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In the 16th post we saw how there may be a huge difference between the way English words are written and how they are actually pronounced. That happens because English spelling is not phonetic, meaning that the letters you read don’t represent the actual sounds of words.
Let’s have a couple of examples:
The word “queue” consists of two syllables, que-ue, but you will pronounce it /kjuː/, only one syllable. The same thing happens with the word “literature”, which consists of five syllables (li-te-ra-tu-re), but you will pronounce it /ˈlɪtrətʃəʳ/, only three syllables (ˈlɪ-trə-tʃəʳ). Let’s also have a look at the word “colonel”, composed of three syllables (co-lo-nel), which becomes /ˈkɜːnɫ/, only two syllables (ˈkɜː – nᵊɫ). There are plenty of similar examples in English.
If you want to speak English correctly, you need to know the phonemes. Phonemes are symbols that strictly represent the various sounds of words.
As we saw in the 16th post, there are five types of English phonemes: short vowels, long vowels, voiced consonants, unvoiced consonants, and diphthongs. In the previous post we analyzed the first two categories: short and long vowels. Now, we are going to see voiced and unvoiced consonants.
Voiced and Unvoiced Consonants
p – Pet /pet/ – Port /pɔːʳt/ – Peak /piːk/
b – (voiced) – Bar /bɑːʳ/ – Best /best/ – Boot /buːt/
t – Turtle /tɑːʳtɫ/ – Treat /triːt/ – Tool /tuːɫ/
d – (voiced) – Dentist /ˈdentɪst/ – Dull /dʌɫ/ – Dry /draɪ/
f – Fry /fraɪ/ – Fret /fret/ – Free /friː/
v – (voiced) – Voice /vɔɪs/ – Venom /ˈvenəm/ – Vast /vɑːst/
tʃ – Cheat /tʃiːt/ – Chunk /tʃʌŋk/ – Choice /tʃɔɪs/
dӡ – (voiced) – Joke /dӡəʊk/ – June /dӡuːn/ – Gender /ˈdӡendəʳ/
k – Court /kɔːʳt/ – Curtain /kɜːʳtn/ – Car /kɑːʳ/
g – (voiced) – Goose /guːs/ – Goal /gəʊɫ/ – Gale /geɪɫ/
s – Super /ˈsjuːpəʳ/ – Star /stɑːʳ/ – Step /step/
z – (voiced) – Zone /zəʊn/ – Zero /ˈzɪərəʊ/ – Zinc /zɪŋk/
ʃ – Show /ʃəʊ/ – Shallow /ˈʃæləʊ/ – Shock /ʃɒk/
ӡ – (voiced) – Genre /ˈӡɒnrə/ – Casual /ˈkæӡuəɫ/ – Pleasure /ˈpleӡəʳ/
θ – Thick /θɪk/ – Thought /θɔːt/ – Thorough /ˈθʌrəʳ/
ð – (voiced) – Them /ðem/ – The /ðə/ or /ði/- Thus /ðʌs/
h – Hotel /həʊˈteɫ/ – Inhabitant /ɪnˈhæbɪtənt/ – Coherent /kəʊˈhɪərənt/
The following consonants are all voiced
ɫ – All /ɔːɫ/ – Altered /ˈɔːɫtəd/ – Alt /ɔːɫt/
l – Love /lʌv/ – Lane /leɪn/ – Let /let/
m – Moon /muːn/ – Mere /mɪəʳ/ – Mode /məʊd/
n – Nothing /ˈnʌθɪŋ/ – New /njuː/ – Nest /nest/
ŋ – Going /ˈgəʊɪŋ/ – Singing /ˈsɪŋɪŋ/ – English /ˈɪŋglɪʃ/
r – Rat /ræt/ – Red /red/ – Rocket /ˈrɒkɪt/
w – Twenty /ˈtwenti/ – Water /ˈwɔːtəʳ/ – Quiet /ˈkwaɪət/
j – Year /jɪəʳ/ – You /juː/ Yield /jiːɫd/