Vowel Sequences 3

In Vowel Sequences part 1 and part 2, we learned that a vowel sequence is two vowels next to each other which belong to separate syllables and both of the vowels need to have their own sound.

Vowel sequences can be tricky to pronounce clearly, unless you know the secret trick of using the end part of the first vowel as a separator for the two sounds and as a bridge for your tongue.

Many linguists call the end part of the long vowels an “off-glide”. The off-glide for Long-A, Long-E, and Long-I is a /y/ sound, and the off-glide for Long-O and Long-U is a /w/ sound.

If you find it difficult to use the off-glide between two vowels, it might help to look at some examples of words that have a visible [y] or [w] between vowels. For your tongue, the process of pronouncing vowel sequences is similar to saying these kinds of words: layer / saying / growing / vowel

So, imagine a [y] between the vowel sequences in these words: chaos / being / ion
And imagine a [w] between the vowel sequences in these words: proactive / January

Vowel sequences between words

Once you know how to correctly pronounce vowel sequences, you can use the same strategy to speak more clearly when there are two words that have adjacent vowels.

Examples:

  • A vowel sequence happens in the phrase “see it”. So use the /y/ part of the vowel of the first word as the bridge to the next word, so that it sounds like {see-yit}. If you do not use the /y/ part between them, then it could sound more like the word “seat” instead of “see it”.
  • In the phrase “go out”, use the /w/ part of the first vowel as the bridge, and say {go-wout}.

Listen for the /y/ or /w/ off-glide between the vowels as I say these phrases and sentences:

  • the answer: What was the answer?
  • we all: Do we all want the same color?
  • three oranges: There are three oranges left.
  • go on: Let’s go on the bridge.
  • blue icon: Click the blue icon.
  • who ate: Who ate my sandwich?

Learning to say vowel sequences well can make your English sound much nicer and easier to understand.

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