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Today I am going to explore whether there is a standard correct pronunciation of a word and if you need to be concerned about incorrect pronunciations.

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Today’s clear accent lesson: Correct pronunciation of words

Today I will be delving into if there is a standard correct pronunciation of a word and whether we should be concerned with mispronunciations.

On the one hand we know there is a standard pronunciation for words because quite simply that is what you will see when you look in a dictionary.

However, on the other hand it may well depend on the dictionary that you are looking in. For example, we know there are differences between American English and British English. Additionally, if you check the same word in the British, Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries, in some cases, you will still find different pronunciations.

You may also find that you and those close around you pronounce words a certain way, only to discover this is not how either dictionary suggests the word should be pronounced. Does that mean it is incorrect?

Does mispronunciation matter?

Well, I believe it depends on the situation you are in and what your needs are regarding English. As a teacher, I do like the notion of there being a standard correct pronunciation of a word. We should strive towards an ideal form of a word.

But who decides on the ideal form? That is a different matter, but let’s say if a few dictionaries agree on the correct pronunciation of a word, nine times out of 10, I’m going to go with what they say. Depending on the situation I may even adapt my own pronunciation, but I don’t advise this for everyone.  I’m just a pronunciation geek!

You may adapt your pronunciation according to the context. So, if you’re in a posh, formal or business situation, you may want to use the ideal form of a word, the dictionary form. But, otherwise, in a relaxed context, where you are just being yourself, you may wish to knowingly pronounce a word in a different way, which is just normal for you in your accent.

What about your accent?

When you consider the variety of different accents, the question of “Is there a correct pronunciation of words?” becomes a bit of a hot potato. People have strong opinions on this because they will say there should not be an ideal form of how a word is pronounced due to the many different accents that exist. The way a person says a word is going to depend on their accent.

While this may be true, I believe there is such a thing as an ideal form of language. Knowing the rules and using the rules is a kind of discipline, so it takes a lot of training to get there. It is a skill and you have to work for it.

So, yes, there is what we can call a standard or correct form and usually that’s a good form for students to pronounce. But if for any other reason, such as you don’t have that accent or you are not interested in the specifics of pronunciation, it doesn’t really matter.

My view is, as a lover of language, reading, words, I like to say words in their ideal form.

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Thank you so much, students. Don’t forget to like the video, comment and subscribe if you haven’t done so already.

Letter ‘s’ Pronounced as /z/: Practice your Pronunciation

In this lesson, we will learn words with a /z/ sound that are spelt with the letter ‘s’. This lesson is Part Two of Two lessons on the /z/ sound. Listen to Part One.

Here’s a surprising fact: /z/ spelt as ‘s’ is the most common spelling for the /z/ sound.

Before we begin, let’s compare /z/ and /s/. The two sounds are similar because:

/z/ and /s/ are both sibilant sounds(hissing sounds)

What is the difference between the two sounds?

/z/ is a voiced consonant (you hear vibrations coming from the throat)

/s/ is an unvoiced consonant (you hear the sound of air being forced out)

There is also a difference in the manner of articulation between /z/ and /s/. When I pronounce a /z/ sound, the tip of my tongue is down behind my front teeth. In contrast, when I pronounce a /s/ sound, the tip of my tongue points up behind the front teeth, leaving a small gap for air to pass through.

Note on the audio: if you listen closely to the audio examples in this lesson, you will hear that a /z/ at the end of a word sometimes doesn’t like a pure /z/ sound because a small lispy or aspirated sound of air passing out can be heard. This is due to a fault in my pronunciation, as in natural speech, my tongue does not hold the /z/ position long enough. Ideally, there should be no sound of air passing out.     


Practice /z/ Spelt with ‘s’: Some Examples from the Lesson Recording

Note: the /z/ sounds are in bold in the examples below…

as: as red as a rose

has: has he got his ham sandwiches

those: whose beads are those

wise: as wise as a wizard

diagnose: doctors diagnose diseases

Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

In this lesson I’ll teach you FAST native speaker pronunciation. We’ll look at how when native speakers are relaxed and talking fast, individual sounds in a sentence may change completely. This happens because our tongues naturally want to say everything the laziest way possible! I’ll give you plenty of examples of the sounds in words changing when spoken quickly and I’ll also teach you some IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). We’ll also practice speaking with the right intonation when asking questions, as this is really important not only to convey the right meaning, but also to get the correct rhythm in your speech. In under 15 minutes, you will be able to start sounding more like a native English speaker.

Follow my lessons to develop a clear Accent, CLICK HERE.

Listen to today’s lesson ‘non-rhotic’ /r/

Note: Many English words have a letter /r/ in their spelling that is not pronounced in the standard British English accent. This is because Standard British English is non-rhotic. This means that /r/ is dropped when it follows the final vowel in a word. Some examples of words with no /r/ sound are: car, better, turn and world. 

Why are these words spelt with a letter ‘r’ if no /r/ sound is pronounced in them? The reason is because the pronunciation of the English language is constantly evolving and accents change across the generations. We used to pronounce the /r/ in these words, but now we don’t. The /r/ sound first began being lost in some English words back in the 15thcentury. Slowly, as the centuries passed, /r/ became softened and was gradually dropped from more and more words. 

In 1780 the actor and elocution teacher Thomas Sheridan stated that /r/ ‘always has the same sound and is never silent’. However, his assertion isn’t backed up by the evidence. Linguists know for a fact that /r/ was being increasingly dropped in the late 18thcentury; they can tell by tracing /r/-less spellings in documents from that time. What Thomas Sheridan had probably meant, speaking as an elocution teacher, was that he thought /r/ ought not to be dropped. 

The loss of rhoticity from the standard British English accent was unstoppable, however. By the early 1800s the southern English accent had fully transformed into a non-rhotic accent. This accent eventually became known as R.P. ‘Received Pronunciation.’

Whether a variety of English or a specific accent is rhotic or non-rhotic is one of the biggest distinctions that can be made in English.

Non-Rhotic English Examples:

Standard British English, Welsh English, Australian English, New Zealand English, South African English

Rhotic English Exampes:

General American, Scottish English, Irish English, Canadian English

English Rhotic Accents Examples:

Manchester, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, the West Country

The pronunciation of /r/ following the final vowel in a word does not occur in the standard English accent. Therefore, knowing when not to pronounce /r/makes a big difference to the overall quality of your English accent. When you get this right, it’s as if you’re wearing an accent tuxedo and everyone else is wearing an accent tracksuit. 

Practice this lesson so that you commit these /r/-less words to memory. And if you’re a subscriber to English Jade, make sure you follow along with the lesson pdf.  This will be useful to you so you can see the IPA transcription of each /r/-less word example.


Practice Non-Rhotic English

supermarket

birthday

curtains

word

world

service

heart

search

Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.