognized in the country of Myanmar that the Myanmar akshara is scientifically arranged in the form of a matrix. The akshara table is divided into two parts, the {wag} and the {a.wag}. By {wag} we mean that the sounds can be classified into voiceless, voiced and nasal, whereas the {a.wag} means they are not classifiable. They are generally known as the "semi-vowels" by Pali scholars, though not all of them are semi-vowels. The position of {a.} of the Myanmar table is taken by {naig~ga.hait} in languages which write in Brahmi-derived scripts of Asia and South-east Asia.

In the table shown the aksharas of the columns c1 and c2 are voiceless, c3 and c4 are voiced, and c5 is nasal . English and European languages cannot differentiate the sounds of c1 and c2. They say that they have the same sound, e.g., to them {ka.} and {hka.} have the same sound or allophones of /k/ To them {hka.} is the aspirate form indicated by the presence of the h sound. Similarly to them, {ta.} and {hta.} are allophones of /t/; and {pa.} and {hpa.} are allophones of /p/.

It is unfortunate that the original CD which we have to use to listen to the sounds and see the movements does not present the sounds in an order which would be suitable for us. Since, we have no choice, we will do our best to listen to the English sounds with our Burmese-Myanmar ears.


Now let us study the sounds of r5 {pa.} {ba.} {ma.}: English p, b, and m.
However, remember that Europeans can not differentiate the sound of
{pa.} from that of {hpa.}.
They say
{pa.} and {hpa.} are the allophones of English p given by the broad transcription /p/.
Only in narrow transcription, these allophones are represented by [p] and [pʰ].

Original program: Click on p .
You will notice that the English p is quite close to Burmese {hpa.}.

pie - /paɪ/
Pat - /pt/
puppy - /ˡpʌpi/
postcard - /ˡpəʊst.kɑːd/

pear - /peəʳ/
pet - /pet/
apple - /ˡp.l/
please - /pliːz/

The following are to be confirmed
L1_1_01 pie L1_1_02 Pat L1_1_03 puppy L1_1_04 postcard
L1_1_05 pear L1_1_06 pet L1_1_07 apple L1_1_08 please

Contents of this page

Original program: Click on b

robe - /rəʊb/
bell - /bel/
buy - /baɪ/
rubber - /ˡrʌb.əʳ/

bread - /bred/
behind - /bɪˡhaɪnd/
cab - /kb/
Bob - /bɒb/

The following are to be confirmed
L1_2_01 robe L1_2_02 bell L1_2_03 buy L1_2_04 rubber
L1_2_05 bread L1_2_06 behind L1_2_07 cab L1_2_08 Bob

From: DJPD16-45.

The consonant <b> is most often realised as /b/.
[The sound clip is from LSE-EPG]

<boy>  /bɔɪ/
<grab>  /grb/

UKT: <boy> and <buoy> have the same pronunciation /bɔɪ/. See Pronouncing OI/OY

In addition

<b> can be silent, or have a zero realization. There are two combinations in which this can occur: <bt> and <mb>.

<bt> is either word medial or word final, e.g.:

<doubt>  /daʊt/
<subtle>  /ˈsʌt.ļ/  (US)  /ˈsʌt̬.ļ/

UKT: The word <subtle> has an "l" with a diacritical mark to show that it is a syllabic consonant -- See l cedilla.

Words containing <mb> in which <b> is silent have the <mb> in word final position, except where an inflection is added, e.g.:

<bomb>  /bɒm/  (US)  /bɑːm/
<bombing>  /ˈbɒm.ɪŋ/   (US)  /ˈbɑːmɪŋ/  -- UKT: notice that the coda-consonant <b> is silent.

However, the appearance of <bt> and <mb> does not necessarily indicate a silent <b>. In case of <mb>, the <b> is pronounced if it occurs inside a morpheme or unit of meaning. Compare:

<number> = arithmetical value  /ˈnʌm.bəʳ/  (US)  /ˈnʌm.bɚ/
<number> = comparative of <numb>  /ˈnʌm.əʳ/  (US)  /ˈnʌm.ɚ/

For <bt>, the <b> is not silent, if part of a prefix. Compare:

<subtract>  /səbˈtrkt/ 
<subtle>  /ˈsʌt.ļ/  (US)  /ˈsʌt̬.ļ/

UKT: The word <subtle> has an "l" with a diacritical mark to show that it is a syllabic consonant -- See l cedilla.


