Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 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.