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  • Hello there!

  • This is the "Sounds American" channel.

  • In this video, we're going to review the stop consonant sounds.

  • Before we start, let's talk about what the consonant sounds are.

  • Here's a definition from Sounds American:

  • A consonant sound is a speech sound

  • in which the air stream is at least partially blocked

  • when leaving your mouth.

  • For example, look at how the air is blocked by the tip of your tongue

  • and flows around it when you make the /l/ sound,

  • as in the word "let."

  • Now, onto the stops sounds.

  • This is the second largest group of consonant sounds in American English.

  • Why are they called the stop sounds?

  • Because when you pronounce them,

  • the air stream is first stopped - or blocked - in your mouth

  • and then released with a puff.

  • For example, the /p/ sound as in the word "pie" is a stop consonant.

  • Types of Stop Sounds

  • In this introduction to the stop consonants we'll cover the basics.

  • In our future videos,

  • we'll talk about each stop sound in detail

  • and provide practice exercises.

  • There are six distinct stop sounds in American English.

  • They differ by how and where you stop the air in your mouth.

  • You can stop the air with your lips

  • and make the /p/ or /b/ sounds,

  • like in the words "pie" and "buy."

  • You can also stop the air with the tip of your tongue at the alveolar ridge.

  • If you do so, you'll make the /t/ or /d/ sounds,

  • like in the words "ten" and "den."

  • And finally,

  • you can stop the air with the back of your tongue in your throat

  • and make the /k/ or /g/ sounds,

  • like in the words "kite" and "guy."

  • As you may have noticed, we like charts.

  • Here's one for the stops sounds.

  • See how all the stops are grouped in pairs?

  • Once again,

  • Once again, they are grouped by how and where you stop the air in your mouth.

  • Voicing

  • The sounds in the right-hand column are pronounced with your voice.

  • These are the voiced stop sounds.

  • Listen:

  • /b/

  • /d/

  • /g/

  • The sounds in the left-hand column are pronounced without adding your voice.

  • They are called the voiceless stop sounds.

  • Listen:

  • /p/

  • /t/

  • /k/

  • Don't confuse the voiced and voiceless sounds,

  • as voicing may change the meaning of words.

  • Compare:

  • You may also have noticed that the voiceless stop sounds are pronounced with a stronger puff of air.

  • And that leads us to our next topic:

  • Aspiration or Making a Puff of Air

  • Stop sounds exist in every language in the world.

  • What makes American pronunciation of these sounds so special?

  • It's ASPIRATION.

  • Aspiration is actually a big deal in American English.

  • Depending on the position of a stop sound in a word,

  • you either make a puff of air or you don't.

  • Don't worry,

  • there's a rule which is easy to remember.

  • Here it goes:

  • If a stop sound starts a word or a stressed syllable

  • it's pronounced with a puff of air.

  • For example,

  • At the end of most words (and syllables)

  • stop sounds are pronounced without a puff of air.

  • For example,

  • This is called the "Final Stop" rule.

  • The final stop rule's most often used in conversational speech.

  • Please, note, that if you make a puff of air, youll be understood,

  • but you won't be speaking with an American accent.

  • Compare:

  • Many non-native English speakers believe that Americans drop

  • or swallow the stop sounds at the end of words.

  • That's not quite right.

  • The final stops are always pronounced,

  • just without a puff of air.

  • By the way,

  • if you're keen on the terminology,

  • stop sounds pronounced with the puff of air are called "aspirated stops."

  • Stops pronounced without the puff,

  • are called "unaspirated stops."

  • These are essentially positional variants of the same sounds.

  • Vowel Length Rule

  • Ok,

  • in conversation,

  • the final stops consonants are typically unaspirated.

  • But how can you tell a difference between words ending with voiced

  • or voiceless stops if they're not made with a puff of air?

  • Here are a few pairs of words that differ by their final stop sounds only:

  • Can you hear the difference?

  • Correct,

  • all the final stops are not aspirated

  • and thus they sound very similar, if not the same.

  • But still,

  • you can, probably, tell they're different.

  • How?

  • Note that the vowel sounds are the same in each pair.

  • However,

  • the vowels in the words on the left are shorter than their counterparts on the right.

  • Check them out again.

  • This is called the "Vowel Length" rule.

  • Useful, isn't it?

  • Positional Variations

  • As you can see,

  • there are many ways to pronounce the stop sounds.

  • This is especially true for the /t/ sound.

  • Did know there are two other ways to pronounce the American English /t/,

  • which differs from British pronunciation?

  • Let's start with the flap 'T' sound,

  • which is found in the word "water."

  • When the /t/ occurs between voiced sounds,

  • it sounds more like a quick /d/:

  • This positional variation is called a "flap 'T'."

  • Why does this happen?

  • Because it's easier to continue voicing

  • and turn your voiceless /t/

  • into a fast voiced /d/ sound.

  • Listen to some examples:

  • Here's another positional variation of the /t/ sound.

  • Listen:

  • When the /t/ is used before an unstressed syllable with the /n/ sound,

  • it's pronounced without a puff of air,

  • and with a quick stop made in your throat.

  • This positional variation is called a "glottal 'T'."

  • For example:

  • Still with us?

  • Remember, there's a pause button if you need it!

  • There's just one more item left in this topic.

  • Now listen attentively to these words:

  • Did you hear the /t/ or /d/ sounds pronounced?

  • You're right, they were dropped.

  • When the /t/ or /d/ sounds follow the nasal consonant /n/,

  • they may be dropped.

  • You don't necessarily need to follow this rule,

  • this is a conversational way of speaking that will come to you naturally with practice.

  • Now, let's recap what you've learned in this video:

  • There are six stop sounds in American English.

  • Half of them are voiced and the other half are voiceless.

  • It's important that you make a puff of air when pronouncing the stop sounds.

  • Unless you want to sound like an American.

  • In that case, you should make the final stops without a puff of air.

  • If you do that,

  • your final voiceless and voiced stops will sound almost the same.

  • So you'll need to make the vowels longer before the voiced stops and shorter before the voiceless stops.

  • Add some voice to your voiceless /t/

  • when it's between voiced sounds.

  • It's called a "flap 'T'."

  • Pronounce the /t/ in your throat if it's before a weak syllable with the /n/ sound.

  • It's called a "glottal 'T'."

  • And occasionally drop the /t/ after the /n/.

  • You may also drop the /d/ after the /n/ for that matter.

  • Some of these topics are about pronunciation in conversational speech.

  • They are not critical if all you want is to speak some English.

  • They are, however, very important if you want to speak English like an American.

  • At this point, we usually provide words for practice.

  • And we'll definitely do that in our next videos

  • when we talk about each stop consonant in detail.

  • But before you go,

  • let's complete a quick quiz over what we've learned.

  • Look at these words.

  • Can you recall the rules that apply to the sounds represented by the highlighted letters?

  • Now you're done!

  • Let us know if you like this video.