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  1. #1
    Kevin89 is offline Newbie
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    Difficulties distinguishing two vowels

    Hello,

    I'm a Dutch student at university and I came across some major problems in one of my courses. During phonetics we have to be able to write the pronunciation symbols (IPA) of any word in English. When I'm making these exercises I find it very hard to distinguish the difference between the vowels /e/ and // e.g. in the words ten and hat.
    Can anybody help me with this problem? Because when I have to "translate" the given word into phonetic symbols, I always doubt whether to use /e/ or //.

    Thanks a lot already :)

  2. #2
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Re: Difficulties distinguishing two vowels

    Welcome to the forums.

    Ten always has the same sound as fen, hen, pen, when

    Hat always has the same sound as fat, pat, cat, that

  3. #3
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    Re: Difficulties distinguishing two vowels

    the first sound is like the sound in the first part of your name

    /e/ k e v i n

    now make your lips wider and pronounce a

    // a m s t e r d a m

  4. #4
    colloquium is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Difficulties distinguishing two vowels

    Quote Originally Posted by the concierge View Post
    the first sound is like the sound in the first part of your name

    /e/ k e v i n

    now make your lips wider and pronounce a

    // a m s t e r d a m
    A Dutch speaker does not pronounce /e/ the same way as an English speaker. For this to be helpful he would have to learn to pronounce his name in an English accent.

    The Dutch /e/ is somewhere between the English /e/ and //.

    Perhaps consider words (with these 2 vowels) that are very similar.

    Such as then & than.

    I'm not a teacher.

  5. #5
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: Difficulties distinguishing two vowels

    Quote Originally Posted by the concierge View Post
    the first sound is like the sound in the first part of your name

    /e/ k e v i n

    now make your lips wider and pronounce a

    // a m s t e r d a m
    I'm not the original questioner, but this example wouldn't help me if I spoke Dutch - // is a phoneme, not an actual sound; and the actual sound made by a Dutch speaker saying Amsterdam is a long way from the actual sound produced by a native speaker of English when producing the vowel represented by //. And I think it's quite possible that the same applies to the Dutch vowel in the first syllable of "Kevin"; I imagine it's more like a cardinal [e] than what English people do when producing sounds that can be represented as /e/.

    Learning to use the IPA is not easy, but mixing up actual sounds and ideal speech sounds doesn't make it any easier.

    b

  6. #6
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    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Difficulties distinguishing two vowels

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin89 View Post
    Hello,

    I'm a Dutch student at university and I came across some major problems in one of my courses. During phonetics we have to be able to write the pronunciation symbols (IPA) of any word in English. When I'm making these exercises I find it very hard to distinguish the difference between the vowels /e/ and // e.g. in the words ten and hat.
    Can anybody help me with this problem? Because when I have to "translate" the given word into phonetic symbols, I always doubt whether to use /e/ or //.

    Thanks a lot already :)
    The only way to do it is to listen to these phonemes in the language you will be tested in. There are many sites on the web with soundfiles to help you distinguish /e/ and // as they occur in RP (which I imagine is your goal).
    Bear in mind that // transcribes two (often) different sounds:
    i) the short // of hat, rat-catcher, Thatcher and Harry.
    ii) the longer and closer sound of: man, hang, bank, Amsterdam.
    Also, as a subset of i) words ending in voiceless consonants: /ht/, /bt/, /bk/ are shorter than those ending with voiced consonants /hg/, /bg/, /bd/, but the sound is otherwise the same.

  7. #7
    Kevin89 is offline Newbie
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    Re: Difficulties distinguishing two vowels

    Thanks a lot for all your responses. I really appreciate all the responses but unfortunately it's not exactly as what I hoped for.
    I speak English fluently with a RP accent. I know how to pronounce all the different vowels and consonants so there is no need to "grab" back to Dutch. I'm going to university to become an English teacher and the reason for posting this question is more or less because I have got some problems to write phonetic symbols from the spoken language. Not the pronunciation which belongs to the given symbols. I have to write them by myself.
    In the meanwhile, I found a useful "rule" for my problem. Mostly (not always of course) when the word itself is spelled with an <a>, the IPA symbols give an //. When the word is written with an <e>, then the IPA
    symbol "translation" gives an /e/.
    Does anybody have some remarks or comments about this selfmade rule :P ?

  8. #8
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Difficulties distinguishing two vowels

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin89 View Post
    Thanks a lot for all your responses. I really appreciate all the responses but unfortunately it's not exactly as what I hoped for.
    I speak English fluently with a RP accent. I know how to pronounce all the different vowels and consonants so there is no need to "grab" back to Dutch. I'm going to university to become an English teacher and the reason for posting this question is more or less because I have got some problems to write phonetic symbols from the spoken language. Not the pronunciation which belongs to the given symbols. I have to write them by myself.
    In the meanwhile, I found a useful "rule" for my problem. Mostly (not always of course) when the word itself is spelled with an <a>, the IPA symbols give an //. When the word is written with an <e>, then the IPA
    symbol "translation" gives an /e/.
    Does anybody have some remarks or comments about this selfmade rule :P ?
    OK, you fooled us.
    I'm not sure you've explained your problem well yet, but maybe I'm slow.
    Your rule sounds self-evident to an English-speaking person. Certainly if a word is spelled with an "e" and they pronounce it /e/, you should probably write /e/ or /ɛ/ (Isn't RP for "ten" /tɛn/ with an epsilon?)
    However, what if they give you nonsense words like bap, bep, yan, which you won't know how to spell? Also, there are plenty of minimal pairs such as: pan/pen, tan/ten, bat/bet, bag/beg. I don't think your rule covers them.

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