American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

The amount of speech produced with a single outgoing airstream is called a breath group.

Read the following nursery rhyme out loud. How many breath groups did you use, and where did they end?

Mary had a little lamb
Whose fleece was white as snow
And everywhere that Mary went
The sheep was sure to go.

In unexcited speech the escape of the air from the lungs is quite slow and steady to prevent the breath group from being too short. Some people tend to use up too much air, which forces them to break up their speech production rather frequently, and to stumble a lot when reading a text. If you find that you do this, practice maintaining the quality of a nasal like [m] or a vowel like [a] for some twenty seconds without straining yourself and without taking an abnormally deep breath before you start. Then try to read a fairly easy text on the same long breath, again without straining yourself.