Vowel Spotting

You’ve heard, no doubt, of train spotting, and maybe even plane spotting. Now’s your chance to indulge in vowel spotting. Years ago I wrote a couple of web pages to help people recognise vowel sounds from our somewhat unhelpful orthography, and to ram home the difference between spelling and sound. They are still around somewhere, I think.

Now I have completed a set of pages covering most of the vowels of General British English. You can find them here. There is also a link in the side-bar.

I would be very grateful, in a strictly non-monetary sense you understand, for any comments, corrections, etc. Please let your colleagues and/or students know about this if you think they may find it useful. I’ll be adding to the material from time to time.

9 thoughts on “Vowel Spotting

  1. My only serious difference (assuming General British English pronunciation) was with


    which I would have said rhymes with weigher, not ware. I’ve always taken the mare pronunciation of the word to be a kind of elision akin to tar for tower.

    I stumbled, too, over serious beginning (as you would have it) like seer; for me it begins with [ɪː] (not an option in any case), but I give you that that may be a case of false perception on my part!

  2. Sir David Frost, born 1939, in his recent broadcast „Frost on satire“ persistently pronounced ‘satire’ as /sætɑə/. I don’t know when he started smoothing the triphthong and I don’t even know if he had ever done so. I’m not insinuating Sir David is the pinnacle of General British Pronunciation.

  3. Kevin,

    mayor: In an exercise of this sort, it’s hard to cater for individual pron. preferences within an accent. I’ll consider replacing the word with a less troublesome one. Btw, my copy of LPD gives only meə for Brit Eng. meɪər it says is US.

    serious: I thought long and hard about including the centring diphthongs because of the very fluid situation of their realisation. I decided against including ʊə. That’s just toooo complicated. Maybe I ought to add a note to the pages for ɪə and pointing out the possibility of realisations as ɪː and ɛː in some or all environments.

  4. Hi John

    This is a great resource and I will pass it on to my students. I’ve just created a different vowel resource (which is also free) on my website. I’d be very grateful if you could take a look and pass on any feedback. The site is: https://improveyouraccent.co.uk/vowel-chart/

    I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog so keep up the good work!

    All the best

    Luke Nicholson

  5. (Not from John, but from one of his readers). I like the chart; just a couple of observations.

    1) KIT sounds almost DRESS-like to me
    2) I haven’t compared the two in Praat, but HAPPY and FLEECE sound identical to me.

    Philip Taylor

  6. Luke,

    Glad you find Vowel Spotting useful. Many thanks for the link. I’ve had a quick look at the site and it works well. I particularly like the facility for choosing your favourite symbol set.

    One error I have found: the 3rd choice on the drop-down list for ə reads “jumper“. If you click this you get the sound file for “official”.

  7. I discovered that I don’t (yet) have Praat on this machine, so I compared FLEECE and HAPPY in Cool Edit Pro 2.1; they definitely look identical.

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