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Thread: mail,sale,male

  1. #1
    peter123 is offline Senior Member
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    Default mail,sale,male

    Hi all native speakers

    I 've heard many people including native speakers say the words 'mail', 'male', 'sale' as /mel/, /mel/, /sel/ instead of the correct pronounciation /meil/, /mei/, /seil/, why?


    Many thanks
    Peter

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    Soup's Avatar
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    Default Re: mail,sale,male

    /e/ and /ey/ are not distinctive in English. For example, pronounce /meyl/ as [mel] and it won't change the word's meaning. From a phonetic point of view, /ey/ is longer than /e/ but not that much longer because the off-glide /-y/ is slight. A linguist can hear the different between /e:/ and /ey/, but as for the everyday person, there's no harm in pronouncing e.g., sale as [se:l] or [sel] since it doesn't change the meaning of the word.

  3. #3
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: mail,sale,male

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    /e/ and /ey/ are not distinctive in English. For example, pronounce /meyl/ as [mel] and it won't change the word's meaning. From a phonetic point of view, /ey/ is longer than /e/ but not that much longer because the off-glide /-y/ is slight. A linguist can hear the different between /e:/ and /ey/, but as for the everyday person, there's no harm in pronouncing e.g., sale as [se:l] or [sel] since it doesn't change the meaning of the word.
    Yes - note the colon; someone who isn't a linguist can surely hear the difference between "sell" and "sale".

    b

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    Default Re: mail,sale,male

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Yes - note the colon; someone who isn't a linguist can surely hear the difference between "sell" and "sale".

    b
    Sell and sale are distinctive, though, no matter if the vowel is long ([:]) or short; they house different vowels:

    sell, s[ɛ]ll (mid-front lax vowel)
    sale, s[ey]l (off-glide: mid-front tense vowel + high-front y)

    sell, e as in the sound of e in bed.
    sale, a as in the sound of a in ale.

  5. #5
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: mail,sale,male

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Sell and sale are distinctive, though, no matter if the vowel is long ([:]) or short; they house different vowels:

    sell, s[ɛ]ll (mid-front lax vowel)
    sale, s[ey]l (off-glide: mid-front tense vowel + high-front y)

    ...
    It seems to me that your "[ɛ]" might be confused with Peter's "/e/". It's a shame that OUP, for their widely used phonemic chart (I haven't seen it online, except for a bootleg copy of my own!), use "/e/".

    Quote Originally Posted by peter123 View Post
    Hi all native speakers

    I 've heard many people including native speakers say the words 'mail', 'male', 'sale' as /mel/, /mel/, /sel/ instead of the correct pronounciation /meil/, /mei/, /seil/, why?


    Many thanks
    Peter
    b

  6. #6
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    Default Re: mail,sale,male

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    It seems to me that your "[ɛ]" might be confused with Peter's "/e/". It's a shame that OUP, for their widely used phonemic chart (I haven't seen it online, except for a bootleg copy of my own!), use "/e/".
    Hold on. I seem to recall reading somewhere--could have been in college--that where American English has /ey/, British English has /e/. Is that true?

  7. #7
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: mail,sale,male

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Hold on. I seem to recall reading somewhere--could have been in college--that where American English has /ey/, British English has /e/. Is that true?
    On that phonemic chart I mentioned, it's the diphthong /eɪ/. I've seen it represented phonetically as [ej]. There are some dialects of Br E that have a close [e] monophthong, but RP has a diphthong, which I believe is the same (or almost the same) as your /ey/.

    b

  8. #8
    Soup's Avatar
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    Default Re: mail,sale,male

    Yes. That's right. And the process is called monophthongization. There are also lax vowel variants for y (also written j):

    [eˆ] (a lax high central vowel)
    [eI] (a lax high front vowel)

    I believe, but could be wrong, that the second one is Canadian. The first one is US, New England area (I think): http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~dinkin/TLN/TLNPWPL.pdf

  9. #9
    peter123 is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: mail,sale,male

    Hi there,

    But I often hear people saying the word the 'sale' with the same sound in 'sell'. Both of them are pronounced as [e] sound. Right?

    Thanks
    pete

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    Default Re: mail,sale,male

    You should really pronounce sale with an ey sound as in "day". Sale is a noun. Sell (the verb) has the short e sound pronounced as in "egg". Whether you sound the diphthong ei/ey or not doesn't really matter. However if you pronounce sale the same as sell, most native English speakers would think you had made a grammatical error confusing the noun with the verb.

    I am going to a sale (noun)

    I am going to sell (verb) my house.

    If you said "I am going to sale my house", it might sound like the verb "sail" - I have an image of a man sailing his house down the river.

    If you said "I am going to a sell". People might confuse it with a cell - like a prison cell and might imagine you are being sent to prison.

    The rule here is that A followed by a consonant then an E generally sounds like ey/ei. Similar words are dale, vale, pale. This rule applies to many other words such as: mate, fate, make, bake, cake etc.

    E followed by a double consonant is usually a short e as in egg. Similarly you have tell, bell, fell, dell, smell, teller, better, letter.

    Isn't English wonderful?

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