Activity 1: The Phonemic Chart

Here are the main phonemic symbols for the sounds of English.

These are the vowel sound symbols: /iː ɪ ʊ uː e ə ɜː ɔː æ ʌ ɑː ɒ/
These are the diphthong sound symbols: /ɪə ʊə eə eɪ ɔɪ aɪ əʊ aʊ/
These are the consonant sound symbols: /p b t d ʧ ʤ k g f v θ ð s z ʃ ʒ m n ŋ h l r w j/

Exercise 1 Answers

In this activity, the following words are matched to the corresponding vowel sounds:

ɔː : core, source, clause

ʌ : bulk, funds, sum

e : hence, text, trend

iː : fees, brief, team

aɪ : file, styles, site

eɪ : range, phase, trace

əʊ : goals, scope, code

Activity 2: Stress patterns in words

The stress patterns for the listed words are:

  1. Four syllables with stress on second syllable: community, analysis, significant, authority, administer
  2. Two syllables, with stress on second syllable: occur, research (verb), assume, response, percent.
  3. Two syllables, with stress on first syllable: research (noun), data, concept, legal, sector, context.
  4. Three syllables, with stress on second syllable: procedure, financial, specific, established, assessment.

Activity 3: Useful expressions for seminars

There are no set answers to these questions. One thing is certain though, the fact you are here at Queen Mary studying in an English speaking country is the best environment for you to listen to a lot of authentic English being spoken, both by native and non-native speakers of English. The Language Centre at Queen Mary runs course in pronunciation as part of its insessional programme, so you can come along and register for one of those, if you choose. Furthermore, there are a list of websites below which are all helpful for those wanting to improve their pronunciation. But do not worry if you do not sound like the King or Queen of England – nobody is expecting you to!

Review of main points

In this Learning Object we have discussed the issue of pronunciation. You do not have to sound like a native speaker of English; everyone will naturally speak with an accent that is an indication of where they come from. But there is a need for mutual intelligibility: we must all be able to understand each other. Therefore, at the present time, teachers usually teach a standard form. In the U.K. this is called R.P. or received pronunciation; that is, southern British English.

Not all your fellow students from the U.K. will speak this variety, nor will all your lecturers, but it gives us a set of symbols which represent the sounds we should approximate, so that as many people as
possible in the world can understand us. These symbols have been arranged into a phonemic chart and it is helpful to learn them and the sounds they represent, because they are used to show the correct pronunciation of vocabulary in dictionaries. It is also important to check where the stress lies in a new word; this is also shown in the dictionary entry, normally by an apostrophe before the stressed syllable.

For more information about and practice of the phonemic chart you can follow these links:

OUP “New English File” Pronunciation

British Council Phonemic Chart

Phonemic Chart showing American and British English differences

Cambridge English Online Phonetics Focus Great games!

BBC Learning English – Pronunciation Tips

One Stop English Interactive Phonemic Chart

On Youtube you can also see videos of an expert on English pronunciation, Adrian Underhill, teaching the phonemic chart. Follow the link here Adrian Underhill on Successful Pronunciation 1 (Macmillan) (there is a series of four videos).

For more on the Academic Word List, follow these links:

Vocabulary Exercises for the Academic Word List

UEfAP: Vocabulary in EAP