The "y" sound in English

01/26/2016 09:24

The "y" sound in spoken English-- WHY is it sometimes difficult to recognize?

Well, as is the case with many sounds in English, YOU CAN'T ALWAYS GO BY SPELLING.

The IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbol for the "y" in "yellow" sound is [j]. You know there's a [j] sound when you see the letter "y" in a word (some exceptions, as there always are in English, being "symbol, hymn, rhythm"). However, many non-native speakers don't realize there's a [j] sound in many other words. Here are just a f*ew: *use, v*iew, opin*ion, Mi*ami, re*action, famil*iar, f*uture, partic*ular, c*ure, *Europe*an, contrib*ute, calc*ulate, comm*unicate, m*usic, reg*ulate... NOTICE that there is often a hidden y sound before the letter "u."

You also hear the [j] sound when "y" is at the end of a word: funny, happy, silly; but here it has an [i] or "ee" sound preceding it.

In addition, you hear it when linking [i], [ai], and [ɛi] to other vowels:
He (y) is nice.
I (y) always go on Tuesdays.
They (y) are here now.
-Also, thinking of the sound in those places will give your speech a nice, connected flow.

There are other hidden sounds in English that can cause confusion for non-native speakers. Think of the "j" sound in "gradual, graduate, schedule,"  and the "ch" sound in "actual, ritual, mutual."

Like I tell my clients, you have to hear the word said aloud. Really listen to it, as if for the first time, and let go of prior faulty perceptions of how you thought a word sounded,  based on confusing spellings. Gradjuwallee, it will all come together!