American English Pronunciation.


1. Peculiarities of American English Pronunciation as compared to those of RP.

2. Intonation contours of American English.


American English (AE), a variant of the English language, has developed its own peculiarities in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. American English embraces a wide range of pronunciation varieties. General American (GA) pronunciation is usually referred to as the standard pronunciation of AE. The peculiarities of GA pronunciation (as compared to those of RP) are as follows:

Х [r] is retroflexive;

Х [t] is voiced between a vowel and a sonorant;

Х [l] is always dark;

Х [h] is often dropped in weak syllables;

Х [j] is omitted before [u];

Х the glottal stop is used instead of [t] before [m], [n], [l], [r], [j], [w];

Х [æ] is used instead of [a:] in words which do not contain the letter УrФ;

Х vowels are not differentiated by their length, they are long.

The most frequent intonation contour for statements, requests, general questions in GA is the tune, beginning low, rising to a high level, and then steadily falling. Rising tunes that rise from a low pitch level and end on a high pitch level occur with some general questions when a polite form is desirable. Another frequent intonational characteristic in GA is to end a sentence with a high-pitched fall-rise.

There is a wide range of pronunciation varieties of the English language. They reflect the social class the speaker belongs to, the region he comes from. Some of these varieties are received pronunciations, others are not.



Allophones Цvariants or members of one and the same phoneme, which never occur in identical positions, but are said to be in complementary distribution, they are actual speech sounds.

Aspects of a phoneme:a phoneme is a dialectical unity of three aspects: 1) material, real and objective; 2) abstract and generalized; 3) functional.

Assimilation Цthe result of coarticulation (the change of the articulation), when one sound is made similar to its neighbour; in English it mainly affects the place of articulation. It can be progressive (the preceiding sound changes the articulation of the following sound: books, girls); regressive (the following sound changes the articulation of the preceiding sound: in them); or reciprocal / double (two sounds influence on the articulation of each other: sweet, tree); complete (two sounds become alike or merge into one: less shy); incomplete ([w, l, r] preceided by [p, t, k, s, f, θ]: sweet, plate). Most commonly the sounds which undergo assimilation are immediately adjacent in the stream of speech.

Aspiration Ц [p, t, k] are pronounced with the strong puff of breath in initial position before a vowel or a diphthong.

Attitudinal function:this function is performed by intonation, when the speaker expresses his attitude to what he is saying, by intonation alone.

Communicative centre Ц a word or a group of words which conveys the most important point of communication in the sense-group or sentence.

Constitutive function of speech sounds Цthe function to constitute the material forms of morphemes, words and sentences.

Descending scale Цgradual lowering of the voice pitch.

Diphthongization Цslight shifting of the position of the organs of speech within the articulation of one and the same vowel. Diphthongization changes the quality of the sound during its articulation.

Distinctive function of speech sounds:it is manifested most conspicuously in minimal pairs when the opposition of speech sounds is the only phonetic means of distinguishing one member of that pair from the other.

Elision Цthe loss of a vowel or a consonant in initial or terminal position.

Fall Цlowering of the voice pitch within a stressed syllable.

FortisЦ strong.

Functional Цphonological,connected with the distinctive function.

Functional phonetics Цthe branch of phonetics which studies the purely linguistic aspect of speech sounds.

Functions of a phoneme:in speech a phoneme performs three functions: distinctive, constitutive and identificatory (recognitive); they are inseparable.

General American (GA) Цthe most widespread type of educated American speech.

Glottal stop Ц a sound which reminds a slight cough and articulated by the vocal cords, before a vowel sound is heard in cases of emphatic speech.

Head Ц stressed syllables preceding the nucleus together with the intervening unstressed syllables.

Intonation Цa component of the phonetic structure which is viewed in the narrow meaning as pitch variations, or speech melody. It manifests itself in the delimitative function within a sentence and at its end.

Intonation group Цan actualized sense-group; relatively, meaningfully, finished part of a sentence.

Lateral plosion - [p,t,k,b,d,g] + [l].

Lenis Цpronounced with weak articulation.

Level tone Цthe tone neutral in its communicative function, which is used mostly in poetry.

Linguistic functions:in phonetics they are connected with phonemic, significant properties of sound, syllable, stress and intonation.