Contents of this page

Original program: Click on m

mother - /ˡmʌ.əʳ/
summer - /ˡsʌm.əʳ/
mouth - /maʊθ/
mouse - /maʊs/

home - /həʊm/
market - /ˡmɑː.kɪt/
make - /meɪk/
come - /kʌm/

L1_3_01 mother L1_3_02 summer L1_3_03 mouth L1_3_04 mouse
L1_3_05 home L1_3_06 market L1_3_07 make L1_3_08 come

Contents of this page

English-Latin consonantal (alphabet) table

We will now see the pronunciations of English consonants given by Daniel Jones with regard to the Place of Articulation (POA):

Note that the graphemes in the above table are in IPA and not regular English. Thus /j/ is English <y> and is equivalent to Burmese {ya.}; /ŋ/ is English <ng> present in such words as <king>. It is the equivalent of Burmese {ng.}.

Now let us listen to some sounds of English with which Myanmars could have some difficulties.

Original program: Click on w, ui

water - /ˡwɔːtəʳ/
we - /wiː/
window - /ˡwɪn.dəʊ/
one - /ˡwʌn/

won - /wʌn/
watch - /wɒʧ/
wheel - /hwiːl/
quite - /kwaɪt/

The following are to be confirmed
L1_4_01 water L1_4_02 we L1_4_03 window L1_4_04 one
L1_4_05 won L1_4_06 watch L1_4_07 wheel L1_4_08 quite

Original program: Click on right arrow . Click on f, ph, gh

office - /ˡɒf.ɪs/
laugh - /lɑːf/
photo - /ˡfəʊ.təʊ/
feel - /fiːl/

cuff - /kʌf/
rough - /rʌf/
far - /fɑːʳ/
refreshment  - /rɪˡfreʃ.mənt/

front - /frʌnt/

The following are to be confirmed
L2_1_01 office L2_1_02 laugh L2_1_03 photo L2_1_04 feel L2_1_05 cuff
L2_1_06 rough L2_1_07 far L2_1_08 refreshment L2_1_09 front

Original program: Click on v, f

movies - /ˡmuː.viz/
vest - /vest/
of - /ɒv/
never - /ˡnev.əʳ/

have - /hv/
verse - /vɜːs/
leave - /liːv/
Vera - /ˡvɪə.rə/

The following are to be confirmed
L2_2_01 movies L2_2_02 vest L2_2_03 of L2_2_04 never
L2_2_05 have L2_2_06 verse L2_2_07 leave L2_2_08 Vera

Now we come to the sounds of r4 {ta.} {da.} {na.}: English t, d, and n

Original program: Click on d

dog - /dɒg/
admire - /ədˡmaɪəʳ/
desk - /desk/
dont - /dəʊnt/

could - /kʊd/
need - /niːd/
drive - /draɪv/
grades - /grd/

The following are to be confirmed
L2_3_01 dog L2_3_02 admire L2_3_03 desk L2_3_04 don't
L2_3_05 could L2_3_06 need L2_3_07 drive L2_3_08 grades
To my ears L2_3_08 sounds like "graves" not "grades".

Original program: Click on t
You notice that the English t is quite close to the Burmese {hta.}

ten  - /ten/
talk  - /tɔːk/
table  - /ˡteɪ.bl/
irate - /aɪˡreɪt/

return  - /rɪˡtɜːn/
bet  - /bet/
havent  - /ˡhv.ənt/
matter - /ˡmt.əʳ/

The following are to be confirmed
L2_4_01 ten L2_4_02 talk L2_4_03 table L2_4_04 irate
L2_4_05 return L2_4_06 bet L2_4_07 haven't L2_4_08 matter

Original program: Click on right arrow : Click on n, kn -
[UKT: k in kn is silent]

news - /njuːz/
November  - /nəʊˡvem.bəʳ/
never  - /ˡnev.əʳ/
know - /nəʊ/

nine  - /naɪn/
down  - /daʊn/
window - /ˡwɪn.dəʊ/
no  - /nəʊ/

The following are to be confirmed
L3_1_01 news L3_1_02 November L3_1_03 never L3_1_04 know
L3_1_05 nine L3_1_06 down L3_1_07 window L3_1_08 no


The original CD presents the following in a order which is not exactly suitable for us.
I would like to see it in the order: y r l w th h .

