American English Pronunciation Key Vocabulary

There are vocabulary words you should know when you are studying pronunciation and accent reduction. Pronunciation teachers will use these words when they are teaching you to pronounce American English sounds, phrases and sentences.

Text in /slashes/ are International Phonetic Alphabet pronunciations.

1. Aspiration /ˌæspəˈreɪʃən/: The small puff of air that is produced when you make stop consonants such as /p/, /t/, and /k/ at the beginning of a word.

2. Bilabial /baɪˈleɪbiəl/: Sounds made with both lips such as the /p/ in pat and the /m/ in milk..

3. Compound word /ˈkɒmpaʊnd/: A single word consisting of two separate words such as homework (noun) or overdue (verb).

4. Content words /ˈkɒntɛnt/: Words in a sentence that carry a lot of meaning. Content words are usually stressed in a sentence.

5. Diphthong /ˈdɪp–θɒŋ/: Complex vowel sounds in which a vowel is followed by a semi-vowel such as w or y. The diphthongs in American English are: /aw/ as in cow, /ay/ as in buy, and /oy/ as in boy.

6. Flap /flæp/: A variation of the American English /t/ sound in which the tongue quickly taps the tooth ridge making a sound more similar to /d/ than to /t/ as in the word water and mister. Sometimes called a tapped t.

7. Schwa /ʃwɑ/:  The neutral vowel sound that typically occurrs in unstressed syllables in English. The phonetic symbol /ə/ is used to represent this sound.