RESONANCE Any hollow structure with air inside it will amplify sound by increasing the resonance or vibrations. Many areas of your body can be used as resonators, either directly or indirectly.
Direct resonators are the pharynx, oral and nasal cavities. Vibrating breath passes through these sound boxes and is amplified in the process. It is important, therefore, to keep these passages open and clear for maximum effect. Secondary resonators are areas of the body, which vibrate in sympathy with vibrations around them, such as sinuses, chest cavity, head, and any hollow bony structures.
When you are confident that you have control of your breath and are not tensing any other muscles at any time then you can begin building a greater resonance into your voice. These free vibrations will give you a pleasant, rich tone and allow you to reach the back of a large lecture theatre without the aid of a microphone or straining your voice.
Ensure that your jaw is relaxed by giving it a massage. Open the pharynx with a relaxed yawn. Hum the voice forward onto your lips and feel the vibrations building. Encourage this by maintaining a relaxed state. Vary the pitch of your voice to allow other parts of the body to vibrate. Feel for vibrations in your head, chest and back as well as the mask of your face. It is very important to maintain a forward resonance (facial resonance), as this is a good indicator that your voice is free and not trapped with tension.
If you feel your voice is too nasal, then raise your soft palate by yawning (breathing in through an open mouth) and you will hear a greater oral resonance when you speak. British Standard English (RP) is an oral language, it is important therefore that your voice resonates forward in your mouth.
There are only three nasal sounds, m, n and ŋ, everything else is oral.
Received Pronunciation (RP) Received pronunciation is often referred to as British Standard English, even though strictly speaking there is no such thing as British state funded schools have never taught a standard form of pronunciation. RP is the form of pronunciation that was taught to pupils at British public schools and has been used as a guide to pronunciation for BBC newsreaders.
The following pages will concentrate on RP pronunciation. The main aspects to practise are –
a clear distinction between each vowel and consonant
a forward placed, oral resonance
a smooth flowing connected speech
Modern RP is more relaxed than ever before, it now reflects a relaxed but clear everyday speech. Spelling has not changed for hundreds of years but pronunciation continually evolves and is very different now from when the first dictionary was produced. This is one reason why spelling rarely helps with pronunciation and so many times it just doesn’t make any sense.
Two key elements which have changed within the last 20 years are the use of in place of tj as in Tuesday and Tutor for example and poor from a diphthong to a monothong This means that poor, pore, pour and paw all now sound the same.
Articulation Regardless of your accent you can still articulate clearly to ensure everyone receives the message accurately. The most important thing is to have a clear distinction between each vowel and consonant and to be consistent. A listener will then become familiar with your accent and understand you clearly.
If you would like to reduce your accent and speak with a RP accent then these notes will also help.
Articulation is the accuracy in which you form vowels and consonants. This is determined largely by the agility of your tongue to interact with your lips, teeth, gum and soft palate.
The tongue is a very complex and flexible muscle. It has to be very agile to create the many consonants and vowels that go into making speech.
Although the tongue is solid muscle its fibres run in different directions and different parts of the tongue need to be isolated to form sounds accurately.
The tip is used to form sounds such as t,d and l. the back is raised to form k and g, the sides of the tongue are raised for vowels such as : (as in Sue) and so on.
Try exercising the tip of the tongue alone. With a relaxed jaw, push the tip of your tongue forward between your teeth. Raise the tip towards your nose, return to the middle, pause and then lower the tip towards your chin. Repeat several times. The whole of the tongue can be exercised very effectively by moving your tongue quickly around your mouth, feeling around your teeth and gums.
It is important to ensure your tongue does not become too tense. Drop your head forward, relax your jaw open, allow your tongue to fall out of your mouth and gently shake your head from side to side, allowing your tongue to flop about freely.
Tongue twisters to exercise specific muscle As different consonants use different muscles it is helpful to establish which muscles you need to work on most and then spend a little more time on these.
For k and g the soft palate touches gently on the back of your tongue. One way to know if you have an agile soft palate is to repeat phrases such as –
Carol cook is a courtly cook.
Granddad grows giant gladioli.
Gah giggy gee gay goh
The tip of the tongue needs to be able to move quickly and accurately when speaking Standard English. Practise the following to help develop that accuracy–
A particularly singularly silly sort of fellow.
Timid Timothy is tremendously timid.
Tah titty tee tay toh
Toh titty tay tah tee
Tee titty tah tatty toh
Toh titty tay tah tee
To exercise the tongue tip further and to help with the R and dark L repeat the old favourite –
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.
To exercise your lips try-
Will you wait, will you wait, will you wait.
When Wendy went to Wolverhampton the weather was wet.
Boisterous Bert banged the bumper of a big black bus.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper.
Bah bibby bee bay boh
Boh bibby bay bah bee
Bee bibby bah babby boh
Boh bibby bay bah bee
Try the following rhythm changing the consonants to exercise each muscle in turn.
