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                        AMERICAN ENGLISH SPEECH

                               

VOWEL SOUNDS

 

Vowel sounds are often difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce.  One explanation is that there are five vowel letters in English (A, E, I, O, U) but fifteen vowel sounds and there may be no clear relationship between the printed letter and its sound.  Some vowels have as many as 10 different spellings! Think about these words:  "cough, bough, dough, rough, through"--the same "ough" spelling, but five different pronunciations!

 

Vowel sounds are made by slight changes in the position of the tongue and lips and tensing or relaxing the muscles of the mouth.  One important characteristic of American English vowels is the "open" quality that is the result of the position of the tongue.  You may be working on tongue position and movement in order to improve your accent.  By prolonging or lengthening some vowel sounds, many words will sound more American.  Perhaps the single most important factor in modifying vowel sounds is the ability to hear the sounds correctly.

 

Vowels are generally more difficult to master than consonants.  In addition to the problems created by spelling that are explained in the first paragraph, vowel sounds are made by slightly changing the size, shape, and tension of the muscles of your mouth and lips.  A very small change can result in an entirely different sound. 

 

Vowel sounds can be described as high, mid, or low.  When the tongue or jaw moves up, it is a high vowel; when the tongue or jaw moves down, it is a low vowel.  When the tongue stays in the middle, it is a middle vowel.  Vowels may also be described as front, central, or back.  When the tongue is raised or arched in the front of the mouth, it is a front vowel; when the tongue is raised or arched in the center, it is a central vowel; when the tongue is raised or arched in the back, it is a back vowel.

 

Vowel Sounds

 

EE

 

U

UR

I

 

OO

AI

AY

UH

O

OW

EH

 

 

OY

AE

 

A