American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

In this chapter we are going to look at a number of rules that we can use to establish the pronunciation of English words. In spite of the inconsistency between spelling and pronunciation noted in Chapter 1, there are many cases in which the occurrence of a particular phoneme is predictable. This may be because grammatical endings, like the plural morpheme, have predictable forms. For example, it is a simple matter to establish that the plural of GA /bæɡ/ is /bæɡz/, not */bæɡs/. Pronunciations may also be predictable simply because particular letters or combinations of letters always (or nearly always) correspond with particular phonemes. For example, pelican is /ˈpɛləkən/, not */ˈpæləkən/, because the letter e never corresponds with the phoneme GA /æ/. (The Symbol * is used before a word or transcription to indicate that the form is incorrect.) Some rather important rules and letter-phoneme correspondences are given. Obviously, only part of the English vocabulary is covered here.

The symbols between / / refer to phonemes.