Diphthongs - Vowels with two sounds and one shape change
as in pay, hay, may, take, say,
as in kite, might, light, white, fright
as in go, so, low, don’t, note
as in fewer, pure, tour, sewer
as in how, now, brown, cow,
as in voice, noise, toys, poise
as in air, pear, wear, stair, tear
as in Ian, ear, here, tear
Triphthongs – vowels with three sounds and two shape changes
Each diphthong vowel is followed by the neutral vowel
as in hour, our, flower, flour, power
as in higher, fire, tyre,
as in lawyer, loyal, Royal
as in player, layer
as in slower, mower, Noah,
Schwa or Neutral vowel
As in The
Often used as a substitute for a pure short vowel
When working on consonants remember there are two final consonants which differ when they are initial or final. For instance when we make the initial consonant L the tongue pulls away quickly from the gum behind your upper front teeth and is referred to as a Light L. The final L is referred to as a Dark L and is made when your tongue remains on the gum behind your front teeth until the voice stops. The n is similar in that your tongue remains on the gum behind your front teeth until the voice stops as in the words when and man.
Above are the positions and shapes for short monothong vowels.
The Shwa vowel One important aspect of Standard English is the introduction of the Shwa , often referred to as the neutral vowel. In order to give a smooth, flowing rhythm vowels are often changed from their full weight into a weakened form. Practise the following sentences first giving the vowels their full, stressed pronunciation and then using the weaker, neutral vowel as indicated.
Remember the schwa resonates right in the centre of your mouth and is formed by a relaxed tongue and jaw. If your voice resonates further back towards your pharynx then you are probably using US English.
The chairman and the secretary agreed the agenda The chairman and the secretary agreed the agenda
A bit of bread and butter for my supper please mother A bit of bread and butter for my supper please mother
Ared letter is a better letter on a red letter day
A red letter is a better letter on a red letter day
Linking words Native English speakers will link words together, often picking up the last consonant and attaching it to the beginning of the next word. In many ways this is incorrect and sloppy however it is becoming more common in the relaxed style of modern British English. If we wish to adopt a smooth English rhythm we will need to use this system whether it is correct or not. Native English speakers will often not stop or pause between punctuation but linger, extending the voice into each word. This is not unique to English and may well be present in your own language.
When practising these phrases allow your voice to run smoothly through from one syllable to the next. Final plosive consonants, if sounded are never aspirated.
The following phrases will help to achieve this smooth, linked rhythm.
An apple becomes annapple
Thank you becomes thanqueue
You and I becomes youandeye
Here I am becomes hearreyeam
It is safe becomes i tizsafe
You may notice the insertion of a soft r in the phrase ‘Here I am’. Although the r is silent unless it proceeds a stressed syllable we do tend to add a soft r when the following word begins with a vowel. You may also notice the use of a glottal stop on ‘It is safe’ (i? tiz safe) again although not to be encouraged it is a growing element of everyday English speech.
Clearly if we follow this to the extreme above we may lose clarity altogether, so please be careful when practicing.
Practise the following passage linking the words smoothly whilst maintaining the clarity.
Here I am said Mark, all ready to go to work. ‘That’s good’ replied Sarah, ‘because there is plenty of work for you to do’.
Stress and inflection As with most European languages stress and inflection can be applied in various ways. It may change the meaning of the sentence. Try stressing each word of the following sentence in turn.
IS THAT YOUR COAT?
There is a recognisable tune to natural English speech which is learnt by ear at a young age. This makes it one of the most difficult aspects to master. There is still a preference for a falling inflection at the end of every sentence. In time this may change as we increasingly hear the use of a rising inflection, although at the time of writing this is rare in RP speakers over the age of 30. If you wish to be perceived as confident, emphatic and business like then it is better to practise the falling inflection. You will hear the pitch of the voice slowly rising over the sentence and then falling lower than it started at the end. When we speak a long sentence we may divide it into shorter phrases of between three and six words. The pitch rises over those words and then falls towards the end. It doesn’t go much lower than the first note until you get to the very end of the sentence and then it falls to its lowest pitch.
Try speaking this sentence following the pitch pattern indicated and applying a little more stress to the underlined words.
WE TEND TO SPEAK LIKE THIS MOST OF THE TIME.
You may also notice the iambic rhythm in this sentence.
Dark and Light L Lazv little Laura laughs at lanky Larry. Larry is not at all like Laura. He loathes laziness and literally leaps everywhere. One day Laura was languishing beneath a large lime tree, licking a lime flavoured lolly, when lanky Larry leaped over her on his white Lippizaner Laura w s locked in fear as Lanky Larry,slapped his Lippizaner and laughed into the distance.
Paul pulled on his dull jumper and left the large room. He walked into the light coloured lounge and sat at the large table. Lucinda slipped an envelope under the door Paul opened the envelope to find a lilac coloured letter. He liked the idea of a lilac letter and pulled it from the envelope It was a love letter Paul liked Lucinda's lilac love letter and replied with a light lyrical love verse.
