By the end of studying the notes on Lesson Thirteen, you will be able to:
- categorize English sounds into vowels and consonants.
- distinguish between the processes involved in producing vowel sounds and those involved in producing consonant sounds.
- match the English monophthongs with their respective numbers.
The two classes of English sounds
There are two main categories of English sounds. These are vowel sounds (vowels) and consonant sounds (consonants). The discussion that follows gives an overview of the vowel sounds and the consonant sounds. The purpose is to introduce the special (phonetic) symbols that represent the English vowel and consonant sounds to you.
Overview of the English vowel sounds
An English vowel is a speech sound whose production normally involves free flow of air through the mouth. In other words, in the production of English vowel sounds, air flows freely through the mouth unimpeded. Another important thing that you need to know about English vowel sounds is that they are all voiced. You will learn about voiced and voiceless sounds in another lesson.
Based on their sound quality, the English vowels have been put into three categories as shown below:
- monophthongs (pure vowels)
To make it easy for you to recognize and learn to use all these vowels correctly, the vowels have been assigned numbers as their names. So, in English, we have Vowel 1, Vowel 2, Vowel 3, and so on. The first 12 vowels are known as monophthongs. Vowels 13 to 21 constitute the diphthongs, while Vowels 22 to 24 comprise the triphthongs.
The symbols representing the English monophthongs have been listed below. Words that have these vowels in them have been listed alongside each vowel. Remember that it is customary to put the symbols representing the sounds in slash marks / / .
Always remember that it is a rule to put the symbols representing the sounds in slash marks / /. The twelve monophthongs illustrated above combine in different ways to form other vowel qualities called diphthongs and triphthongs. You will learn to use diphthongs and triphthongs in another lesson.
Overview of consonant sounds
A consonant is a speech sound whose production involves some kind of blockade . This means that the air passage is either closed completely for a while at the beginning of production or is partially closed throughout the production of the consonant. For example, the consonant / p / is produced by completely closing the air passage, then compressing the air, and suddenly opening the passage for the air to come out. You will learn the way English consonants are produced in Lesson 48.
Some of the English consonants are voiced whilst others are voiceless. In a later lesson, you will learn how voiced and voiceless consonant sounds are produced. The symbols representing the English consonant sounds have been listed below. Words that have these consonant in them have been listed corresponding to each consonant. Observe the first six consonants.
|as in as in||ten day|
|/k/ /g/||as in as in||cat got|
Notice the next nine consonants.
/ f /
|/ v /||as in||vat|
|/ θ /|
/ ᵭ /
|as in as in||think this|
|/ s /|
/ z /
|/ ʃ /||as in||shall|
|/ ʒ / / h /||as in as in||occasion hot|
Look at the next three?
|/ m / / n / / ŋ /||as in as inas in||man notsing|
Observe the following two consonants.
|/ tʃ /||as in||church|
|/ dʒ /||as in||judge|
Look at the rest of the consonants?
|/ l / / r /||as in as in||left room|
|/ w / / j /||as in as in||wash yes|
As indicated earlier in this session, this lesson is to ensure that you can distinguish between vowel and consonant sounds. So, do not worry at all if, at this point, you are unable to produce most of these sounds. The next few lessons will treat these sounds in detail and will be devoted to helping you to learn to produce the English vowel and consonant sounds correctly.
- the two main categories of sounds in English are vowel sounds and consonant sounds
- the production of English vowel sounds involves a free flow of air through the mouth.
- the production of the English consonant sounds involves some kind of obstruction.
John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.
Modestus Fosu, Ph.D.
Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil.
William Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.