Original program: Click on l

large  - /lɑːdʒ/
mile  - /maɪl/
lamp  - /lmp/
allow - /əˡlaʊ/

long  - /lɒŋ/
below  - /bɪˡləʊ, bə/
well - /wel/

The following are to be confirmed
L3_2_01 large L3_2_02 mile L3_2_03 lamp L3_2_04 allow
L3_2_05 long L3_2_06 below L3_2_07 well

Original program: Click on r

red  - /red/
correct  - /kəˡrekt/
river  - /ˡrɪv.əʳ/
right - /raɪt/

write  - /raɪt/
Richard  - /ˡrɪʧ.əd/
read  - /rɪːd/
price - /praɪs/

The following are to be confirmed
L3_3_01 red L3_3_02 correct L3_3_03 river L3_3_04 right
L3_3_05 write L3_3_06 Richard L3_3_07 read L3_3_08 price

Original program: Click on s, c

sick - Problem: check "seek" - /sɪk/
seen - Problem: check "scene"  - /sɪːn/
city  - /ˡsɪt.i/
sin - /sɪn/

scene  - /sɪːn/
pass  - /pɑːs/
lesson  - /ˡles.ən/
cyan  - /ˡsaɪ.n/

The following are to be confirmed
L3_4_01 sick L3_4_02 seen L3_4_03 city L3_4_04 sin
L3_4_05 scene L3_4_06 pass L3_4_07 lesson L3_4_08 cyan

Original program: Click on right arrow : Click on z, x, s

zoo  - /zuː/
xylophone  - /ˡzaɪ.lə.fəʊn/
Xerox  - /ˡzɪə.rɒks/
lose - /luːz/

plays  - /pleɪ/
prize  - /praɪz/
quiz  - /kwɪz/
dozen - /ˡdʌz.ən/

The following are to be confirmed
L4_1_01 zoo L4_1_02 xylophone L4_1_03 Xerox L4_1_04 lose
L4_1_05 plays L4_1_06 prize L4_1_07 quiz L4_1_08 dozen

Original program: Click on y, lo, la

yet  - /jet/
yes  - /jes/
million  - /ˡmɪl.jən/
senior - /ˡsiː.ni.əʳ/

familiar  - /fəˡmɪl.i.əʳ/
year  - /jɪəʳ/
yellow  - /ˡjel.əʊ/
younger  - /ˡjʌŋ.əʳ/

The following are to be confirmed
L4_2_01 yet L4_2_02 yes L4_2_03 million L4_2_04 senior
L4_2_05 familiar L4_2_06 year L4_2_07 yellow L4_2_08 younger

Original program: Click on k, c, ch

keep  - /kiːp/
look  - /lʊk/
cat  - /kt/
escape - /ɪˡskeɪp/

thank  - /θŋk/
character  -/ˡkr.ək.təʳ/
king  - /kɪŋ/
kitten  - /ˡkɪt.ən/

The following are to be confirmed
L4_3_01 keep L4_3_02 look L4_3_03 cat L4_3_04 escape
L4_3_05 thank L4_3_06 character L4_3_07 king L4_3_08 kitten

Original program: Click on right arrow : Click on g

good  - /gʊd/
go  - /gəʊ/
egg  - /eg/
bag  - /bg/

game  - /geɪm/
rag  - /rg/
goat  - /gəʊt/
gold - /gəʊld/

The following are to be confirmed
L5_1_01 good L5_1_02 go L5_1_03 egg L5_1_04 bag
L5_1_05 game L5_1_06 rag L5_1_07 goat L5_1_08 gold

Original program: Click on h, wh

hat  - /ht/
hall  - /hɔːl/
who  - /huː/
hire  - /haɪəʳ/

have  - /hv/
perhaps  - /pəˡhps/
hello  - /helˡəʊ/
home  - /həʊm/

The following are to be confirmed
L5_2_01 hat L5_2_02 hall L5_2_03 who L5_2_04 hire
L5_2_05 have L5_2_06 perhaps L5_2_07 hello L5_2_08 home


Contents of this page

1.06. Minimal Pairs

Minimal pairs

Listen to the following minimal pairs

lad, lade - /ld/, /leɪd/ - / {lad}/ , / {laid}/
pick, pike  - /pɪk/, /paɪk/
bill, bile  - /bɪl/, /baɪl/
sharp, share - /ʃɑːp/, /ʃeəʳ/

shall, shale  - /ʃl/, /ʃeɪl/
lit, lite  - /lɪt/, /laɪt/
sit, site  - /sɪt/, /saɪt/
don, done  - /dɒn/, /dʌn/

