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consonant clusters

 
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marybeth11



Joined: 09 Oct 2003
Posts: 17
Location: Oakland

PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2004 7:55 pm    Post subject: consonant clusters Reply with quote

Can any one explain to me when /y/ is used as a consonant in a consonant cluster in inital position? I am conufused Confused

Thanks!
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2004 5:55 am    Post subject: Is it a consonant? Reply with quote

Hey marybeth!

Is "y" a consonant?

Naturally, when one studies pronunciation in order to teach it, there are a lot of sub-categories like "semi-vowel", and "y" seems to fall into that category. Yet, in the classroom with non-native speakers, a lot of the nit-picking detail is a lot more than the students can handle or are interested in. Consequently, I myself divide the sounds simply into

Consonants: sounds that have a moving articulation (plosives, fricatives) or static (obstructed continuants).

Vowels: the placement of the articulatory muscles accompanied by a tone.

"y" and "r", thus, are vowels, as is the "w". What diferenciates "y" and "w" from "r" is that in the former there is some movement that modifies the sound, while in "r" the apparatus is placed and the tone is sung.

That simplified definition put forth, I don't see how "y" could be part of a consonant cluster since before a consonant it would perform as a vowel and thus would not be part of that cluster.

Do you have any examples of words in which "y" is the first sound of a consonant cluster without the use of its characteristic "ee" sound that helps to prepare the tongue to rise and make the "y"? I can't think of any, but that certainly doesn't mean that the word doesn't exist, just that it's early in the morning and my brain isn't at 100%!

peace,
revel.
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marybeth11



Joined: 09 Oct 2003
Posts: 17
Location: Oakland

PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2004 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Revel,

This is my first semester teaching explicit pronunciation. In my research (Teaching Pronunciation by Celce-Murcia) I came across a diagram that demonstrated how consanant cluster can be formed. It looked like this:
/w/
/p/ /y/
/s/ /t/ /l/
/k/ /r/

Using lines it showed all of the possible connections. /S/ connected to /p/ and /k/ which could then connect to /y/. I have wracked my brain trying to figure out what words this refers to. Any ideas?

Thanks,

Mary Beth
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2004 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How about a word like skew? /skyu/

I know some people pronounce student as /styudent/ although I don't. Same thing for news /nyuz/ which I also don't use. or cute /kyut/ which I do use Wink
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marybeth11



Joined: 09 Oct 2003
Posts: 17
Location: Oakland

PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2004 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That must be it! I didn't think of it in that way.

Thanks!

Mary Beth
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2004 6:20 am    Post subject: Now, let's see here.... Reply with quote

Hey lori and marybeth!

Now, let's see here. Lorikeet, in your examples, the sound I hear, represented by the graphic "y" is a vowel sound. So, is the "y" being considered part of a consonant cluster because the letter "y" is as I was taught in my 60's phonics class, sometimes a vowel (baby) and sometimes a consonant (yesterday -- oops, there it's both!)? Hmm.

Of course, I am taking off from a physical approach to teaching pronunciation, as I explained in my earlier post, the difference between consonants and vowels depends on if there is friction, explosion or obstruction vs tone moving freely, and so I put those three graphic representations "w, y, r" in the vowel column. But that's just nit picking! If some want to include "w, y" as semi-vowels or semi-consonants because the tongue moves or the lips move, that is valid as well, though for me that seems an unnecessary addition of information for the student.

Do you folk use phonics in class? I don't, beyond explaining the "silent e" rule, or certain combinations that are always pronounced this or that way "th", "sh", or never to depend on that troublesome combination of "ough" with so many possible pronounciations. I am lucky, I teach to Spanish people so can use their alphabet to make pronunciation transcriptions, since each of their letters represents one sound (excepting the "g" and "c" which can have two), so my students don't have the added task of learning a phonetic alphabet in order to be able to note down pronunciation for future reference.

In any case, I hadn't thought of those examples probably because I don't see "y" as a consonant and thus couldn't be part of a consonant cluster. What do you all think?

peace,
revel.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2004 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't normally have thought of it as a consonant cluster; I was just trying to answer Marybeth's question Wink. What do you mean by teaching phonics? I do some work with sound/spelling correspondence--especially useful for Chinese speakers who have no concept of letters standing for sounds, (Hence errors like cta for cat.) I've done the gamut over the years, sometimes using IPA; sometimes my own version of it; sometimes a strange symbolic system (CaC is the sound in cat (consonant-a-consonant) and CeC is the sound in get, etc.); and even just using numbers. Actually, anything can work as long as the students catch on. I usually save the wonderful sound in "caught" for last; partly because its spelling is such a pain (bought, caught, hall, law, fog, etc.) and partly because some speakers don't have a distinction between "caught" and "cot" although I personally do.
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2004 8:49 am    Post subject: caught vs cot Reply with quote

Hey Lorikeet!

