48: 'talk' and 'walk' and other '-alk' /ɔk/ words

Another silent /l/, plus the 'aw' vowel sound /ɔ/ in this English spelling pattern.


Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 48th episode.

Last week, I talked about the fact that there is no l sound in could, would, and should. I decided to continue along that line this week, and tell you that there is also no l sound in the words walk and talk, or any other word that ends in -alk for that matter.

The words could, should, and would have something else in common with walk and talk, an odd vowel sound. No, it isn't the same vowel sound in both sets of words, but they both have less understood vowel sounds. Remember, could, should, and would have the u as in put sound. (u as in put) Walk and talk have the aw sound. I call it the aw sound because it is often spelled that way, as in the words awful, dawn, and draw. This sound can be confusing because it has a lot of common spellings. It is the vowel sound in the word dog, which is obviously spelled with an o, and is also commonly spelled au, as in taught and cause. I'll get to all of the aw sound's spellings when I do the video for that sound in a few weeks.

For now, I want to make sure you know how to say this sound. It sounds like this (aw sound, aw sound). Many vowel sounds we can't see from outside out mouth, this one we can. First, the lips are made rounded. They don't get closed like the oo sound, the sound in soon, but they are made round and open. Also, our jaw opens a bit for this sound. A lot of things are happening inside our mouth as well. The middle and tip of the tongue are pushed low in the mouth, and the back of the tongue raises and pushes back. So, you can tell now why this sound is so hard to say correctly, you need to be thinking about every part of your mouth for this sound. Again it sounds like this: (aw sound)

I'll explain how to pronounce again. The lips are open and rounded, the jaw opens, the middle area and tip of the tongue are pushed low, and the back of the tongue is raised and pushed back. Got it? Let's try it, repeat after me. (aw sound, aw sound)

Now, let's get back to the words talk and walk. First, remember, there is no l sound is words that end in -alk, ever. Don't try to sneak one in. It isn't there. I often hear my students say the l sound really softly. What they tell me is that they don't hear it in native English speakers, but they didn't trust that the native speaker wasn't saying it, so they add it in really quickly and quietly, just in case it is supposed to be there. Trust your ear on this one. We really aren't saying the l.

Let's practice some words that end in -alk. Practice saying the aw sound, and if you know you add the l sound, now it the time to break that habit, and take it back out again.

Please, repeat after me.




And I'm sorry to say everyone, it is really only those four words you are likely to ever come across the end in -alk. And you may rarely, if ever, need to say chalk or balk. However, walk and talk are very, very high-frequency words. You want to practice saying them correctly just because you probably say them so often.

Also, because I don't want to create confusion, I said it is words that end in -alk. I mean the root words. If I add an -s or -ed to these words for grammatical purposes, the sound of the root word is the same, we just add the extra ending.

Let's practice the words talk, walk, chalk, and balk with an -s ending. These words end in the k sound, which is an unvoiced sound, so the s will sound like an s. Here we go, repeat after me.




And, here is the -ed ending. Because these words end in an unvoiced sound, the -ed will end sound like a t sound. Again, repeat after me.




If you want to review the rules for the -s ending, review podcast episode 3. You can review the -ed ending rules in podcast episode 19, and you can review the aw sound in podcast episode 11.

I'll link to those episodes and the free online lessons related to those topics with this week's transcripts, which you can find at www.pronuncian.com.

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That's all for today everyone. Thanks for listening.

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