After dedicating the past few weeks to WASSCE and UTME-related matters, we will do something different today. But it will also be of help to candidates of those examinations too. We will engage in a pronunciation exercise towards improving our spoken English.
Well, now that almost all of us are at home, we should actually endeavour to upgrade our speaking skills. We now have more time to watch TV, browse the Internet and engage family members in some elocutiongames, for instance. For those of us who are fluent and are good at oral English, this is the time to engage our children. And for those who never had the opportunity to have been taken through oral English, let the children be the teacher, if the young ones are lucky to be attending schools where phonemes/oral English is taught.
Here are the words we are exploiting to discuss an important part of speech sounds: fit, feet and feat. Very common words! Let’s try to pronounce each of them. To many of us, the pronunciations of the three are the same – or what a comedian may call same of the same. As a result, all the words come out the same way when such fellows are speaking. But it shouldn’t be. The vowel sound (/i/) which we have in ‘fit’ is short, while the one in ‘feet’ and ‘feat’ is long (/i:/). This should be clearly indicated when you are pronouncing them and any other similar pairs.
The principle that should guide us is that of short and long vowel sounds. In English language, some phonological vowels are short while some are long. In the normal classroom situation, the phonetic symbols (vowels and consonants) are clearly highlighted, but this print platform may not allow us to do that. Technically speaking, long vowels are marked by the colon-like symbol while the short ones stand alone. Consider these pairs too: bad and bard; pot and port; foot and fool. In each of the first words, you have a short vowel /a/, but in the seconds, you have the long /a:/. What this means is that when you are pronouncing the words, you should indicate the lengths of the sounds accordingly:
Let’s now go back to fit, feet and feat. Can you pronounce them to establish the difference between the long and short vowels?
The shoes she’s wearing don’t fit her.
The shoes she’s wearing are not good for her feet.
The shoes she’s wearing helped in achieving the feat.
In ‘fit’, we have /i/ but in feet and feat we have /i:/. This means that when we pronounce ‘fit’, we don’t prolong the sound but do so when we pronounce the other two words. Your ability to indicate this reinforces your standard of articulation. When you pronounce feet, you shouldn’t say fit!
fit – fEt
feet – fEEt
feat – fEEt
Again, this shows that feet and feat are pronounced the same way.
Let’s quickly look at some letters that give us the short /i/.
i – fit, bid, skit, lid, kick, hit, stupid, acidic
e – befit, between, remain, repeat, defeat
y- happY, manY, anYone, anYbodY
ee – feet, need, meek, between, seed, keep
ea- feat, seat, meat, disease, release
Now, for the benefit of our WASSCE/ NECO students, let’s attempt these questions:
- Identify the word with /i/ among the following:
(a)sneeze (b) sky (c) ask (d) dig
- Identify the word with /i:/:
(a)blackboard (b) feel (c) fowl (d) belt