‘Keys’ to say it right

IN PREVIOUS columns, some of the 4S Keys for improving personal pronunciation have been considered. This week, we will focus on Keys that assist primarily with the pronunciation of “long-vowel” words.

In English, there are thousands of words ending in the vowel ‘e’. It is rare for the final ‘e’ in a word to be pronounced.

Usually, when a word ends in the vowel ‘e’, it is silent but the preceding vowel is long, that is, it says its own name, e.g. bake, scene, ride, note, cute.

A 4S Key To Understanding Pronunciation teaches: The final silent ‘e’ lets the other vowel do the talking.

There are only a handful of common words that say the final ‘e’, such as apostrophe, catastrophe, recipe, posse, and coyote, as well as single-syllable words such as the, and me. This also applies to the names of people such as Marie.

Closely linked Keys

There are other linked 4S Keys that relate to “long” sounding vowels.

One refers to syllables ending in a vowel, e.g. mo/tel, Pe/ter, du/gong, ti/ger, and ta/ble.

Open syllables usually end in a long vowel. In contrast, closed syllables end in a consonant.

The main exceptions to the Open Syllable Key are words that end in the vowel ‘e’, where the final ‘e’ is silent, e.g. take.

Another 4S Key teaches about “stand-alone” vowels, that is, syllables that are made from just one vowel, such as a/gent, e/ven, i/tem, etc.

Stand-alone vowels are usually long. Common exceptions are words beginning with the letter ‘a’, such as a/bout, a/gain, a/do, a/mount, which make the “uh” sound heard in comma and panda.

Another 4S vowel rule that is useful for both pronunciation and spelling is: Long vowels are usually followed by single consonants.

If a vowel is long, i.e. if it says its own name, the consonant following it usually stays single. For example, e/lect, i/dle, o/bey, a/gent, u/topia, ba/ker, mi/ner.

Compare tiger with trigger, and diner with dinner.

The exceptions to this rule are found in ‘l’ words such as roll and stroller. Although the “o” in these words is long, double consonants follow.

The letter “l”

‘L’ is one of the five Influential Consonants, i.e. w, r, l, q, and v.

A 4S Key teaches: ‘l’ can rebel! This means that the letter ‘l’ can break the normal rules in English.

We have already seen this with one of the rules which states that double consonants usually split. The exceptions are stall/ion and mill/ion.

Another rule is that closed syllables end in consonants, and the vowel is usually “short”, e.g. kid, back.

But when “l” is present, the vowel is pronounced as a long one, as in child, wild, bold, and cold.

Another long vowel key is linked to one already encountered about words with two vowels together, i.e. when two vowels go out walking, the first one usually does the talking.

This new 4S Key teaches about words that contain the double ‘e’.

Double ‘e’ is pronounced as a long vowel, as in tree, knee, screen, between, etc.

But as always, there are exceptions.

When a double ‘e’ word is followed by the letter ‘r’ (which is an Influential Consonant), the “ee…” sound becomes the short “i” sound heard in bit and slit.

Exceptions are those double ‘e’ words that are followed by ‘r’, such as deer, beer, sneer, etc.

In these words, the Influential Consonant ‘r’ plays a role and the “ee…” sound becomes the short “i” sound heard in bit and slit.

Remember, the consonant ‘r’ usually changes the sound of the vowels that come before it.

Groups of vowels

In English, the vowels ‘a’, ‘o’, and ‘u’ have a special link, just as ‘e’, ‘i’ and ‘y’ have. Think of these vowels as two different groups.

This relationship is seen when pronouncing words and syllables that begin with the consonants ‘c’ and ‘g’.

There are two pronunciation rules that highlight this linkage. The first relates to ‘c’.

Consider this sentence: Can you count the cups?

When ‘c’ is followed immediately by ‘a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’, it usually makes its hard “k…” sound, such as came – cost – cuddle.

When ‘c’ is followed by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’, it makes its soft “s…” sound, e.g. cement – city – cycle.

The rare exceptions are cuisine and cello, when the ‘c’ says “q..” and “ch..” respectively.

The second linked Key refers to the consonant ‘g’ and teaches: Gary’s got a gun.

When ‘g’ is followed immediately by ‘a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’, it usually makes its hard “g…” sound, e.g. garden – golf – gutter.

When ‘g’ is followed by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’, it usually makes a soft “j…” sound, e.g. gentle – giraffe – gymnasium.

Some common exceptions to the ‘e’ and ‘i’ rule are get and geyser, as well as the ‘r’ words: girl, gift, gills, girth, girdle, etc.

Remember, ‘r’ usually changes the sound of the vowels that come before it.

Knowing the 4S Keys To Understanding Pronunciation will improve one’s ability to pronounce words correctly.

There are exceptions to be remembered because words either have been borrowed from other languages or because of the presence of one or more of the Influential Consonants.

When a learner has mastered the Key that relates to a particular word, dozens of other related words can also be pronounced correctly and with confidence.

by Keith Wright,  the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2010/6/20/education/6453663&sec=education

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