27: The /g/ and /k/, stops in American English

Voicing and aspiration are characteristics of /g/ and /k/ in English pronunciation.


Hi everyone and welcome to this 26th American English Pronunciation podcast. As always, this podcast is produced by Seattle Learning Academy. If you're new to this show, my name is Mandy, and I'd like to welcome you.

I'm really excited today because as I was planning this topic, I realized that we're down to only 3 more sounds to learn about! Today we're going to talk about two of those three sounds, the g sound and k sound. Next week we'll talk about the very last sound, the h sound.

Don't worry, I still have lots and lots of topics to get into more detail about. I'm just glad that I'll finally have the opportunity to do that, now that the basics of sound will all be covered. One thing I've been looking forward to talking about is syllable stress, so I may start talking about that topic in two or three weeks.

Let's get started with today's show about the g sound and k sound. The reason these sounds got left to the end is that people really do not make too many big errors with these sounds, with one exception; I hear lots and lots of non-native speakers only say the k sound at the end of the word, and never the g sound. These sounds are stops, meaning we stop all the air for a tiny bit of time, then let it go. The g sound and k sound are made at the back of our mouth by pressing our tongue up against the soft palate, then letting go with a little puff of air. The g sound is voiced; the k sound is unvoiced. Listen to the sounds: g sound, k sound (g sound, k sound).

Now, some people call the g sound the "hard g", and the j sound the "soft g". It's always a little confusing when one letter can have two sounds. I call the first sound of the word "girl" the g sound, and the first sound of the word "giant" a j sound because the letter j is usually only said as (j sound), even though it can be spelled with a j or a g.

Let's say some minimal pairs between the g sound and k sound. I'm going to focus on words with these sounds at the end of the word because that is where so many people have the trouble. Repeat after me if you can.


bug, buck
dug, duck
league, leak
pig, pick
plug, pluck
tug, tuck


Also, remember that the final sound of the word will tell you what an added -s or -ed ending will sound like. An s added to a g sound will be voiced, so it will sound like a z sound. Likewise, an -ed added to a voiced sound will sound like the d sound. Listen to a few examples:


The plural of pig, is pigs with a z sound.
Adding an -s to the verb pick, is picks, with an s sound.

Adding an -ed to plug is plugged, with a d sound.
Adding an -ed to pluck, is plucked, with a t sound.


If that is confusing to you, go back and review episode 19 for the -ed ending, and episode 3 for the -s ending.

Since we just talked about the ng sound a few weeks ago, I want to remind you again to not automatically say the g sound at the end of the ng spelling. Some words, like language and finger, do have that extra g sound, but most ng spellings do not. Words like "ringing" do not have a g sound, please do not add one.

So, that's it. It's a pretty short show today. I really want to thank those of you that have purchased a copy of the book or mp3 files, or both. I do take a number of hours from my week every week to write and record and create the web pages for each podcast, and it certainly makes it easier for me to take time from planning my classes when those of you who want to and can purchase something, do purchase something. I always plan to continue to have free resources online as well, so even if you can't afford to buy something, you still can get lots of practice. Another great way to support me is to write an iTunes review. It's free to do. I know you may be self-conscious of your English, but let me tell you, nobody cares if you make a grammar error online. I mean, I make them all the time, and I'm a native English speaker, as well as an English teacher. We are all impressed with the level of English you non-native speakers have.

I hope you all have a great week, and thanks for listening to this Seattle Learning Academy Digital Publication. Seattle Learning Academy is where the world comes to learn.