Assimilation: two adjacent sounds can cause changes to pronunciation.
Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 94th episode.
In English, sometimes two adjacent sounds affect one another so much they join, and basically become a different sound. This is an example of something called assimilation. Assimilation happens naturally, and like many aspects of spoken language, individual native speakers are not often aware of doing this.
Today I'm going to talk about the d sound becoming a j sound and the t sound becoming a ch sound. This occurs when those sounds are followed by a y sound. It can occur both within words, and across word boundaries. When it occurs within high frequency words, it can become so common that the assimilated sound becomes the norm, and dictionaries will show this newer pronunciation. Examples are the words picture and procedure. Can you hear the ch sound (ch sound) in the word picture and the j sound (j sound) in the word procedure?
Once upon a time, the word picture was pronounced with a t sound followed by a long u sound. The long u sound (long u), I hope you know begins with a y sound.
Similarly, the word procedure was properly pronounced with a d sound followed by the long u.
Now picture has become pic(ch)ure, and procedure has become proced(j)ure. Here are a few more examples:
What can make this difficult to grasp is that it also occurs across word boundaries. It happens commonly when the first word ends in a d sound or t sound, and the next word is either the word you or your. Here are some examples.
Listen for the ch sound (ch sound):
Listen for the j sound (j sound):
Now let's take this one step further. The word you in conversation is often reduced to ya because it's a function word. When a native speaker of English changes the t to a ch sound and the d to a j sound, plus the word you is changed to ya, it can get difficult for non-native speakers to understand.
Listen to the following phrases:
What we have now moved into is the area of informal contractions. I've talked about informal contractions in the past; if you aren't familiar with them yet, I'd recommend going back and listening to episode 13 to learn about these informal, yet important to understand, words.
Regular contractions are words like don't, isn't and they're (t-h-e-y-'-r-e).
An informal contraction is less formal than a regular contraction, but is still very, very common in spoken English.
The major difference between formal and informal contractions is in writing. While regular contractions are common and acceptable in less formal written communication, such as an email to a friend or even a colleague, informal contractions are regularly spoken, but seldom written. I should add, for truly formal written communication, such as a business proposal or an email to your boss, I recommend staying away from contractions completely.
As a listen and repeat exercise, I'm going to say some phrases in three different ways. First I'm going to articulate perfectly, with no assimilation. Then I'm going to say it with the assimilated ch sound and j sound. Third, I'm going to say it as an informal contraction. I'll leave time in between all three for you to repeat.
won't you, won'(ch)ou, woncha
don't you, don(ch)ou, doncha
could you, coul(j)ou, couldja
would you, woul(j)ou, wouldja
My main purpose in teaching about this is so when you start to notice this happening around you, you understand it and can make the decision for yourself about making these assimilations across words or not. Within words, I would recommend using the assimilation, since that is what many dictionaries now show.
The lesson of the day is to learn to trust your ear. Learn to hear the sounds of English so when you hear something unexpected, you can question it and compare it to the sounds you know. Then you can make a personal decision about how you want to pronounce the words you say.
Remember, if you have questions about this or any other aspect of English pronunciation, you can post it, for free, on our forums. Go to www.pronunican.com/forums. Also, follow me on Twitter, username Pronuncian to keep up with all the Pronuncian.com updates. Finally, as always, transcripts for this episode are freely available, at www.pronuncian.com/podcast.
That's all for today everyone. Thanks for listening.
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