because people speak English
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Welcome to the seventh Linguaspectrum British English pronunciation video.
In this video, we’ll take a look at the pure vowel sound /e/ on our British English IPA chart.
Remember that the pure vowels are the monophthongs and they are found in the top left part of the chart. There are twelve monophthongs on the chart.
Technically, the /e/ vowel sound is called the close-mid front unrounded vowel. You can learn more about these technical terms in video number 5 of this series.
Some languages, such as Arabic, Cantonese, German and Hindi, have two forms of the vowel sound /e/, each with its own quality.
This can cause confusion with the /ɪ/ vowel sound, that we looked at in video number 4, or with the /æ/ vowel sound, which we will be looking at in video number 11.
At the end of this video there are some minimal pairs exercises to help you to distinguish between, and accurately reproduce, the /e/, the /ɪ/ and the /æ/ vowel sounds.
So how is this /e/ vowel sound represented in written English?
You will be pleased to discover that this is one of the vowels that is mainly spelt one way, with the letter e.
In fact, in 96% of words with the /e/ sound in English, the /e/ sound is represented by the letter e.
Many of these words have come down to us from Old English. Words such as bed, set and let use the letter e to represent the sound /e/.
/bed/ /set/ /let/
However, you’ll already have worked out that if 96% of words with the /e/ sound use the letter e, then 4% of them don’t.
3% of English words with the /e/ sound in them use the letter combination ea.
Words such as breath, bread, death, dead, and head use ea to represent the /e/ sound.
/breθ/ /bred/ /deθ/ /ded/ /hed/
But, remember, not all words with ea or e in them have the /e/ sound.
Take the words breath and breathe as a good example.
And did you notice the word many, that I used a few sentences back? Many has the /e/ sound in it, but it uses the letter a. As does the River Thames.
And the final 1% of words in English that have the /e/ sound use a variety of letter combinations.
Notice how the /e/ sound is represented in the words in the following example sentences.
See if you can hear the /e/ sounds first, then I’ll show you where they all are.
I say, when I’m dead, bury me, but Geoffrey said, on his death he’ll merry be.
/hwen/ /ded/ /ˈberɪ/ /ˈʤefrɪ/ /sed/ /deθ/ /ˈmerɪ/
My friend from Leicester is deaf not dead.
/frend/ /ˈlestə/ /def/ /ded/
There are many books to read, have you read any good ones lately?
/ˈmenɪ/ /red/ /ˈenɪ/
The press said that the member was in debt.
/pres/ /sed/ /membə/ /det/
She says he ate the bread again.
/sez/ /et/ /bred/ /ˈegən/
Notice that there are two possible pronunciations for the word says, and for the word ate.
Both says and says are acceptable, though says is preferred by over 80% of the population of Britain.
With the word, ate, both ate and ate are acceptable for British English speakers, with ate being slightly more commonly used.
American English speakers do not like to use ate. They consider it non-standard.
And notice, too, the verb to read. The present form, read, and the past form, read, are spelt the same. This makes them homonyms.
However, they are pronounced differently, so they are not homophones.
Read and red are homophones, however, and both have the /e/ sound in them.
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