difference between the pronunciations of "sheep" and "ship"

GeneD

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Is there really any difference between the pronunciations of "sheep" and "ship"? I'm aware (theoretically) that in the first word the sound should be longer, but my foreign ear doesn't hear the difference.
 

emsr2d2

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To native ears, there's a clear difference. Or, at least, there is enough of a difference that when one native speaker talks to another, the listener doesn't mistake one for the other.
Don't feel bad - lots of non-natives struggle with this. At least mixing up "sheep" and "ship" isn't quite as embarrassing as mixing up "sheet" and the other word that has an "i" instead of "ee".
 

GeneD

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At least mixing up "sheep" and "ship" isn't quite as embarrassing as mixing up "sheet" and the other word that has an "i" instead of "ee".
Ha-ha! Thanks. Your latter examples are good motivation for me to train my ear. :-D
 

GoesStation

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Do foreigners speaking Russian have trouble distinguishing Ы and И? If so, and if this causes them to misunderstand words or mix them up, you can get a sense of what happens when you mix up the the vowels in ship and sheep. Mastering the difference, both orally and aurally,* is worth a lot of effort.

*Many Americans pronounce orally and aurally the same and couldn't tell them apart when listening. So, they're fine to use in writing but you shouldn't use them together in speech.
 
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GeneD

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I am surprised to hear that. Do you mean that words in bold in the following sentence would be pronounced with the same vowel by some Americans?

The ship was ferrying sheep from the island.


If so, are you able to give the IPA phonetic symbol for that vowel? The standard BrE version of the phoneme /i:/ is close to the cardinal vowel ; that for the phoneme /ɪ/ is [ë], a centralised cardinal vowel [e].


Maybe GS was talking about "orally" and "aurally"?
 

GoesStation

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I've clarified my footnote.
 
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