The following are to be confirmed
W1_1_01 lad - lade W1_1_02 pick - pike W1_1_03 bill - bile W1_1_04 sharp - share
W1_1_05 shall - shale W1_1_06 lit - lite W1_1_07 sit - site W1_1_08 don - done

dinner, diner  - /ˡdɪn.əʳ/, /ˡdaɪ.nəʳ/
herd, here  - /hɜːd/, /hɪəʳ/
curd, cure  - /kɜːd/, /kjʊəʳ/
till, tile  - /tɪl/, /taɪl/

will, wile  - /wɪl/, /waɪl/
fin, fine  - /fɪn/, /faɪn/
mull, mule  - /mʌl/, /mjuːl/
land, lane  - /lnd/, /leɪn/

The following are to be confirmed
W1_2_01 dinner - diner W1_2_02 heard - hear W1_2_03 curd - cure W1_2_04 till - tile
W1_2_05 will, wile W1_2_06 fin, fine W1_2_07 mull, mule W1_2_08 land, lane

top, tope - /tɒp/, /təʊp/
hop, hope - /hɒp/, /həʊp/
whither, whether  - /ˡhwɪ.əʳ/, /ˡhwe.əʳ/
war, ware - /wɔːʳ/, /weəʳ/

wan, wane  - /wɒn/, /weɪn/
whinny, whiny - /ˡhwɪn.i/, /ˡhwaɪ.n/
whit, white  - /hwɪt/, /hwaɪt/
win, wine  - /wɪn/, /waɪn/

The following are to be confirmed
W1_3_01 top, tope W1_3_02 hop, hope W1_3_03 whither, whether W1_3_04 war, ware
W1_3_05 wan, wane W1_3_06 whinny, whiny W1_3_07 whit, white W1_3_08 win, wine

lob, lobe  - /lɒb/, /ləʊb/
bit, bite - /bɪt/, /baɪt/
cut, cute  - /kʌt/, /kjuːt/
din, dine - /dɪn/, /daɪn/

fin, fine  - /fɪn/, /faɪn/
far, fare - /fɑːʳ/, /feəʳ/
jut, jute  - /dʒʌt/, /dʒuːt/

The following are to be confirmed
W1_4_01 lob, lobe W1_4_02 bit, bite W1_4_03 cut, cute W1_4_04 din, dine
W1_4_05 fin, fine W1_4_06 far, fare W1_4_07 jut, jute

Contents of this page

1.07. Stress

There are, unfortunately, no rules for stress in English. There is no way of knowing which syllable or syllables are stressed in any English word. Consequently, you must learn the stress of a word when you learn the word. There is, however, a general tendency in English accentuation that will help you make educated guesses when you meet a new word and do not already know what syllable is stressed.

The great majority of two-syllable words in English are stressed on the first syllable, for example, English, second, photo, upper, etc. You should note, however, that sometimes the same word might be stressed on the first syllable to mean one thing and also stressed on the second syllable to mean another, for example, 'produce and produce, the first being a noun and the second a verb. There are many examples of this phenomenon, such as 'subject (noun) and subject (verb), 'object (noun) and object (verb).

Of historical interest is the fact that when determination of syllabic stress in English is related to the origin of the words under discussion. Thus, in the sequence love, lovely, lovable, loveliness, lovableness, we see that the stress is constant on the first syllable. These are native English words. However, in the sequences, photograph, photography, photographic and 'equal, equality, equalization, equilitarian, we find the stress shifting from one syllable to another as the word gets longer. Words that follow this stress pattern are from Greek or Latin origin.

The following are confirmed - ready to be erased
S1_1_01 English S1_1_02 second S1_1_03 photo S1_1_04 upper
S1_1_05 produce S1_1_06 produce
S1_1_07 subject S1_1_08 subject
S1_1_09 object S1_1_10 object
S1_1_11 love S1_1_12 lovely S1_1_13 lovable S1_1_14 loveliness S1_1_15 lovableness
S1_1_16 photograph S1_1_17 photography S1_1_18 photographic
S1_1_19 equal S1_1_20 equality S1_1_21 equalization S1_1_22 equalitarian


End of Pronunciation Guide

Contents of this page

UKT notes


From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allophone 090225

In phonetics, an allophone (from the Greek: ἄλλος, llos, "other" and φωνή, phōnē, "voice, sound") is one of several similar speech sounds (phones) that belong to the same phoneme. A phoneme is an abstract unit of speech sound that can distinguish words: That is, changing a phoneme in a word can produce another word. Speakers of a particular language perceive a phoneme as a distinctive sound in that language. An allophone is not distinctive, but rather a variant of a phoneme; changing the allophone won't change the meaning of a word,* but the result may sound non-native, or be unintelligible. (There is debate over how real, and how universal, phonemes really are. See phoneme for details.)