Loss of plosion Ц [p,t,k,b,d,g] on word boundaries.

Low pitch Цa low tone. It is usually used in the narrow range of tone-pitch.

Melody Цchanges in the voice pitch in the process of speech.

Modifications in context Ц sound changes in context. Positional and combinatory modifications of allophones of certain phonemes in connected speech.

Monotone Цa tone lacking the necessary variations in the voice pitch; a way of speaking in which the voice neither rises nor falls, but continues on the same note.

Nasal ploion - [p,t,k,b,d,g] + [m, n, ŋ].

Nuclear tone:the tone associated with the nucleus of a sense-group is a nuclear tone. In RP they are the following: the high falling, the low falling, the high rising, the low rising, the rising-falling, the falling-rising, the rising-falling-rising, the level tone.

Nucleus of a sense-group Цthe last stressed syllable of a sense-group.

Open syllable Цthe type of syllable which ends in a vowel Ц CV-type.

Oratorical style Цthe type of speech with which orators address large audiences. It is characterized by slow rate, eloquent and moving traits.

Orthoepy Цthe correct pronunciation of the words of a language. The interpretation of the rules of reading cannot be done without a good command of phonetics.

Pause Цa short period of time when sound stops before starting again. Pauses are non-obligatory between sense-groups and obligatory between sentences.

Peaks of prominence Цthe points of maximal acoustic activity of tone.

Peculiarity Цa feature which characterizes some phonetic phenomenon.

Periodicity Цthe quality or fact of recurring at constant intervals.

Phoneme Цthe shortest functional unit of a language. Each phoneme exists in speech in the form of mutually non-distinctive speech sounds, its allophones. Each speech sound is an allophone of some phoneme.

Phonemic component: this component of the phonetic structure manifests itself in the system of separate phonemes and their allophones.

Phonetic system Ц a systemic combination of five components of the language, i. e. the system of segmental phonemes, the phonemic component, the syllabic component, the accentual component (relating to accent Ц stress and pitch combined), intonation.

Phonetics Цthe science that studies the sound matter of the language, its semantic functions and the lines of development.

Phonological mistakes Цmistakes connected with the alteration of the meaning of words, which prevent communication.

Phonological opposition Цa pair of words in which any one phoneme is usually opposed to any other phoneme in at least one lexical or grammatical minimal or subminimal pair, e. g. [t Ц d],

[k Ц g] in ten Ц den, coat Ц goat.

Phonology Цthe science that deals with phonemes and their sequences. It is functional phonetics since it investigates the functional side of phonemes, accent, syllable, and intonation.

Pitch Цthe degree of highness or lowness varying with the number of the vibrations of the vocal cords and determining the tone of the voice, an acoustic basis of speech melody.

Pre-Head / Pre-Nucleus Ц unstressed syllables before the first stressed syllable / the nucleus.

Principal allophone Цthat variant of a phoneme which is considered to be free from the influence of the neighbouring sounds.

Prominence Цsingling out acoustically, which produces the effect of greater loudness.

Prosodic features of the sentence:speech melody (pitch), accent, tempo, rhythm and pausation, timbre (tamber); they constitute intonation in a broad sense.

Prosody Цnon-segmental phenomena regarded as the modifications of fundamental frequency (the frequency of the vibrations of the vocal cords over their whole length), intensity and duration at the level of their acoustic properties. The notion of prosody is broader than the notion of intonation, whereas prosody of the utterance and intonation are equivalent notions. Prosody and intonation are characterized by such distinct qualities as stress and pitch prominence at the level of perception.

Received pronunciation (RP) Цthe type of pronunciation which is the most widely understood one in England and in English-speaking countries. It is the teaching norm in England and in most countries where English is taught as a foreign language, including Russia.

Reduction Ц the change of vowels into [ə, I, u] or the shortening of vowels.

Rhythm:Уrhythm is a flow, movement, procedure, etc., characterized by basically regular recurrence of elements or features, as beat, or accent, in alternation with opposite or different elements or featuresФ (WebsterТs New World Dictionary). Rhythm in speech is the periodic recurrence of stressed syllables. Rhythm exists both in prose and in verse. It can be regarded as one of the forms in which a language exists.

