In Vowel Sequences 1 and Vowel Sequences 2, we learned about the strategy of using the end part of a Long-vowel (the off-glide) to create a transition to another vowel after it. This creates a clear boundary between two vowels and also serves as a bridge to help your tongue move from the first vowel to the second.
We can use the same vowel-sequence strategy, to help us more clearly and easily say words that have a Long-vowel followed by “R” or “L”. This is because the “R” of English has some phonetic properties that are similar to vowels, and this is also why “R” can sometimes even act as a vowel. For example, in the word “never” the second syllable is just an R-sound, and the “E” is silent. (See more examples in: The Power of R). Likewise, the “L” can also sometimes be a substitute for a vowel sound, for example, in the word “buckle” the second syllable is just an L-sound, and the “E” is silent.
Example 1: The word “more”
I have noticed that many students have difficulty clearly saying words with a Long-O followed by “R”, such as, “more”, “form”, “course”, or “board.” For example, the word “or” sometimes sounds more like the word “are”, or “all”, or “owe” or even “awe.”
Using the vowel-sequence strategy for “O+R” can make these words easier to pronounce and sound better. Let’s look at how this works with the word “more”:
- looking at the IPA symbol for Long-O (/ow/) reveals the off-glide that we need
- the off-glide, /w/, will be used for the transition — so we make it a little bit stronger
- so for the word “more” the lip and tongue movements actually follow the same sequence as the word “mower”
- in fact, when the word “more” is spoken emphatically, it does sound just the same as “mower,” for example, when somebody is expressing a strong desire and says “But I want more!”
Example 2: The word “fair”
The word “fair” has a Long-A followed by “R”:
- the IPA symbol for Long-A (/ey/) shows us the off-glide we need
- the off-glide, /y/, gets strengthened a bit to be used for the transition
- the word “fair” is really more like saying “fayer” (rhymes with “prayer”)
- an unhappy child will often emphasize the /y/ part when they say “That’s not fair!”
Here are words with each of the long vowels followed by an “R” or “L.” Listen for the /y/ transition after Long-A, Long-E, and Long-I, and the /w/ transition after Long-O and Long-U.
Words with a long-vowel + “R”: scare / here / fire / core / lure
Words with a long-vowel + “L”: nail / feel / pile / stole / mule
All of the words shown here are just one syllable, and they would never be split apart for writing purposes. However, when you are speaking, it almost feels a little bit like they are two syllables for your mouth, so thinking of it that way, can be a helpful strategy as you train your mouth to say these sequences.