* UKT: this statement cannot be true in Burmese-Myanmar, because a word spelled with [k] will have a change in meaning when [kʰ] is used. E.g., [kɪŋ] is different from [kʰɪŋ]. [kɪŋ] is {king} means "to roast" and [kʰɪŋ] is {hking} "to love or like".

Every time a speech sound is produced, it will be slightly different from other utterances. Only some of the variation is significant (i.e., detectable or perceivable) to speakers. There may be complementary allophones which are distributed regularly within speech according to phonetic environment, as well as notable free variants, which are a matter of personal habit or preference. Not all phonemes have significantly different allophones.

In the case of complementary allophones, each allophone is used in a specific phonetic context and may be involved in a phonological process.

A tonic allophone is sometimes called an allotone, for example in the neutral tone of Mandarin.

Examples in English vs. other languages

For example, [pʰ] as in pin and [p] as in spin are allophones for the phoneme /p/ in the English language because they cannot distinguish words (in fact, they occur in complementary distribution). English speakers treat them as the same sound, but they are different: the first is aspirated and the second is unaspirated (plain). Plain [p] also occurs as the p in cap [kʰp], or the second p in paper [pʰeɪ.pɚ]. Chinese languages treat these two phones differently; for example in Mandarin, [p] (written b in Pinyin) and [pʰ] (written p) contrast phonemically.

There are many other allophonic processes in English, like lack of plosion, nasal plosion, partial devoicing of sonorants, complete devoicing of sonorants, partial devoicing of obstruents, lengthening and shortening vowels, and retraction.

Aspiration strong explosion of breath. In English a voiceless plosive that is p, t or k is aspirated whenever it stands as the only consonant at the beginning of the stressed syllable or of the first, stressed or unstressed, syllable in a word.
   UKT: Myanmar students should note that the above paragraph tells us that the English p, t, k in the above environment have the sound {hpa.}, {hta.}, {hka.}.

Nasal plosion In English a plosive (/p, t, k, b, d, g/) has nasal plosion when its followed by nasal, inside a word or across word boundary.

Partial devoicing of sonorants In English sonorants(/j, w, l, r, m, n, ŋ/) are partially devoiced when they follow a voiceless sound within the same syllable.

Complete devoicing of sonorants In English a sonorant is completely devoiced when it follows an aspirated plosive (/p, t, k/).

Partial devoicing of obstruents in English, a voiced obstruent is partially devoiced next to a pause or next to a voiceless sound, inside a word or across its boundary.

Retraction in English /t, d, n, l/ are retracted before /r/.

Because the choice of allophone is seldom under conscious control, people may not realize they exist. English speakers may become aware of the difference between two allophones of the phoneme /t/, namely unreleased [t̚] and aspirated [tʰ], if they contrast the pronunciations of the following words:

Night rate: [ˈnʌɪt̚.ɹʷeɪt̚] (sans word space between . and ɹ)
Nitrate: [ˈnaɪ.tʰɹ̥eɪt̚]

If a flame is held before the lips while these words are spoken, you may notice that it flickers more during aspirated nitrate than during unaspirated night rate. The difference can also be felt by holding the hand in front of the lips. For a Mandarin speaker, to whom /t/ and /tʰ/ are separate phonemes, the English distinction is much more obvious than it is to the English speaker who has learned since childhood to ignore it.

Allophones of English /l/ may be noticed if the 'light' [l] of leaf [ˈliːf] is contrasted with the 'dark' [ɫ] of feel [ˈfiːɫ]. Again, this difference is much more obvious to a Turkish speaker, for whom /l/ and /ɫ/ are separate phonemes, than to an English speaker, for whom they are allophones of a single phoneme.

Representing a phoneme with an allophone

Since phonemes are abstractions of speech sounds, not the sounds themselves, they have no direct phonetic transcription. When they are realized without much allophonic variation, a simple (i.e. 'broad') transcription is used. However, when there are complementary allophones of a phoneme, so that the allophony is significant, things become more complicated. Often, if only one of the allophones is simple to transcribe, in the sense of not requiring diacritics, then that representation is chosen for the phoneme.

However, there may be several such allophones, or the linguist may prefer greater precision than this allows. In such cases a common convention is to use the "elsewhere condition" to decide which allophone will stand for the phoneme. The "elsewhere" allophone is the one that remains once the conditions for the others are described by phonological rules. For example, English has both oral and nasal allophones of its vowels. The pattern is that vowels are nasal only when preceding a nasal consonant within the same syllable; elsewhere they're oral. Therefore, by the "elsewhere" convention, the oral allophones are considered basic; nasal vowels in English are considered to be allophones of oral phonemes.

