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Communication Matters

January 2016       
Issue 89

American Accent Basics:
Vowels that "Shrink" and "Switch" 
In This Issue
TELL US YOUR STORYFeatured Article
Business  Woman Lecturing

If you are a foreign born professional, we would like to hear from you. We are very interested in the story of how you have created a successful and prosperous life in the United States.

We would be happy to feature your story in a future issue.
trOur Mission is to help our clients transform their accents from a communication barrier to a charming cultural flavor using "listener friendly" speech. 
Order Mastering Meaning from or today online. The price is  reduced from $19.99 to $10.00 + S & H and applicable sales taxes.  

We teach ALL of our clients the basic rules of intonation and pronunciation of vowels.
Go to our Archive Home Page to read more fascinating newsletters.

  Triangle Speech Services is the private, professional practice of Judith L. Bergman, a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) who specializes in foreign accent and regional dialect modification and related communication skills. I offer customized, individual tutorials to corporate-sponsored and self-enrolled individuals who speak English fluently but with moderate to severe accents that create challenges and frustrations in the workplace.
    This article, originally titled, American Accent Secrets, was issue #53 in September 2012. We have been writing these monthly informative newsletters for over seven years and helping clients reduce their accents, or, saying this another way, helping them to speak with more of an American accent since 2005! 
   Native speakers of American English and ESL speakers seldom think about the role of vowels in speech intelligibility.  "Listener friendly" speech requires acoustic pattern recognition and vowels play a critical role in correct intonation and pronunciation.

Vowels that Shrink!  
     American English has stress-timed, not  syllable-timed speech patterns.  All words longer than one syllable (the minimum "beat" such as the word "a" or "'hot") have a strong syllable which is higher pitched, longer and louder and a weaker syllable.  The weaker syllables can have secondary stress and retain their vowel sound or, as is often the case, the weaker syllables can be completely unstressed and their vowel is then pronounced like a very quick and quiet "uh" or a quick and quiet "er." So, spelling is completely misleading! Spelling doesn't equal pronunciation.
   The word "London" is pronounced " LUNN dn" with almost NO vowel in the second, unstressed syllable.  NONE of the words  about, away and aware start with anything like an "ay" sound . The first word is pronounced uh BOUT and the uh syllable is short, low pitched and quiet. The word "developer" has three unstressed syllables and one stressed syllable that completely determine its acoustic pattern and its intelligibility to listeners who are native speakers of English. It should be pronounced,  duh VEH luh per.
Vowels that Switch Words from Nouns or Adjectives to Verbs!       
   Read these two sentences out loud: "Here is a picture of two university graduates.  Did they graduate with an advanced or graduate degree such as a Ph.D?"
How did you pronounce the words in italics?  The first " graduates" is a noun of three syllables. The first syllable is stressed and the final or third syllable should be pronounced "its." In the second sentence "Did they graduate..."  graduate is a verb that ends with a syllable pronounced "ate." The third use of "graduate" is as an adjective describing what type of degree and ALSO ends with  "it."    Also, in all three versions, the middle syllable "du" is pronounced "jew" not "do" and is linked to the "it" or "ate" with a "w" sound so that it sounds like either "wit" or "wait." The word should sound like " GRA jewit"  (noun or adjective) or " GRA jewait" (verb.)
   This IT vs. ATE ending distinction applies to many other words commonly used in the business, scientific, medical and academic professions.  The version ending in IT is the noun or adjective and the pronunciation of ATE is the verb and this is a critical, obligatory distinction that determines meaning. These include advocate, estimate, duplicate and syndicate, where the "it" ending indicates a noun and duplicate and moderate where the "it" ending indicates an adjective. "That  is a duplicate." (noun) "I will make a duplicate set of drawings." (adjective) or "We can't duplicate those findings." (verb) Another example is:  "My estimate (IT) isn't ready because I have to estimate (ATE) our subcontractor's fees."


How Can I Remember This? Are There More Rules?   
JB Teaching How To Pronounce    Yes, there are many more rules. This article demonstrates just two to illustrate some common elements of correct American English (Standard English) pronunciation. Both native and non-native speakers are typically not aware of these and many other rules BUT native speakers use them correctly and unconsciously. 
   Accent Modification is not a "do it yourself" project!  Unlike  many of my clients, I know that I "don't know" how to code or how to use physics to solve problems. But, where pronunciation is concerned, you really DON'T know what you don't know!

   We invite you to click on Triangle Speech Services  to visit our informative website. Our goal is always to provide information, inspiration and encouragement since these are essential components of any successful learning experience. Check out the video clip of our Toastmaster's talk on Spelling Doesn't Equal Pronunciation which you will find on the "About Accents" page of our web site.

  If you are seriously considering enrolling yourself or an employee in an individual tutorial with us please contact us through the contact page of our web site.  We suggest that you wait until late February to do this and we can then schedule your free phone consultation and Information Session for March. Our testing schedule is full until April, as we are only starting two new clients a month. 


Judith L. Bergman M.A. CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist and Corporate Speech Trainer
Founder & Director of Triangle Speech Services