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  1. #1
    enthink is offline Junior Member
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    Default How to pronounce the 'ae' sound in 'flag'?

    Hi,

    When a native English speaker with BBC English (or "Standard American") accent is saying the word "flag", and particularly the 'ae' sound, what is he/she doing?

    1. Lips are shaped as if he/she were saying 'e', but is actually saying 'a'?

    or

    2. Lips are shaped as if he/she were saying 'a', but is actually saying 'e'?

    or

    3. Something else?

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to pronounce the 'ae' sound in 'flag'?

    Quote Originally Posted by enthink View Post
    Hi,

    When a native English speaker with BBC English (or "Standard American") accent is saying the word "flag", and particularly the 'ae' sound, what is he/she doing?
    BrE:

    "The mouth is more open than for /e/; the front of the tongue is raised to a position just above open, with the side rims making a very slight contact with the back upper molars; the lips are neutrally open."

    Cruttenden, Alan (2001) Gimson's Pronunciation of English, London:Arnold
    Last edited by Barb_D; 22-Nov-2010 at 15:37.

  3. #3
    enthink is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: How to pronounce the 'ae' sound in 'flag'?

    [QUOTE=fivejedjon;680856]
    Quote Originally Posted by enthink View Post
    Hi,

    When a native English speaker with BBC English (or "Standard American") accent is saying the word "flag", and particularly the 'ae' sound, what is he/she doing?
    /QUOTE]

    BrE:

    "The mouth is more open than for /e/; the front of the tongue is raised to a position just above open, with the side rims making a very slight contact with the back upper molars; the lips are neutrally open."

    Cruttenden, Alan (2001) Gimson's Pronunciation of English, London:Arnold
    Well, that's a great scientific description, but I'm not sure which the correct answer is now? 1, 2, or 3? The main thing I'm interested in is: Do you try to say /a/ or /e/? And while you are saying it, are the lips shaped more for /a/ or /e/? Thanks.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: How to pronounce the 'ae' sound in 'flag'?

    [QUOTE=enthink;680864]
    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post

    The main thing I'm interested in is: Do you try to say /a/ or /e/? The only answer I can give to that is that I try to say //,not /ɑː/or /e/!

    And
    while you are saying it, are the lips shaped more for /a/ or /e/?

    For me, the lips open very slightly as I move from /e/ through //to /ɑː/. For the first of these two sounds I might describe my lips as 'loosely spread', for the second and third as 'neutrally open'. My tongue position lowers as I pass through the three, and my lower jaw drops slightly.
    5

  5. #5
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: How to pronounce the 'ae' sound in 'flag'?

    Enthink, your answers 1. and 2. are not precise. What does "actually saying a" mean? So I'd say number 3 is right.

    is very similar to both /a/ and /ɛ/, and less similar to /e/. All four share two important features.

    - They're all unrounded vowels, which means you don't round your lips in any of them.
    - They're all front vowels, which means you need to put the tip of your tongue as far forward as possible.

    The essential difference between them is their height.

    - /a/ is an open vowel, which means that you need to position your tongue as low as possible. It's the vowel which you can find in "far" (in English) (you won't find it here; I was wrong) and twice in "mama" (in Polish).

    - // is a near-open vowel. The tongue is a little closer to the roof. It doesn't exist in Polish.

    - /ɛ/ is an open-mid vowel. The tongue is remarkably closer to the roof than in /a/. It exists in both English ("set") and Polish ("set").

    - /e/ is a close-mid vowel. The tongue is near the roof. It doesn't exist in most English accents. It's also not recognized by Poles in their own language but it's actually uttered in words like "piec", "cieć".

    The next sound in this sequence is /i/ (as in "feet" and "miska").
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 22-Nov-2010 at 20:52.

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    Default Re: How to pronounce the 'ae' sound in 'flag'?

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post

    - /ɛ/ is an open-mid vowel.[...] It exists in both English ("set") and Polish ("set").

    .
    Note that BC is using symbols widely used in American writing on the subject. I am using symbols widely accepted in British writing.

    Thus, for her sentence (above), I would write:

    - /e/ is an open-mid vowel.[...] It exists in both English ("set") and Polish ("set").

    We are not disagreeing.

  7. #7
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: How to pronounce the 'ae' sound in 'flag'?

    Thanks, I wasn't actually sure whether I was disagreeing with you or not. I think using "e" to denote this sound is not simply the British way. Webster's dictionary does the same. I used the IPA symbols.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: How to pronounce the 'ae' sound in 'flag'?

    Even within the UK, we have differences of opinion. I heard John Wells, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at UCL and editor of the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, get quite heated when discussing the decision of the phonetics editor of the Concise Oxford Dictionary's decision to use /ɛ/ instead of /e/ in the latest edition of the COD.

    The Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary
    , edited by Peter Roach, James Hartman and Jane Setter, uses /e/

    /ɛ/ is phonetically closer than /e/ to the sound we actually make in English, but the convention in British phonology is to use symbols as close as possible to symbols used in normal writing.

    If Wells, Roach et al were writing the word in broad phonetics, they would write [sɛt].

  9. #9
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: How to pronounce the 'ae' sound in 'flag'?

    When I was taught to pronounce //, they told me to utter "a sound that is between our a and our e". I understood that and I still think it's the best way to describe the sound to a Pole.

    Note that the length of // may be different in different words. See Bad-lad split (Take a look at section -tensing too.)

    // is also the first element of (the? I never know...) diphtong /ɪ/. You'll find it in Australian English.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How to pronounce the 'ae' sound in 'flag'?

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post

    // is also the first element of (the? I never know...) diphtong /ɪ/.
    diphthong, which almost all BrE speakers pronounce as if it were spelt dipthong.

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