Mabel was able to limber under the table.
'l can limber under any table'
Said able Mabel.
Sable bet Mabel she couldn't limber under her table.
But able Mabel could limber under any table
And limbered under Sable's table.
The lowest in the land
F and TH Forty four farmers formed a foundation for farmers found with faulty feathered chickens. The foundation was called the Faulty Feathered Fowl Foundation, or F.F.F.F. for short.
Farmer Fred refused to join the Faulty Feathered Fowl Foundation, as he felt his fowl had very fine feathers.
The theory that the third Thursday in February is the finest Thursday in the fiscal calendar was challenged by theologian Theobald who thoroughly thought it through. The theory was therefore thwarted by the thoughtful theologian Theobald.
Frank thumped Fred for threatening Francis Thackeray on Friday the third of February. Fred thankfully forgave Frank but Frank was thoroughly furious. The fact that Frank thought Francis Thackeray had fractured a fibula in the fracas frightened him. Francis thanked Fred and Frank for their thoughtfulness and Fred, Frank and Francis forgot their differences over a frothing Theakstons in the friendly Frog and Thistle.
Plosives and final consonants Dandy David drives a dark coloured car. David adores dark colours and lives in a dark damp domain directly due north of Dartford.
Timid Timothy tiptoes daintily down the timber stairs. Tiptoeing Timothy is terribly timid due to terrible trouble with his tonsils.
Carol Cook is a courtly cook
Who creates cuisine for Royals,
To cook she looks in a colourful book
And never bakes but boils.
Barmy Bert bumped his bumper on the big black car. The man who bought the car blew his top
and bumped barmy Bert back.
Peter purchased a perfect pair of plimsolls but parted with the perfect pair of plimsolls when the
Perfect pair of plimsolls perished.
V, W and R Vera Vaughan's v se is a very vast vase. Full of water and wonderful variegated varieties of Violets
The very weighty vehicle had four wobbly wheels. When the vehicle was wet it wobbled from verge to verge in a very worrying way.
The wet whelks and winkles wriggled and writhed in the round red receptacle Roger would rather have a whelk than a winkle, would you?
Rachel Rawlings ran round the rugged rock till the rugged rascal ran away
Rosie and Roberta readily ride their red roadsters on the right road to Rochester. But Rodney and Robert recently rode the wrong way up the wrong ruddy road.
Ruth Wiliiams' wedding veil is very white. with round red ribbons round the rim. While waiting at the rectory the Vicar ran from the rain. Ruth Williams' veil became very wet and the red colour ran. The Very Reverend Rector ran from the rectory and rummaged for a while. He returned with a variety of veils in white, red, wine and viiolet. Ruth Williams' wedding day was saved by the very quick action of the Very Reverend Rector Roger.
Bring the brilliantly bright blue training shoes to the training match tomorrow.
Credibility is a tremendous credit to have.
Draft the credit document and drop it through the door.
The Principality is presumed perfect by the pretty Princess Pricilla.
Fred, Frank and Francis strolled along the perfect promenade.
Step strongly, straight and true.
Growing greens in your garden is a great pastime and healthy hobby.
Brother Brian battled brilliantly against the dreadful, dampening storm.
Whether to weather the perilous weather or to wimp and wither away is a question many have pondered.
Compared with many languages British English has a smooth, flowing rhythm. Often following an iambic stress pattern like the poem below where every other syllable is stressed.
We tend to speak like this most of the time.
Although in everyday speech we add more or less stress to each syllable and often use pause to enable us to stress two syllables together it can be helpful to practise speaking in pure iambic form.
Daffodils I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:-
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed and gazed but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.
by William Wordsworth
Further reading for British Standard English Pronunciation Cambridge English Pronouncing dictionary by Daniel Jones published by Cambridge University Press. It is important to have a good dictionary and I would recommend this one. It is an extensive paper dictionary and CD rom.
Clear Speech by Malcolm Morrison published by A & C Black.It has been around for some time and is a good simple guide to articulation.
The following books go into more detail and are written for teachers of English and Linguistics and so I would only recommend you purchase these if you are very keen to explore English pronunciation in detail.
English Phonetics and Phonology by Peter Roach published by Cambridge University Press. A practical guide to pronunciation with a very helpful CD included.
Learner English Edited by Michael Swan and Bernard Smith, published by Cambridge University Press. It is designed for teachers of English as a second language and contains a useful insight into pronunciation difficulties experienced by those of different accents.
English Intonation, by J. C. Wells published by Cambridge University Press. A helpful guide to understanding intonation complete with a CD of exercises.
You may have noticed I tend to favour books published by Cambridge University Press as they produce many excellent books on Pronunciation written by leading academics from a variety of Universities.
You may find the BBC website below helpful
Cambridge have published a free online phonetic dictionary at -
The International Phonetic Association can be accessed at -
For further practise and in support of this handout you can access a free audio download at www.effectivespeaking.com