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Unit 1. Accents.

Varieties of English

Unit 1; Part A

Although we commonly talk about 'English pronunciation', obviously not all speakers of English pronounce it in the same way. Even between countries where English is the frst language of the majority of the population there are considerable differences, and we can distinguish between the pronunciation of 'British English', 'American English', 'Australian English', 'South African English', and so on.

Unit 1; Part B

idea.jpgImportant for listening!
Across these varieties of English, there may be differences in how vowels and consonants are pronounced, how words are stressed, and in intonation. For example, listen and notice differences between standard British English (Br) and American English (US) pronunciation in these sentences (you will hear British English first):

That's better.
In US /t/ is 'flapped' so that it sounds like /d/ when it comes between two vowels.
I'm picking up the car next Tuesday.
  • car = /ka:/ in Br and /ka:r/ in US. In Br, /r/ is pronounced only when it is followed by a vowel, while in US it is also pronounced
before consonants and at the end of a word .
  • Tuesday = /tju:-/ in Br and /tu:-/ in US. The sounds /tj/, /nj/, /dj/, etc. are not used in US.
What's your address?
Some words are stressed differently in Br and US, including a'ddress (Br) and 'address (US).
I went out because I was hot and wanted some fresh air.
Some speakers of US (and also Australian and New Zealand English) use a 'high rising' tone for statements where most speakers of Br would use a falling tone.

Unit 1; Part C

Within Britain and the US there are also many regional accents. For example, listen and notice differences in pronunciation in these sentences, said first by a speaker of 'BBC English' (see Unit 2 ) and then by a speaker from the city of Birmingham in England (you will hear BBC English first):

See you tonight.
The second vowel in 'tonight' is pronounced /ai/ in BBC English but /oi/ (as in 'boy') in a Birmingham accent.
Are those your brother's?
The vowel in 'those' is pronounced /∂υ/ in BBC English but more like /aυ/ (as in 'now') in a Birmingham accent.
The first vowel in 'brother's' is pronounced /Λ/ (as in 'but') in BBC English but /υ/ (as in 'would') in a Birmingham accent.
She was smoking.
The last sound in -ing words is /η/ in BBC English, but /ηg/ in a Birmingham accent, i.e. the -g is pronounced.



Listen. You will hear speakers from Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia and South Africa talking about what they enjoy doing in their spare time.
Which of these accents are you most familiar with? Is there one you find easier to understand than the others? 
flag.jpgHere is a text read aloud first by a British English speaker and then an American English speaker. Listen as many times as you need and note differences in pronunciation that you observe, focusing on the underlined words. A few are done for you. (It is not necessary to use phonemic symbols in this exercise.)
flag.jpgYou will hear four more people talking about what they enjoy doing in their spare time. They are from northern England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Listen as many times as you need and write brief notes about what they say.

Nothern England:_________________________________________________________________
Nothern Ireland:__________________________________________________________________

Now read the transcripts in the Key. Are there particular features of their pronunciation that you had problems understanding? In what ways is their pronunciation different from BBC English - that is, British English spoken without a regional accent
(see Unit 2)?

Follow up: Record yourself reading one of the extracts in exercise 1  (These are written down in the Key.) Compare your reading and the version on the recording. What are the main differences in pronunciation that you notice?

Unit 1     Unit 2 forward.jpg

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