Activities

Phonological Change Activities

Phonological Change

Listen to a Traditional Dialect recording on this site and try and concentrate exclusively on pronunciation. Jot down any words with unusual pronunciations, and focus on one vowel sound by making a list of words that share the same vowel, such as face, cake, rain, eight etc. Compare the pronunciation of this vowel sound with similar words in a Contemporary Dialect recording from the same area.

Look at the list (below) of ‘unmediated’ recordings featured on this site. Listen to a couple of recordings from near where you live. Jot down any words with unusual pronunciations, and focus on one vowel sound by making a list of words that share the same vowel. Consider the following

Prepare a series of sentences or a reading passage featuring a number of words that contain a potential <y> sound before an <oo> vowel (e.g. computer, beautiful, amusing, knew, refuse, review, cute, regular, enthusiastic, human, tube, during, suit, issue, visual, attitude, education, particular etc.) Ask a range of speakers at your school/in your family to read the sentences or passage and note their pronunciation preferences. Do you notice any patterns - after which consonants is the <y> sound present or absent or where is it combined into a <sh>, <ch> or <j> sound? Are there any differences in speaker preference according to age?

‘Unmediated’ recordings can be found at the following locations on the home map:

Research Task

The following words currently appear to be undergoing a shift in pronunciation - preferences seem to differ across the UK according to the age of the speaker. Test whether this is true in your community. Ask a sample of at least twenty people - half of them school age and half over fifty. You might like to give them a word list or a series of sentences containing the target words. Do you spot any definite tendencies? What are the newer, 'innovative' pronunciations in each case? Find out if people are aware of the differences and what opinions they have about the changes in pronunciation.

You can check the age distribution of the different pronunciations of these words and others in the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary edited by J. C. Wells (Longman, Harlow; 2000)

applicable

traditionally pronounced with the same initial vowel as in apple and with stress on the first syllable (as is the case with the noun application); increasingly pronounced with a weak initial vowel, as in about, and with stress on the second syllable (as is the case with the verb apply).

associate

the <c> in the spelling is traditionally pronounced with a <s> sound; this is increasingly heard as a <sh> sound.

ate

traditionally pronounced to rhyme with get; increasingly pronounced to rhyme with gate.

bedroom

final syllable is traditionally pronounced to rhyme with the first vowel in woman; it is increasingly pronounced to rhyme with womb.

casual

<s> in the spelling is traditionally pronounced with a <z> sound followed by a <y> sound; it is now far more often pronounced like the medial consonant in the word leisure.

envelope

the initial vowel is traditionally pronounced to rhyme with don; it is increasingly pronounced to rhyme with den.

forehead

the first syllable is traditionally pronounced like the first syllable in foreign and without the <h> sound in head; the first syllable is increasingly pronounced like four with the <h> in head retained.

garage

the final syllable is traditionally pronounced to rhyme with barge; it is increasingly pronounced to rhyme with bridge; pronunciations where the last syllable gives a clue to the French origins of the words and rhymes with mirage are increasingly rare.

gradual

the <d> in the spelling is traditionally pronounced with a <d> sound followed by a <y> sound; it is now far more often pronounced with a <j> sound and thus the last two syllables sound like jewel.

harass

traditionally pronounced with the stress on the first syllable so that harass rhymes with embarrass; increasingly pronounced with stress on the second syllable so that harass rhymes with morass.

historic

traditionally preceded by the indefinite article an and with the <h> sound omitted; increasingly preceded by the indefinite article a and with the <h> sound pronounced.

incomparable

traditionally pronounced with the primary stress on the second syllable (incomparable) so that the <parable> part of the word is only two syllables and virtually rhymes with trouble; increasingly pronounced with the primary stress on the third syllable (incomparable) so that the <parable> part of the word becomes three syllables and sounds like parable.

issue

the <ss> in the spelling is traditionally pronounced with a <s> sound followed by a <y> sound; it is now far more often pronounced with a <sh> sound.

kilometre

traditionally pronounced with stress on the first syllable as in kilometre so that the first two syllables sound like killer; increasingly pronounced with stress on the second syllable as in kilometre so that the second syllable rhymes with bomb.

the suffix -less as in hopeless, useless etc.

pronounced with the <i> sound in list; increasingly pronounced with a much weaker vowel sound like the initial vowel in about.

mall

traditionally pronounced to rhyme with shall; increasingly pronounced to rhyme with fall.

migraine

the first syllable is traditionally pronounced like my; it is increasingly pronounced like me.

mischievous

traditionally pronounced with stress on the first syllable (mischievous) so that the second syllable rhymes with give; increasingly pronounced with stress on the second syllable ( mischievous) so that the final two syllables rhyme with grievous.

necessary

traditionally pronounced with three syllables with the final syllable sounding like the <sri> of Sri Lanka; increasingly pronounced with four syllables so that the final two syllables rhyme with sherry.

nephew

the <ph> in the spelling is traditionally pronounced with a <v> sound thus the final syllable sounds like view; it is increasingly pronounced with a <f> sound thus the final syllable sounds like few.

ordinary

traditionally pronounced as three syllables or four with a weak penultimate vowel so that the final two syllables virtually rhyme with curry; increasingly pronounced as four syllables with a stronger penultimate vowel so that the final two syllables rhyme with sherry.

patriotic

the first syllable is traditionally pronounced to rhyme with mat; it is increasingly pronounced to rhyme with mate.

poor

traditionally pronounced to rhyme with sewer; increasingly pronounced to rhyme with saw.

princess

traditionally pronounced with the stress on the second syllable - princess; increasingly pronounced with stress on the first syllable - princess.

questionnaire

the first syllable is traditionally pronounced with an initial <k> sound as in kestrel; it is increasingly pronounced with an initial <kw> sound as in quest.

really

traditionally pronounced with three syllables; increasingly pronounced with two syllables thus rhyming with freely.

salt

traditionally pronounced with a long vowel as in ball; increasingly pronounced with a short vowel as in doll.

scallop

the first syllable is traditionally pronounced to rhyme with doll; it is increasingly pronounced to rhyme with shall.

schedule

the initial consonant is traditionally pronounced with a <sh> sound as in shed; it is increasingly pronounced with a <sk> sound as in skid.

suit

the initial consonant is traditionally followed by a <y> sound thus rhyming with cute; it is increasingly pronounced without the <y> sound thus rhyming with coot.

tulip

the initial consonant is traditionally pronounced with a <t> sound followed by a <y> sound; it is now far more often pronounced with a <ch> sound thus sounding something like chew lip.

voluntarily

traditionally pronounced as four syllables so that the final two syllables sound a little like the last two syllables of naturally; increasingly pronounced as five syllables with the final three syllables rhyming with merrily.

zebra

the first syllable is traditionally pronounced with a long vowel like the first syllable of Zealand; it is increasingly pronounced with a short vowel like the first syllable of zealot.