Objectives

By the end of studying the notes on Lesson Seven, you will be able to:

        I.            Distinguish between English sounds and the letters of the English alphabet.

      II.            Differentiate between the symbols that represent the sounds and the symbols that represent the letters of the English alphabet.

    III.            pronounce  the  English  sounds  learnt  today  appropriately  when  speaking  and reading.

Letter and sound relationship

The written form of English uses a set of symbols which we call the letters of the English alphabet. What we are talking about here are our usual Aa, Bb, Cc, Dd, up to Zz.  These  symbols  somehow  represent  the  various  speech  sounds  of English and  are used when writing  in that language. 

What you should observe at this point is that sometimes, there is a direct relationship between the letter and the sound it represents. For example, in the word ‘boy’, there is a direct  relationship  between  the  first  letter  ‘b’  and  the  initial sound  of the  word  /b/. However, at other times, there is no direct relationship between the letter and the sound it represents.  For example, in the word ‘come’ there is no direct relationship between the first letter ‘c’ and the initial sound of the word /k/.

So, each of the English letters, at one instance, may represent one sound and at another instance represent a different sound altogether. For example, the initial letter ‘c’ of each of the words you see in the list below is realized or heard as /k/.

Word              Sound 

cat                   /kæt/ 

come               /kᴧm/ 

cook                /ku:k/

In all the words listed above, the letter ‘c’ represents the sound /k/. Observe that it is customary to put the symbols representing the sounds in slash marks /  /

But at other times, the same letter ‘c’ may represent a different sound /s/. For example, the letter ‘c‘ in the words listed below are realized as /s/.

Word              Sound 

cement             /sɪment/ 

city                  /sɪtɪ/ 

fence                /fens/ 

peace               /pi:s/ 

place               /pleis/

So, in each of the words listed above, the letter ‘c’ represents the sound /s/.

Furthermore, each time two ‘c’s occur in one word, the first ‘c’ and the second ‘c’ may represent different sounds. Usually, the first ‘c’ represents the sound /k/ and the second ‘c’ represents the sound /s/ as illustrated on the list that follows.

Word              Sound 

accept             /aksept/ 

access             /akses/ 

success            /sᴧkses/ 

succeed           /sᴧksi:d/

In each of the words listed above, the first ‘c’ represents the sound /k/ while the second

‘c’ represents the sound /s/. Read the words silently.

That is not all:  the reverse situation also exists in English.  Two different letters may represent the same sound.   For  example,   the  sound  /z/,  may  at  one  instance  be represented by the letter ‘z’ as illustrated  below.

Sound             Word

/meiz/               maize

/praiz/              prize

/si:z/                 seize

But at other times, the sound /z/ is represented by the letter‘s’ as illustrated below.

Sound             Word

/bægz/             bags

/ka:z/               cars

/si:dz/               seeds

/preiz/              praise

/reiz/                raise

Therefore,   because   the   letters   used   in   Standard   written   English   do   not   exactly correspond  to  the sounds of the English language, a modified set of symbols have been developed to represent the sounds of the language on a one-to-one basis. It is important to observe that when we are studying Oral English, we focus mainly on the sounds of the language and not on the letters of the alphabet.

Summary

  • Studying Oral English will help you to reduce the disturbances you create or experience when you speak or listen to fellow speakers of English.
  •  Because   the   letters   used   in   the   standard   written   English   do   not   exactly correspond  to  the  sounds  of the  English  language,  a  modified  set  of symbols have been developed  to  represent the sounds of the language on a one-to-one basis.
  • It is important to observe that when we are studying Oral English, our focus is mainly the sounds of the language and not the letters of the alphabet.

CONTENT CONSULTANTS 

Authors 

John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.

Peer Reviewers 

Modestus Fosu, Ph.D.

Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil.

William  Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.