By the end of studying this text, you will be able to distinguish between the long and the short monophthongs.
The short vowels
Seven, out of the 12 English monophthongs are said to be short. The seven short monophthongs have been listed below. Four words that make use of these monophthongs have been listed corresponding to each vowel. Read the words below and observe the vowel sound in each word.
|Name Vowel 2||Symbol / i /||as in||Words sit||pit||hit||did|
|Vowel 3||/ e /||as in||bed||men||pet||set|
|Vowel 4||/ æ /||as in||fat||cat||rat||bat|
|Vowel 6||/ ɔ /||as in||hot||not||rot||pot|
|Vowel 8||/ u /||as in||foot||pull||full||book|
|Vowel 10||/ ᴧ /||as in||love||cup||but||sum|
|Vowel 12||/ ə /||as in||ago||about||never||occupy|
Think about other words in which these vowel sounds occur. For each vowel, list three other words.
The long vowels
There are 5 long English monophthongs. These have been listed below. Four words that make use of these monophthongs have been listed corresponding to each vowel. Read the words below and observe the vowel sound in each word.
|Name Vowel 1||Symbol / i: /||as in||Words sea||eagle||theme||legal|
|Vowel 5||/ a: /||as in||car||laugh||clerk||part|
|Vowel 7||/ ɔ: /||as in||port||taught||caught||court|
|Vowel 9||/ u: /||as in||food||pool||fool||wool|
|Vowel 11||/ ə: /||as in||fur||blur||heard||hurt|
Think about other words in which these vowels occur. For each vowel list three other words.
Observe that all the 5 long vowels are written in a special way. Is there anything special about the symbols representing the long vowels? Yes, each of them has a length mark [:]. The length mark, written like a colon [:], is the symbol that indicates that the vowel is long. So, the long vowels could be identified in print by the length mark that accompanies them. Apart from giving you the meanings of words, the dictionary gives you the pronunciation of words as well. Look up the pronunciation of the words listed above in your dictionary.
Contrasting short and long vowels
One of the things that the Oral English course tries to do is to provide you with ample opportunities to practise with words (minimal pairs) in which these short and long vowels occur. This will enable you to distinguish clearly between these contrastive sound units when speaking English and also when listening to others speak. When you do this carefully, your speech delivery and oral comprehension will eventually improve considerably.
So, practise the minimal pairs listed below involving Vowel 1 / i: / and Vowel 2 / i /. As a matter of fact, many Ghanaian speakers of English do not make any distinction between these two vowel sounds. The result is that their audience usually have difficulty in understanding exactly what they mean. Note that a change in the length of a vowel in a word results in meaning change.
Monophthong /i:/ Monophthong /i/
steal stilldeal dill
Will you go over the words once more? Carefully observe the pronunciation of the vowels in the words.Well done! Practise the minimal pairs below involving Vowel 11 /ə:/ and Vowel 3 / e /. Observe the difference in vowel quality and meaning change as you read the words.
Monophthong / ə:/ Monophthong /e/
- Out of the 12 English monophthongs, 7 are short and 5 are long.
- In writing, a length mark / : / is placed immediately after each of the long monophthongs.
- The long vowels can be identified in print by the length mark that accompanies them.
- When you take your Oral English lessons seriously, your speech delivery and oral comprehension will eventually improve.
John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.
Modestus Fosu, Ph.D.
Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil.
William Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.