Rhythmic tendency Цthe tendency to alternate stressed and unstressed syllables.

Scale Цthe arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables of a syntactic whole.

Segment: in phonetics it is the shortest part of speech continuum Ц a sound or a phoneme.

Segmental phoneme Цthe shortest part of speech continuum that is capable of differentiating words.

Semantic function:in phonetics the term is used in connection with the distinctive function (semantic role) of phonetic means.

Sense-group Цa word or a group of words that conveys some idea.

Sentence accent Цa constituent part of the phonetic structure of the spoken sentence utterance and one of the components of intonation in the broad sense of the term.

Sentence stress Цthe greater degree of prominence given to certain words in a sentence. These words are usually nouns, adjectives, notional verbs and adverbs, interjections, numerals, demonstrative, possessive, emphasizing pronouns, interrogative words and two-syllable prepositions. Articles, particles, auxiliary, modal, and connective verbs, personal, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns, one-syllable prepositions, conjunctions and conjunctive words Ц are, as a rule, unstressed. The distribution of sentence stress is determined by the semantic factor.

Speech melody Цthe variations in the pitch of the voice in connected speech.

Stress or accent Цa greater degree of prominence which is caused mainly by pronouncing the stressed syllable (a) on a different pitch level or with a change of pitch direction in it; (b) with greater force of exhalation and greater muscular tension. The greater force of articulation is accompanied by an increase in the length of the sound in the stressed syllable, especially vowels. Vowels in the stressed syllables are not reduced.

Stressed syllables:nouns, adjectives, adverbs, notional verbs, numerals.

Styles of pronunciation ЦL. V. Shcherba suggested two types of style in pronunciation: full style and colloquial style. According to D. Jones, there are the following varieties of style: rapid familiar style, slower colloquial style, slow conversational style, natural style, acquired style, formal style. Styles of pronunciation are determined by the stylistic-distinctive function of intonation.

Syllable Цshortest segment of speech continuum. Syllables are material carriers of words. They constitute words and their forms, phrases and sentences. According to J. Kenyon the syllable is one or more speech sounds, forming a single uninterrupted unit of utterance, which may be a word, or a commonly recognized and separable subdivision of a word. It is a unity of segmental and suprasegmental qualities.

Syllable division Цdivision of the word into Уarcs of articulatory effortФ (N. I. ZhinkinТs theory). A strong-end consonant begins the arc of loudness and a weak-end consonant terminates it.

Syllable pattern Цthe type of syllable most common for language. English is characterized by (C)VC syllable pattern and Russian by CV pattern.

Tail Цunstressed or partially stressed syllables (or syllable) that follow the nucleus of the intonation group.

Tуmber Цthe quality of a musical sound, depending on what overtones (the tones above the fundamental tone in a harmonic series) are present, including their respective amplitudes. Also timbre, tambre.

Tempo of speech Цthe rate of utterance.

Temporal component of intonation: it consists of pauses, duration, rhythm.

Terminal tone Цa change of pitch at the junction (the joining of two sounds or words) of two sense-groups; the nucleus and the tail.

Tone:sounds may be periodical and non-periodical. If the vibrations of a physical body are rhythmical, the auditory impression of periodic waves is a musical tone, or in speech Ц a speech tone.

Unstressed syllables:articles, particles, pronouns, conjunctions, auxiliary and modal verbs.

Variations (Уin stylistic variationsФ) Цvariations in the pronunciation of speech sounds, words and sentences peculiar to different styles of speech.

Volume Цforce or loudness of oral speech.

Widening the range Цone of the emphatic means which consists in deliberate widening the pitch levels of sense-groups.

Word stress or word accent:every disyllabic and polysyllabic word pronounced in isolation has word stress. It is the singling out of one or more of its syllables by giving them a greater degree of prominence as compared to the other syllable or syllables in the same word.


Stressed syllables ` (`girl);


Half-stressed syllables · (· sorry);


ˎLow Fall ; ˏLow Rise; ˃ ˉ - Mid Level; ˄ Rise-Fall; ˅ Fall-Rise; ͠ Rise-Fall-Rise;


Intonation group ǀ or ǁ (.)


Dark [l]: ɫ



Lectures 3, 4, 5.

The main outline of the Lexicology of the English Language.

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