In other cases, an allophone may be chosen to represent its phoneme because it is more common in the world's languages than the other allophones, because it reflects the historical origin of the phoneme, or because it gives a more balanced look to a chart of the phonemic inventory. In rare cases a linguist may represent phonemes with abstract symbols, such as dingbats, so as not to privilege any one allophone.

End of Wikipedia article.

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minimal pairs

From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimal_pair 090206

In phonology, minimal pairs are pairs of words or phrases in a particular language, which differ in only one phonological element, such as a phone, phoneme, toneme or chroneme and have a distinct meaning. They are used to demonstrate that two phones constitute two separate phonemes in the language.

As an example for English vowels, the pair "let" + "lit" can be used to demonstrate that the phones [ɛ] (in let) and [ɪ] (in lit) do in fact represent distinct phonemes /ɛ/ and /ɪ/. An example for English consonants is the minimal pair of "pat" + "bat". In phonetics, this pair, like any other, differs in number of ways. In this case, the contrast appears largely to be conveyed with a difference in the voice onset time of the initial consonant as the configuration of the mouth is same for [p] and [b]; however, there is also a possible difference in duration, which visual analysis using high quality video supports.

Phonemic differentiation may vary between different dialects of a language, so that a particular minimal pair in one accent is a pair of homophones in another. This does not necessarily mean that one of the phonemes is absent in the homonym accent; merely that it is not present in the same range of contexts.

Differentiations in English

Following pairs prove existence of various distinct phonemes in English.

Differentiating consonants with same location and manner of articulation

In the articulation of bilabial plosives, 4 phones are defined by the characteristics voiced/unvoiced and aspirated/unaspirated: [p], [pʰ], [b] and [bʱ]. In different languages only some of these may occur and the number of phonemes formed may be different again.

UKT: More in the Wikipedia article.

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From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonotactics 071230
UKT: See also sonority hierarchy in hv7.htm.

Phonotactics (in Greek phone = voice and tactic = course) is a branch of phonology that deals with restrictions in a language on the permissible combinations of phonemes. Phonotactics defines permissible syllable structure, consonant clusters, and vowel sequences by means of phonotactical constraints.

Phonotactic constraints are language specific. For example, in Japanese, consonant clusters like /st/ are not allowed, although they are in English. Similarly, the sounds /kn/ and /ɡn/ [obviously the {nga.} [ŋ] sound] are not permitted at the beginning of a word in Modern English but are in German and Dutch.

UKT: In English both /sw/ and /st/ are allowed, whereas in Burmese, though /sw/ is allowed /st/ is not.
This shows that English /t/ is more sonorous than Burmese /t/. Whatever the case may be, in transliterating English to Burmese, we have to accept the "killed" {sa.}, {s}  in the onset (and more than one killed consonant in the coda, e.g. <stat> {s~takt} .
I am waiting for comments from my peers.

Syllables have the following internal segmental structure:

Onset (optional)
Rime (obligatory, comprises Nucleus and Coda):
- Nucleus (obligatory)
- Coda (optional)

Both onset and coda may be empty, forming a vowel-only syllable, or alternatively, the nucleus can be occupied by a syllabic consonant.

English Phonotactics: The English syllable (and word) twelfths /twɛlfθs/ is divided into the onset /tw/, the nucleus /ɛ/, and the coda /lfθs/, and it can thus be described as CCVCCCC (C = consonant, V = vowel). On this basis it is possible to form rules for which representations of phoneme classes may fill the cluster. For instance, English allows at most three consonants in an onset, but among native words under standard accents, phonemes in a three-consonantal onset are limited to the following scheme:

/s/ + pulmonic + approximant:
/s/ + /m/ + /j/
/s/ + /t/ + /j ɹ/
/s/ + /p/ + /j ɹ l/
/s/ + /k/ + /j ɹ l w/

This constraint can be observed in the pronunciation of the word blue: originally, the vowel of blue was identical to the vowel of cue, approximately [iw]. In most dialects of English, [iw] shifted to [juː]. Theoretically, this would produce ** [bljuː]. The cluster [blj], however, infringes the constraint for three-consonantal onsets in English. Therefore, the pronunciation has been reduced to [bluː] by elision of the [j].

Other languages don't share the same constraint: compare Spanish pliegue [ˈpljeɣe] or French pluie [plɥi].