Uuff! "caught" vs "cot" eh? That's a challenge. Have just repeated the two words several times, alone as well as in sentences, I do notice a difference in the two, but the slight, subtle movement of the tongue is probably too much to expect of my students who don't have such variety in their vowel system. My first task in the "-gh-" words is to get them to ignore those letters totally and learn to say the word the closest to native pronunciation as possible, which is indeed "sight reading" instead of "phonics". The problem with "phonics" (that is, sounding out words to discover what they are instead of memorizing chains of letters to identify words, specifically in reading tasks) is that though the students can abley sound out the words, if they have no reference (that is, if the word is not in their vocabulary, or if it is but it is pronounced radically differently from the way it might be sounded out) they finally simply don't recognize the word as a native might. Plus, the "rules" of phonics are really quite complex and not a good use of ESL class time. I seem to remember that learning phonics took me a good number of years in grade school, but I already spoke English and it was a useful study to help me get over the first problems with reading tasks.

So, I guess that if my student is able to open the throat and make a nice "ah" sound, I would accept it in both of those words. The context of the sentence would help me and the student decide which word was which!

peace,
revel.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2004 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, then I do touch on phonics, although I never make it the cornerstone of my class Wink. There's something to be said for learning the concept that each letter has a corresponding sound (plus or minus, considering exceptions, etc.) and that certain combinations are common, some are unusual, and some are almost impossible except with foreign words. I've done different things depending on the level of the students, including how to use a dictionary to learn how to pronounce a word. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't, and sometimes they work with some students and not others. Just like everything else. Wink
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marybeth11



Joined: 09 Oct 2003
Posts: 17
Location: Oakland

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2004 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,

In response to your question about teaching phonics. This summer I was asked to teach a course on pronunciation. As an adjuct I just take what they give me and breathe a sigh of relief that I will be able to make the mortgage Very Happy However, I do think that teaching phonics is, in some cases, necessary. I teach a vesl class consisting of all Cantonese speakers and I don't think I have taught enough phonics. We are working on dictionary skills and I am finding that they have very little idea how to pronounce the words they look up. Also, we just did mock job interviews with volunteers (not teachers) and it was a wake up call for me to see what a hard time the volunteers had understanding my students. I understand them (like a mother understands her two year old) but will they be understood by others with out better understanding phonics? I don't know. In my training, we learned not to explicitly teach phonics. The belief was that the student would get it- eventually. I am with Laurie in that I think explicit instruction works for some and for others I consider it exposure.

Mary Beth
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Sat Jul 10, 2004 6:02 am    Post subject: See what you mean.... Reply with quote

A pleasant, cool, partly cloudy good morning from usually sunny Spain to the two of you!

I see what you mean, marybeth. I tend to block my eight years teaching Japanese buisnessmen in New York City back in the '80s. And yet I learned so much from working with those "boring" insurance agents and company directors (see my post on the "l / r" mix-up in this same forum, for example). I remember one, president of an important pharmaceutical company, using "ain't" left and right and when I pointed out that that was not really "good English" he promptly showed me his dictionary where the word was defined as the correct contraction of "am not".

Naturally, for students who have no previous training in the graphic representation of our sounds, we have to teach that, and I did to those people. Just as I had to learn the sound values of the shared alphabet when I was learning to pronounce Spanish. Or the six months I spent studying Greek. Or when I dallied with Russian. As I mentioned, I've got it easy here, my students are used to pronouncing sounds with a graphic cue, so I just have to teach them a few peculiarities of the system and they begin to get the gist. That's just where we have to recognize or identify the needs of our students and meet those needs, since in the end our objective is to help them speak English.

In the academy where I work (about 300 students, with five teachers), I am the only one who bothers to work on pronunciation, the remainder of the teachers simply repeat difficult words and have their students repeat without any real explanation of the physical production of the sounds they are making, so so many are simply memorizing individual words and yet continue to pronounce sentences word-for-word. Sigh!

peace,
revel.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Sat Jul 10, 2004 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the beginning of the pronunciation class, I tell my students they will get out of it what they put in to it. If they just come to class, listen and speak but don't practice outside, they will gain some knowledge, but nothing will change. If they find it exciting, and want to really improve, and practice all the time and learn how to listen to themselves and recognize when they make mistakes, then their pronunciation will improve. I tell them they should work on one sound at a time, because if you try to fix everything at the same time, you effectively stop speaking. I also tell them they really do have to learn to listen to themselves, because the teacher isn't going to follow them around pointing out problems. I suggest they write down any words people are having difficulty understanding, so we can figure out why. Most of my students enjoy the class and go nowhere with it. A few students use it as a basis to make some wonderful leaps. Those are the ones that self-correct when they make an "r" instead of an "l". At least I can point out which sounds they are having trouble distinguishing. I've always combined teaching the individual sounds with teaching the linking and rhythm of English. To me, listening and speaking are related, kind of like the chicken and the egg Wink.
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ardsboy



Joined: 11 Dec 2003
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 4:56 pm    Post subject: Re: Is /y/ a vowel or consonant? Reply with quote

The /y/ sound (also /j/ in some PAs) is phonetically vowel-like, but phonologically it functions, like /w/ and /h/, as a consonant in syllable-initial position at least. Thus: bet, debt, get, het, jet, let, met, net, pet, set, Tet, vet, wet, yet, etc.
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