Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 98th podcast, and our 16th video podcast.
Today's video is an overview of short vowel sounds. Short vowels are difficult because, to non-native speakers, these sounds are very similar to one another. Then, of course, there are the spellings patterns that quickly become complex.
Here is the video, in its entirety.
Introduction to short vowels
Each vowel of English, a, e, i, o, and u, has a long vowel sound and a short vowel sound associated with it. Long vowel sounds are usually easier to identify because they sound like their letter names (a /eɪ/, e /i/, i /ɑɪ/, o /oʊ/, u /ju/). The pronunciation and identification of short vowels can be more difficult. Here are the short a, short e, short i, short o, and short u sounds:
short a /æ/
short e /ɛ/
short i /ɪ/
short o /ɑ/
short u /ʌ/).
Memorizing key words helps to compare and identify vowel sounds. The following are the key words used on the Pronuncian website.
- The short a is pronounced (short a). It is the vowel sound in the word cat (k sound, short a, t sound).
- The short e is pronounced (short e) and is the vowel sound in the word bed (b sound, short e, d sound).
- The short i is pronounced (short i) and is the vowel sound in the word sit (s sound, short i, t sound).
- The short o is pronounced (short o) and is the vowel sound in the word top (t sound, short o, p sound).
- The short u is pronounced (short u) and is the vowel sound in the word sun (s sound, short u, n sound).
Duration of long vowels
The term short vowel does not mean that the sound is said for less time than long vowels. It's important to realize that, in English, the term short vowel is a name given to a specific sound. It is not related to the amount of time each vowel is pronounced within a word.
Single Vowel Pattern
A starting place for understanding short vowel spelling patterns is the single-vowel pattern. When a single vowel occurs, either at the beginning of a word or between two consonants in the middle of the word, it is often pronounced as a short vowel sound.
This is a generalization: a single vowel is often pronounced as a short vowel sound, but not always.
The key words for all of the short vowel sounds demonstrate the single-vowel pattern:
The following examples show the single-vowel pattern at the beginning of the word:
Beware of vowel-consonant-e
Students should remember that a vowel followed by a single consonant, and then the letter e is likely to be pronounced as a long vowel sound.
For instance, the word at is pronounced with a short a sound, at, but ate is pronounced with a long a (at, ate)
The word sit is pronounced with a short i, and site is pronounced with a long i (sit, site)
The word slop is pronounced with a short o, but slope is pronounced with a long o (slop, slope)
The word us is pronounced with a short u, use is pronounced with a long u (us, use)
Multiple pronunciations for a single spelling
It's important to realize that English spelling patterns may lead to incorrect assumptions. This is because, In English, there are many spelling patterns that have more than one common pronunciation.
For instance, the letter o has three different common pronunciations. The words top, dog, and most are all spelled with a single letter o between two consonant sounds. However, only the word top is pronounced with a short o sound. The word dog is pronounced with an aw sound, and most is pronounced with a long o sound. All three of these words, top, dog, and most, follow a common spelling pattern for their respective sounds.
Multiple spellings for a single pronunciation
As well as having multiple pronunciations for a single spelling, many English vowel sounds also have multiple spellings for a single pronunciation. For instance, the short e sound, (short e) is often spelled with a single vowel, as in the words bed, end, and met. That sound (short e) is also commonly spelled ea, as in the words bread, threat, and heavy.
Note that in addition to the short e sound, the ea spelling can be pronounced as a long e sound, as in the words dream, speak, and clean.
Being prepared for multiple spellings and pronunciations is a necessary skill for learning English pronunciation. Each sound should be studied individually for a complete understanding.
Non-phonetic short vowel words
Non-phonetic words are words that are not pronounced according to their spelling. Since non-phonetic words are so common in English, students must learn to hear sounds to fully understand each word's pronunciation.
The following are all examples of non-phonetic words pronounced with a short vowel sound:
short a (short a) have
short e (short e) friend
short i (short i) give
short o (short o) father
short u (short u) done
The next step
After gaining an overall understanding of all five short vowel sounds, it is then important to explore each sound individually. Be certain to learn to identify each sound, its common spellings, and its non-phonetic words.
I hope this overview has been helpful to you. If you are a Pronuncian subscriber, I would suggest that you take the short vowel minimal sets quiz. That quiz will help you sort out which short vowel sounds are causing you the most trouble.
If you're not a subscriber, just go to www.pronuncian.com/join. Your subscription dollars are what allow us to keep creating pronunciation videos like this one.
Transcripts for this episode can be found at www.pronuncian.com/podcast.
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That's all for today everyone, thanks for listening and watching.