Sonority hierarchy: In general, the rules of phonotactics operate around the sonority hierarchy, stipulating that the nucleus has maximal sonority and that sonority decreases as you move away from the nucleus. The voiceless alveolar fricative [s] is lower on the sonority hierarchy than the alveolar lateral approximant [l], so the combination /sl/ is permitted in onsets and /ls/ is permitted in codas, but /ls/ is not allowed in onsets and /sl/ is not allowed in codas. Hence slips /slɪps/ and pulse /pʌls/ are possible English words while *lsips and *pusl are not. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but in general it holds for the phonotactics of most languages.

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From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stress 090513

In linguistics, stress is the relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word. The term is also used for similar patterns of phonetic prominence inside syllables. The word accent is sometimes also used with this sense.

Phonetic realization

The ways stress manifests itself in the speech stream are highly language dependent. In some languages, stressed syllables have a higher or lower pitch than non-stressed syllables  so-called pitch accent (or musical accent). In other languages, they may bear either higher or lower pitch than surrounding syllables (a pitch excursion), depending on the sentence type. There are also dynamic accent (loudness), qualitative accent (full vowels), and quantitative accent (length, known in music theory as agogic accent). Stress may be characterized by more than one of these characteristics. Further, stress may be realized to varying degrees on different words in a sentence; sometimes the difference between the acoustic signals of stressed and unstressed syllables may be minimal.

In English, stress is most dramatically realized on focussed or accented words. For instance, consider the dialogue

"Is it brunch tomorrow?"
"No, it's dinner tomorrow."

In it, the stress-related acoustic differences between the syllables of "tomorrow" would be small compared to the differences between the syllables of "dinner", the emphasized word. In these emphasized words, stressed syllables such as "din" in "dinner" are louder and longer. (Wiki-note01, Wiki-note02, Wiki-note03). They may also have a different fundamental frequency, or other properties. Unstressed syllables typically have a vowel, which is closer to a neutral position (the schwa), while stressed vowels are more fully realized. In contrast, stressed and unstressed vowels in Spanish share the same quality unlike English, the language has no reduced vowels.

(Much literature emphasizes the importance of pitch changes and pitch motions on stressed syllables, but experimental support for this idea is weak. Nevertheless, most experiments do not directly address the pitch of speech, which is a subjective perceived quantity. Experiments typically measure the speech fundamental frequency, which is objectively measurable, and strongly correlated with pitch, but not quite the same thing.)

The possibilities for stress in tone languages is an area of ongoing research, but stress-like patterns have been observed in Mandarin Chinese. (Wiki-note04) They are realized as alternations between syllables where the tones are carefully realized with a relatively large swing in fundamental frequency, and syllables where they are realized "sloppily" with typically a small swing.

UKT: Burmese was once considered to be a tone language similar to Thai. However, it is now taken as a pitch-register language similar to the Chinese dialect Shanghainese. -- Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Register 090513.

Stressed syllables are often perceived as being more forceful than non-stressed syllables. Research has shown, however, that although dynamic stress is accompanied by greater respiratory force, it does not mean a more forceful articulation in the vocal tract.

Placement, rhythm, and metrical feet


  trochaic (quantity-sensitive: 'LL, 'H; quantity-insensitive: 'σσ)
  iambic (L'L, L'H, 'H)

demarcative function (fixed word edge)

culminativity (lexical words have single stress)

binary vs ternary

Some languages have fixed stress. That is, stress is placed always on a given syllable, as in Finnish and Hungarian (stress always on the first syllable) or Quechua and Polish (stress always on the penult: one syllable before the last) or on third syllable counting backwards (the antepenult), as in Macedonian (see: Stress in Macedonian language). Other languages have stress placed on different syllables but in a predictable way, as in Classical Arabic and Latin (where stress is conditioned by the structure of the penultimate syllable). They are said to have a regular stress rule.

French words are sometimes said to be stressed on the final syllable, but actually French has no word stress at all. Rather, it has a prosody whereby the final or next-to-final syllable of a string of words is stressed. This string may be equivalent to a clause or a phrase. However, when a word is said alone, it receives the full prosody and therefore the stress as well.

There are also languages like English, Italian, Russian and Spanish, where stress is (at least partly) unpredictable. Rather, it is lexical: it comes as part of the word and must be memorized, although orthography can make stress unambiguous for a reader, as is the case in Spanish and Portuguese. In such languages, otherwise homophonous words may differ only by the position of the stress (e.g. incite and insight in English), and therefore it is possible to use stress as a grammatical device.

