Get your monophthongs here
February 16, 2009 3:10 AM   Subscribe

Sounds of American English details each of the consonants and vowels of American English with a real-time Flash animated articulatory diagram of each sound; video and audio of the sound spoken in context and an interactive diagram of the articulatory anatomy.
posted by Lezzles (15 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome. This would have come in handy in my pronunciation class last year. I'll forward the link to a colleague who's doing it this year. It's everything I had hoped for in a website to show ESL students.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:20 AM on February 16, 2009

It sounds great, but I'm just getting a blank page here. (Firefox, MacOS 10.4.11.) Anyone else?
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:13 AM on February 16, 2009

Nope, same setup as you and it's working fine.
posted by Lezzles at 7:42 AM on February 16, 2009

This would have been a godsend when I was fumbling with the IPA while taking general linguistics. Anyone have a handy flash app for x-bar theory?
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:14 AM on February 16, 2009

It's a good idea and the execution is almost there, but the animations are somewhat imprecise. For one, the depictions of alveolar [s] and palatal [ʃ] look would help if there were some more precision (like an arrow showing the point of articulation), since English's rich inventory of fricatives is one of the things that trips up so many ESL learners.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:28 AM on February 16, 2009

I'm with kittyprecious... I mean, the diagrams for /i/ and /r/ are kind of tough to tell apart. It seems like this would be great for beginners, but also great for a 200-level phonetics class---specifically, for the discussion pointing out how anatomical cross-sections can't easily capture the full complexity of articulatory phonetics.
posted by aparrish at 8:51 AM on February 16, 2009

This is a good idea, but I'm not to keen on the content. First of all it's called "Phonetics: The Sounds of American English", but it only goes as far as the phonemic level.

It gives [e] as a phoneme, and while that notation has been used historically, that phoneme is really a glide, and so should be written [ei], [eɪ], or [ey] depending on user preference.

Also, they have the same recording for [ɚ] and [ɝ], and even label the latter as [ɜ] under the recording.

I don't think this would be good for beginners. With beginners it's best to start with accuracy, otherwise the result is just confusion.

I think they should have done a much better job.
posted by strangeguitars at 9:26 AM on February 16, 2009

not to keen --> not too keen
posted by strangeguitars at 9:26 AM on February 16, 2009

I don't get it. How come there are no options for different dialects? Is it assumed that we all speak Newscaster English?
posted by Afroblanco at 12:29 PM on February 16, 2009

I'd like to see another set of diphthongs on there with Canadian raising, since it is part of American English for some Americans too.
posted by flod logic at 2:35 PM on February 16, 2009

In case you missed the url, it's from the University of Iowa. That should explain a) the lack of dialects, or newscasterness (it's how midwesterners speak), and b) the lack of non-American pronunciation. I imagine a Canadian (or British, or any other accent) pronunciation guide would be best made by actual Canadians (or Brits, or whathaveyou). I mean, you could go over to the theater department, I'm sure there are some undergrads who are really close to perfecting their British accent...
posted by Ghidorah at 5:11 PM on February 16, 2009

Wow, the audio version for /r/ sounds like someone went down to the coast and taped a foghorn (or whatever else they do in Iowa to get a foghorn sound). No wonder the rhotic American accent is not well beloved, if we really sound like that!
posted by Creosote at 6:19 PM on February 16, 2009

Yeah, I was happy when I saw this linked, but when I checked it out, I was far less happy.

[e] should be [ej] (strangeguitars)
[o] should be [ow]
[r] should be [ɹ], plus, the tongue animation for that one looks all wrong
Syllabic [ɹ] is listed as [ɚ], while what should be [ɚ] is listed as [ɝ]

It's like it can't make up its mind whether it wants to be linguistically accurate or useful. I fully allow that actually detailed phonetic information is completely disruptive to language-learning, but then you just shouldn't have it at all. And if you do, you should make it as accurate as possible.

Also, "American English"? My friend from West Virgina talks nothing at all like me, from Minnesota. And people in Boston talk nothing like either of us, really. (Afroblanco)

Not to, you know, be overly negative or anything. <_<
posted by cthuljew at 9:36 PM on February 16, 2009

This site is awesome. It is not, and never could be, absolutely accurate and all-encompassing. Hell, linguists can't and probably never will agree on the finer points. But for students who need crash-course phonology (like the History of English students I'm TAing for this semester) this is a huge boon to conceptualizing the IPA.

I am so glad you posted this. Thanks!!
posted by iamkimiam at 10:09 PM on February 16, 2009

Afroblanco, the site is based on the Standard American English (SAE) dialect. Including the differences in sound inventories for ALL the recognized (documented and 'standardized') American dialects is quite an undertaking, and this site is not that precise. It seems to simply demonstrate the sound inventory of English as shown on the IPA (at least the IPA as Americans interpret it – hence the 'r' symbol weirdness). But more importantly, the differences that make one dialect distinct from another don't necessarily have to do with actual sounds that one dialect has and another does not have (or significant across-the-board variations thereof, ex. Canadian Rising), but rather differences in how the sounds are paired, alternating, changing, etc. For example, Californians and Bostonians both have the 'r' sound in their speech, but Bostonians have a tendency to insert that 'r' in pronunciations where Californians generally would not. This wouldn't be demonstrated on the site linked to here – the site simply says, "hey, here's animation of what a typical, standard American 'r' looks like in the mouth." What it maybe should also say is, "Placement of this sound will conform to the phonological rules of your dialect. YMMV."

Hope that helps.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:26 PM on February 16, 2009

« Older That was too close: RAF Tornado comes within 30ft...   |   Suit filed over school shooting Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments