11: The American English 'aw' /ɔ/, 'oi' /ɔɪ/, and 'ow' /aʊ/

Practice comparing the 'aw' with other similar vowels, and practice the diphthongs 'oi' and 'ow.'

PRACTICE: The lost dog stopped running and dug under a rock until his paws got muddy.


Welcome to the eleventh episode of Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation podcast. If you are just joining us in this podcast, my name is Mandy, and we are just finishing up a series of four podcasts about vowels. I would strongly encourage you to listen to the previous three podcasts along with this one. These shows about vowels lay the foundation for many upcoming podcasts, and I hope you come back to them when you need a reminder about certain vowel sounds.

Last week we had a practice sentence in addition to our new key words. It was "Good fruit looks like good food should," and it emphasized the u as in put sound and the oo sound. Our key words for those sounds were put and soon.

Let's quickly review all of our key words, from the beginning.

long a (long a) cake
long e (long e) keep
long i (long i) bike
long o (long o) home
long u (lung u) cute
short a (short a) cat
short e (short e) bed
short i (short i) sit
short o (short o) top
short u (short u) sun
oo sound (oo sound) soon
u as in put (u as in put) put

Today we are going to learn about the final three vowel sounds, the aw sound (aw sound), the oi sound (oi sound), and the ow sound (ow sound).

Our new key words are the words dog, join, and down.

We will start with the word dog. (d sound, aw sound, g sound). Listen carefully to the middle sound of the word again (aw sound). To create the aw sound you need to have you jaw more open and make your lips round, like the short o sound, but then stick your lips out. That sounds strange, but I want you to push them forward so the sound comes out a longer round opening. Don't stick your lips way out, so you look odd, but enough to create a distinctively different sound from the short o sound. Compare the key words for the aw sound and the short o sound, dog, top. (aw sound, short o).

There are not a lot of minimal pairs between these sounds, but there are a few. Let's practice them now. I'm going to say the word and spell it, because some of these may be new vocabulary for you.

odd o-d-d, awed a-w-e-d
tock t-o-c-k, talk t-a-l-k
rot r-o-t, wrought w-r-o-u-g-h-t
stock s-t-o-c-k, stalk s-t-a-l-k
pond p-o-n-d, pawned p-a-w-n-e-d

Now you know that when you see a word spelled with the letter o, you need to be aware of the many sounds associated with that letter. Is it the long o, like in the word most, or the short o, like in the word stop, or the aw sound, like in the word cost?

Along with the aw spelling and the o spelling, the aw sound is usually the sound in words spelled ough and augh, like cough c-o-u-g-h, and taught t-a-u-g-h-t. When you practice the word lists on pronuncian.com, you will notice these different spellings, and now you know the sound associated with them.

Here is a practice sentence to help you compare the short o and aw sound, as well as the short u sound:

The lost dog stopped running and dug under a rock until his paws got muddy.

See if you can identify the vowel sounds in that sentence.

Now for our last two vowel sounds, the oi sound and the ow sound. Lucky for you, these are usually pretty easy sounds for ESL students. They are both 2-sound vowels, meaning they are a combination of a vowel sound and a w sound or y sound. Can you hear the y sound at the end of the oi sound (oi sound)? How about the w sound at the end of the ow sound (ow sound)?

Our key words for these sounds are join and down. (oi sound) join, (ow sound) down.

The oi sound is usually spelled oi, like in join, obviously, and it is also spelled oy, like in the words boy and toy.

The ow sound spelling is a little trickier, though. The o-w spelling can have two different sounds, (ow sound) like in down, but it can also sound like the long o, like in the word snow. s-n-o-w. If you purchase the book Pronunciation Pages online at pronuncian.com or seattlelearning.com, you will get extra practice at identifying confusing spelling patterns like these.

For more information about Pronunciation Pages, go to the promotional podcast from a few weeks back. I don't want to spend too much time talking about the book during these podcasts. But I do want to make sure you know it exists.

Okay, let's practice some quick word lists for our three sounds from today.

aw sound (aw sound): off, boss, gone, soft, flaw
oi sound (oi sound): boy, moist, choice, toy, coin
ow sound (ow sound): brown, mouse, count, house, town

And that's it! We have now studied all 15 vowel sounds! It took us four weeks, but for these very important sounds I wanted to make sure you got a good introduction to them. I'll keep returning to them in the future, now that you've got the basics.

Be sure to listen to next week's podcast, because it will be on one of my student's favorite topics, informal contractions. If you've never been to the United States, you may not know how important these are for understanding spoken English. They are not formal English and are often not taught at all, but they are common, and they do need an introduction. Informal contractions are words like gimme, lemme, wanna, and dunno. You don't actually need to know how to say them or use them in your speech, but if you can't understand them, you will have a very hard time comprehending an American's speech.

This podcast's transcripts are online at www.pronuncian.com, along with practice word lists for all of today's sounds, and all of the sounds of American English. As always, if you have a topic you'd like me to talk about, or if you just want to give me comments on the show, please email me at podcast@pronuncian.com.

Thanks for listening to this Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. Seattle Learning Academy is where the world comes to learn.

Bye-bye now.