<in|cite> /ɪn|'saɪt/ -- DJPD16-273
<insight> /'ɪn.saɪt/ -- DJPD16-280

English does this to some extent with noun-verb pairs such as a rcord vs. to recrd, where the verb is stressed on the last syllable and the related noun is stressed on the first; record also hyphenates differently: a rc-ord vs. to re-crd. The German language does this with certain prefixes  for example m-schrei-ben (to rewrite) vs. um-schri-ben (to paraphrase, outline)  and in Russian this phenomenon often occurs with different cases of certain nouns (земли́/zemli (genitive case of the Earth, land or soil) and зе́мли (soils or lands  plural form)).

It is common for dialects to differ in their stress placement for some words. For example, in British English, the word "laboratory" is pronounced with primary stress on the second syllable, while American English stresses the first.

Degrees of stress

'Primary' and 'secondary' stress are distinguished in some languages. English is commonly believed to have two levels of stress, as in the words cunterfil [ˈkaʊntɚˌfɔɪl] and cunterintlligence [ˌkaʊntɚ.ɪnˈtɛlɪdʒəns], and in some treatments has even been described as having four levels, primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary, but these treatments often disagree with each other. It is possible to describe English with only one degree of stress, as long as unstressed syllables may occur without vowel reduction.

Stress and vowel reduction

In many languages, such as Russian and English, vowel reduction may occur when a vowel changes from a stressed to an unstressed position. In English, many unstressed vowels reduce to schwa-like vowels, though the details vary with dialect. Other languages, such as Finnish, have no unstressed vowel reduction.

Historical effects of stress

It is common for stressed and unstressed syllables to behave differently as a language evolves. For example, in the Romance languages, the original Latin short vowels /e/ and /o/ have generally become diphthongs when stressed. Since stress takes part in verb conjugation, this has produced verbs with vowel alternation in the Romance languages. For example, the Spanish verb volver has the form volv in the past but vuelvo in the present (see Spanish irregular verbs). Italian shows the same phenomenon, but with /o/ alternating with /uo/ instead. This behaviour is not confined to verbs; for example, Spanish viento "wind", from Latin ventum.


English is a stress-timed language; that is, stressed syllables appear at a roughly constant rate, and non-stressed syllables are shortened to accommodate this. Other languages have syllable timing (e.g. Spanish) or mora timing (e.g. Japanese), where syllables or morae are spoken at a roughly constant rate regardless of stress.


Different systems exist for indicating syllabification and stress.

In IPA, primary stress is indicated by a high vertical line before the syllable, secondary stress by a low vertical line. Example: [sɪˌlbəfɪˈkeɪʃən] or /sɪˌlbəfɪˈkeɪʃən/.

In English dictionaries that do not use IPA, stress is typically marked with a prime mark placed after the stressed syllable: /si-lab′-ə-fi-kay′-shən/.

In ad hoc pronunciation guides, stress is often indicated using a combination of bold text and capital letters. Example: si-lab-if-i-KAY-shun or si-LAB-if-i-KAY-shun

In Russian and Ukrainian dictionaries, stress is indicated with an acute accent "  ́" on a syllable's vowel (example: вимовля́ння) or, in other editions, an apostrophe (Wiki-note05) just after it (example: гла'сная). Stressing is rare in general texts, but is still used when necessary: compare за́мок (castle) and замо́к (lock).

In Dutch, ad hoc indication of stress is usually marked by an acute accent on the vowel (or, in the case of a diphthong, the first two vowels) of the stressed syllable. Compare achtertgang (deterioration) and chteruitgang (back exit).

In Modern Greek, all polysyllables are written with an acute accent over the vowel in the stressed syllable. (The acute accent is also used to distinguish some monosyllables in order to distinguish homographs (e.g., η ("the") and ή ("or")); here the stress of the two words is the same).

In Portuguese, stress is sometimes indicated explicitly with an acute accent (for i, u, and open a, e, o), or circumflex (for close a, e, o). In diphthongs, when marked, the semivowel (or the semivowels) never receives the accent mark. Stress is not marked with diacritics when it can be otherwise predicted from spelling, i.e., it is only marked on uncommon pronunciation of pattern of letters.

In Spanish orthography, stress may be written explicitly with a single acute accent on a vowel. Stressed antepenultimate syllables are always written with this accent mark, as in rabe. If the last syllable is stressed, the accent mark is used if the word ends in the letters n, s, or a vowel, as in est. If the penultimate syllable is stressed, the accent is used if the word ends in any other letter, as in crcel. That is, if a word is written without an accent mark, the stress is on the penult if the last letter is a vowel, n, or s, but on the final syllable if the word ends in any other letter.

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