English phonetic: ae vs. a:

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Hipatia91, Oct 11, 2009.

  1. Hipatia91 Member

    Spanisch - Spain
    I've just started to study phonetic, and during transcriptiones there's a problem i'm not sure about how difference this two symbols ae vs. a:
    because they are written exactly with the same a symbol.
    I know that the second one is a long a; but i mean if there is any rule for knowing when i have to transcribe an a: or an ae or should i know it throw the pronounciation?

    I give an example just to make it clear:
    I dont see the difference between this two sentences and its transcriptions:
    Mark cant park his car -/mɑ:rk kɑ:nt pɑ:rk hɪz kɑ:r/
    Anne has black slacks - /æn hæz blæk slæks/
    It is just a pronunciation issue?
  2. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    These two phonemes ɑ: and æ are completely different for English speakers.

    Fat and Fate, for example, are different words.

    Many Spanish speakers have difficulty with the long and short vowels of English; particularly the difference between minimal pairs such as peach/pitch, beach/bitch, sheet/shit

  3. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    Check this site:
    It has audio and video representations of English and Spanish phonemes.
    There is no way to tell from English orthography precisely how a written vowel should be pronounced. Indeed, any written representation of a vowel can be pronounced as any other vowel under the appropriate circumstances.
  4. Hipatia91 Member

    Spanisch - Spain
    and between ɒ and ɔ:?

    Pd: any tip to difference them when i have to do a transcription?
  5. Meyer Wolfsheim Senior Member

    East Egg
    No, they are two distinct vowel sounds. However, the vowel sound in "mark, park, car" is not the same as the one in "can't" at least not for my register of English. Those three are long a sounds, like "ah" (Spanish a) but because all of them have an "r" at the end the vowel sound becomes modified. I also pronounce "Anne" with the same vowel as "can't" but I think that would be related to dialect; very difficult for me to pronounce Anne as you transcribed.

    The difference isn't much, in fact I didn't realize it until you posted this, however the vowel sound in "can't" sounds slightly nasalized to me, in fact in quick speech I completely nasalize it's vowel and the nasal n nearly gets dropped but again this is not standard.
  6. Hipatia91 Member

    Spanisch - Spain
    ok so it's a long a when it has an r that follow it?
    and the rest of pairs of vowels?
    Because i neither see the difference between O and ɔ:, ʊ and u: and ə and ɜ:
  7. Meyer Wolfsheim Senior Member

    East Egg
    I am not very competent in the phonetic alphabet, it would be best if you gave an example of each of the pairs. And the "r" depends on which accent of English, a rhotic dialect will pronounce the r as a full consonant while in a non-rhotic the r is actually a very strange consonant, almost a vowel sound in many cases (thus r-colored vowels).
  8. Hipatia91 Member

    Spanisch - Spain
    olive matches John land a locked strong box
    maud warns Paul You'll fall

    The cook looks at her cookery book
    She is beautiful

    Pearl is circus girl

    an adventurous professor
    olɪv mætʃəz dʒon lænd ə lokt strɒŋ boks
    mɒd wɔ:rnz pɒl jul fɑl

    ðə kʊk lʊks æt hər kʊkəri bʊk
    ʃi ɪz bju:təfəl

    ɜ:rl ɪz sɜ:rkəs gɜ:rl

    æn ædvɛntʃərəs prəfɛsər
  9. Meyer Wolfsheim Senior Member

    East Egg
    1. olive matches John land a locked strong box
    maud warns Paul You'll fall

    Here, there is a clear vowel difference between "strong" and "warns." The "ong" is a difficult vowel sound to describe, "arn"=orn as in Thorne.

    2. The cook looks at her cookery book
    She is beautiful

    Again, "looks" is like a schwa sound but it is also a round vowel, like /y/ where as "beautiful", while sound close to the /y/ vowel, is simply the long "u" sound with a y consonant in front of it. This is nearly the same vowel as Spanish "u."

    3. Pearl is circus girl
    an adventurous professor

    Here, "circus, girl" have the same vowel sound, this is merely the short "i" sound (as in "it") but r-colored; the vowel is modified because the r following it. Where as "adventurous, professor" have the schwa sound as you wrote; the difference between the short "i" and schwa is very minimal when you are not careful; I often sometimes pronounce French "je" with the short "i" instead of the schwa when I am not careful. Remember too that the examples you gave have an "r" following the vowel, this complicates the vowel sound further.

    If you are having trouble with any of these minimal pairs, you should simply talk with lots of natives and you will pick them up quickly.
  10. Hipatia91 Member

    Spanisch - Spain
    My pronunciation its okey, or i hope so.
    But the problem is that this year i'm going to sit exams about this subjetic: phonetic.
    And i'm gointo to be asked to do a phonetic transcription.
    Thank you so much, but with your explanations i dont finally know to distinguish any of them.
    From my point of view there are all, almost the same sound.
  11. Meyer Wolfsheim Senior Member

    East Egg
    You are technically correct about them all being the same sound hence why I believe they are called minimal pairs so the difference is very minimal but it is noticeable.
  12. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    Another problem is that there are many varieties of English. I think your transcriptions are based on BE because I would not pronounce much of it as you've laid out, for example [dʒon] to me would be the name Joan, not John.
  13. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC

    In phonology, minimal pairs are pairs of words or phrases in a particular language, which differ in only one phonological element, such as a phone, phoneme, toneme or chroneme and have a distinct meaning. They are used to demonstrate that two phones constitute two separate phonemes in the language.

    If you search for "minimal pair," you'll find a number of sites which will help you learn to distinguish the unfamiliar vowel sounds in English. Here's one:
    American English Pronunciation Practice (For ESL/EFL)
    Game-like Minimal Pair Practice using Flash and MP3 Files


    Good luck! And welcome to the forum.
  14. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Howjsay, AT&T and Acapela are three useful pronunciation sites where you can hear speakers from the US or UK speak words that you select or type in. By listening to them you will be able to distinguish them and eventually they will not be "almost the same sound"!
  15. chamyto

    chamyto Senior Member

    Burgos, Spain
    Symbol / a: / when there´s an "r" after the "a" car = / ka: */
  16. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
    English pronunciation is extremely tricky -- especially if you are looking for rules based on spelling. There will always be exceptions, but here are my pointers for American English. The British have other issues, usually having to do with French influences.

    The accented vowel is the most important. Unstressed vowels become more indistinct, moving toward a schwa.

    For the short 'a' sound ([a] vs [ae]),

    an accented 'a' is usually [ae], unless followed by 'h' or 'r', then it is [a]. Common exceptions include words from foreign lanaguages, which often retain their original pronunciation, like 'pasta.'

    In American English:
    Mark cant park his car -/mɑ:*k kænt pɑ:*k hɪz kɑ:/
    Anne has black slacks - /æn hæz blæk slæks/
  17. pickarooney

    pickarooney Senior Member

    Provence, France
    English (Ireland)
    I think before you begin, assuming you're retranscribing written text, you should decide on what dialect/accent you're going to describe to and stick with it (tip: figure out what accent the person who's going to be marking your papers has and go with that).

    Whether you choose an English, Scottish, South African or whatever accent, be sure to remain consistent in your transcriptions as, if you ever need to query the marking of a phonetics exam, your objection will only stand up if you've use the same symbols for the same sounds throughout.

    If you ask the question 'how do I transcribe this sentence' to a selection of people from ten different areas you will get ten different answers and this will more than likely confuse you than anything else. Once you have got more used to the IPA, you can branch out and learn how things would normally be written for other accents.

    I hear John F. Kennedy's Boston twang reading that back :)

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