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  • Today, we're putting together every video we have that focuses on the vowel and diphthong

  • sounds of American English.

  • This is your one-stop shop.

  • You'll see photos, up-close slow-motion words, valuable comparisons.

  • We're going to talk a lot about word stress too because that really affects vowel and

  • diphthong sounds.

  • You're going to learn everything you need to know about these American English sounds.

  • We'll start with the vowel AH like in father and UH like in butter and we'll see a comparison.

  • AH as in FATHER.

  • This vowel needs a lot of jaw drop.

  • Ah.

  • The tongue tip lightly touches behind the bottom front teeth, and the back part of the

  • tongue presses down a little bit.

  • Ah.

  • The lips are neutral, very relaxed.

  • Ah.

  • Because the tongue presses down in the back, you can see further into the dark space in

  • the mouth.

  • Let's see that by watching this vowel up close and in slow motion.

  • The lips are relaxed, and the tongue is lowered in the back.

  • The inside of the mouth is dark.

  • The word 'job'.

  • The jaw drops, and the tongue presses down in the back.

  • Ah.

  • When this vowel is in a stressed syllable, the voice will go up and come down in pitch,

  • ah, job, ah.

  • When it's in an unstressed syllable, it won't be as long, and it won't have the

  • up-down shape of the voice, ah, ah.

  • For example, in the word 'blockade', ah, ah, blockade.

  • The mouth position looks the same: jaw drop, relaxed lips, and tongue pressed slightly

  • down in the back.

  • But because the pitch is flatter and the syllable is quicker, it sounds unstressed.

  • Ah, ah.

  • Stressed AH: job, AH.

  • Unstressed ah: blockade, ah.

  • AH, ah.

  • AH, ah.

  • Example words.

  • Repeat with me:

  • Honest AH, Honest

  • Occupation, ah, occupation

  • hot, AH, hot

  • clock, AH, clock

  • October, ah, October

  • Soft, Ah, soft

  • The UH as in butter vowel

  • This is a very relaxed sound. 

  • You can see, uh, the jaw drops but the rest of the mouth remains very neutral, uh.  

  • The tongue is relaxed: the back presses down just a little bit, and the tip is forward.

  • Uh.

  • Keep your face really relaxed.

  • Let's look at this sound up close and in slow motion.

  • A very relaxed jaw drop with relaxed lips.

  • The tongue presses down just a bit in the back.

  • Here's the word 'stuff'.

  • Again, everything looks nice and relaxed.

  • The tongue presses down just a bit in the back.

  • In a stressed syllable, the vowel curves up then down.

  • Stuff, uh.

  • In an unstressed syllable, it's lower and flatter in pitch, and a little quieter and

  • quicker, uh, uh.

  • The vowel is unstressed in the word 'undo', uh.

  • Let's take a look at this word up close and in slow motion.

  • Easy jaw drop.

  • Lips and cheeks remain very relaxed.

  • Tongue presses down slightly in the back.

  • Compare the stressed vowel above with the unstressed vowel below.

  • Notice the jaw may drop a bit more for a stressed syllable.

  • This is typical.

  • Unstressed vowels and diphthongs are shorter, so there isn't as much time to make the

  • full mouth position.

  • The UH vowel, stressed: stuff, UH The UH vowel, unstressed: undo, uh

  • UH, uh, UH, uh.

  • Example words.

  • Repeat with me.

  • Sometimes, UH, sometimes

  • money, UH, money

  • above, UH, above

  • untie, UH, untie

  • uphill, UH, uphill

  • Fun, UH, fun.

  • Here we have the AH and uh vowels in profile.

  • You can see for the Ah vowel the jaw might drop a little bit more.

  • Also the tongue position has a little bit of tension in it.

  • That's because the tongue is flattened a little bit.

  • In the uh vowel the tongue is completely relaxed.

  • Now you'll see the mouth from the front alternating between the AH and the uh sounds.

  • Watch the subtle change in jaw drop.

  • And see if you can notice the subtle change in tongue position as well.

  • AH

  • Uh

  • AH

  • Uh

  • AH

  • Uh

  • Now we'll do two other vowel sounds that I've noticed can be tricky for my students.

  • Set.

  • Sat.

  • I'm talking about the EH as in bed vowel and the AA vowel like in bat.

  • We'll go over each sound in-depth and have a comparison.

  • the EH as in BED vowel.

  • To make this sound, the jaw drops, eh, and the tongue remains forward with the tip touching

  • lightly behind the bottom front teeth.

  • Eh.

  • The mid/front part of the tongue lifts a little bit towards the roof of the mouth while the

  • back of the tongue feels like it stretches wide.

  • Eh.

  • In a stressed syllable, the voice has a little curve up, then curve down.

  • Eh, eh.

  • It's stressed in the word 'said'.

  • Let's watch up close and in slow motion.

  • The jaw drops.

  • The tongue tip touches the back of the bottom front teeth, and the middle part arches up

  • towards the roof of the mouth.

  • Said, eh, said.

  • In an unstressed syllable, the vowel is lower and flatter in pitch, as well as quieter and

  • quicker, eh, eh.

  • The vowel is unstressed in the word 'employ', eh.

  • Let's take a look up close and in slow motion.

  • Relaxed jaw drop.

  • The middle part of the tongue arches up towards the roof of the mouth.

  • Here we compare the stressed EH from 'said', on top, with the unstressed version from 'employ'

  • on the bottom.

  • Notice the jaw drops more for the stressed version of this vowel.

  • Because the unstressed version of the vowel is shorter, there isn't enough time to make

  • the full jaw drop.

  • EH stressed: said, EH

  • EH unstressed: employ, eh

  • EH, eh.

  • EH, eh.

  • Example words.

  • Repeat with me:

  • Red, EH, Red

  • Never, EH, never

  • embrace, Eh, embrace

  • enter, EH, enter

  • embody, EH, embody

  • Desk, EH, desk.

  • The AA as in BAT vowel.

  • This is a sound that changes depending on the following sound.

  • So, it can either be a pure vowel or a modified vowel.

  • We'll go over both in this video.

  • To make the pure AA vowel, the jaw drops quite a bit, AA.

  • The tip of the tongue stays forward; it's touching the back of the bottom front teeth,

  • AA.

  • The back part of the tongue stretches up.

  • The tongue is wide, AA.

  • Because the tongue is high in the back and low in the front, you can see a lot of it.

  • This is different from the 'ah' as in 'father' vowel, for example, where the tongue presses

  • down in the back and you see more dark space in the mouth.

  • AA, AH.

  • You can also see the corners of the mouth pull back and up a little bit.

  • AA.

  • Let's take a look at the pure AA vowel up close and in slow motion.

  • The tongue tip is down and the back of the tongue lifts.

  • Here's the word 'sat'.

  • The tongue position is easy to see because of the jaw drop needed for this vowel.

  • When AA is in a stressed syllable, the vowel will go up and come down in pitch, AA.

  • Sat, AA.

  • In an unstressed syllable, the vowel is flatter and lower in pitch, quieter, aa.

  • This vowel is unstressed in the second syllable of 'backtrack'.

  • Let's look up close and in slow motion.

  • In the first, stressed syllable, the jaw drops, and we see the corners of the lips pull back

  • and up for the stressed AA.

  • In the unstressed syllable, the jaw drops less.

  • Let's compare them.

  • On top is the stressed AA.

  • You can see the jaw drops more.

  • For the unstressed AA, the corners of the lips are a little more relaxed than in the

  • stressed version, where they pull slightly back and up.

  • Generally, the unstressed version of a vowel or diphthong is more relaxed and doesn't

  • take the full mouth position, in this case, a little less jaw drop, and relaxed lips.

  • This is because unstressed syllables are shorter, so we don't take the time to make the full

  • position.

  • At the beginning of this video, I said the AA vowel is not always a pure AA.

  • This vowel changes when it's followed by a nasal consonant.

  • When it's followed by the M or N sounds, the tongue relaxes in the back, making an

  • UH sound after AA.

  • AA-UH.

  • It's not a pure AA sound.

  • Unfortunately, this change is not represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

  • It's still written with the same AA symbol.

  • So, you just have to know when it's followed by m or n, it's different.

  • We don't say 'man', aa, 'man', with a pure AA.

  • We say 'man', aa-uh, aa-uh, relaxing the tongue and corners of the lips before the

  • consonant.

  • You can think of this UH relaxation as the 'uh' as in 'butter' sound or schwa

  • sound.

  • Let's look up close and in slow motion at the word 'exam'.

  • First we see the familiar shape of the mouth, when the AA is in a stressed syllable.

  • Watch how the relaxation that happens: the corners of the lips relax in.

  • The tongue will relax down in the back.

  • And the lips close for the M consonant.

  • This relaxation of the corner of the lips and back of the tongue happens when the AA

  • vowel is followed by the N consonant as well.

  • For example, the word 'hand'.

  • Haa-uhnd.

  • Hand.

  • So, when you see this symbol followed by this symbol or this symbol, it's no longer a

  • pure AA.

  • Think of relaxing out of the vowel, AA-UH.

  • If the next sound is the NG consonant, it's a little different.

  • Rather than 'aa-uh', the vowel changes into AY.

  • It's really like the AY as in SAY diphthong.

  • First, the middle part of the tongue lifts towards the roof of the mouth, then the front

  • part of the tongue.

  • Let's watch 'gang' up close and in slow motion.

  • The position for the first sound looks a lot like AA, but the part of the tongue lifting

  • up is more forward.

  • Gaaaang.

  • Then the front part of the tongue arches up towards the roof of the mouth, while the tongue

  • tip remains down.

  • When you see this symbol followed by this symbol, it's no longer a pure AA.

  • It's more like AY.

  • Gang.

  • Thanks.

  • Pure stressed AA: Sat, aa

  • Pure unstressed AA: backtrack, aa

  • AA, aa, AA, aa.

  • AA vowel modified by M: exam, aa-uh

  • AA vowel modified by N: man, aa-uh

  • AA vowel modified by NG: gang, ay

  • Example words.

  • Repeat with me:

  • Chapter, AA, Chapter

  • can, AA, can

  • act, AA, act

  • last, AA , last

  • bank, ay, bank

  • Bypass, aa, bypass

  • Here you'll see the EH as in bed vowel on the left and the AA as in bat vowel on the

  • right.

  • For the AA vowel, you can see that it's the back part of the tongue that raises up

  • towards the roof of the mouth.

  • For the EH vowel, it's the mid front part of the tongue that is stretching up.

  • Also for the AA, you can see that the jaw drops just a little bit more.

  • So, for the AA vowel, the tongue is raising here.

  • AA

  • And for the EH vowel, the tongue is raising more here.

  • EH

  • So here for the AA and here for the EH.

  • AA

  • EH

  • When comparing the two sounds in isolation, you'll also notice that the jaw does not

  • drop as much for the EH sound as the front part of the tongue is raising towards the

  • roof of the mouth.

  • AA

  • EH

  • There's a difference in the lip position as well.

  • For the AA vowel, you may find that you may get a more accurate sound if you lift a little

  • bit here with the top left.

  • AA, AA.

  • Whereas for the EH sound the lips remain very relaxed and neutral.

  • EH, EH.