English Australia Journal : English Australia Journal 27.2
English Australia Journal Volume 27 No 2 25 • Another problematic diphthong, /əʊ/ (so), often spoken as /ɔ:/ (saw), can be approached with an interim step of /3:/ (sir), which will train the tongue towards the higher conventional position of the first part of the diphthong. Thus 'Go slow, Joe', mispronounced as 'Gaw slaw, Jaw', is practised as 'Gur slur, Jur'. Once that setting is achieved, lip settings can be trained forward to add the second /ʊ/ part. • Where the vowel /ʊ/ (good) is habituated along the lines of /u:/ (gooed), the interim step is /ɔ:/ (gawd), so ‘Put your foot on the hood’ normally pronounced something like ‘Poo/t your foo/t on the who/d’ is practiced as ‘Pawt your fawt on the hawd’; once the vocal kinaesthetics are thus re-set, the difference in vowel length can be addressed relatively easily. Technically, of course, the difference between /ʊ/ and /ɔ:/ is not just length; nor is it between /ɪ/ and /i:/ or many other vowel phoneme contrasts, but for articulatory resetting such subtleties are of little consequence, because once the deconceptualisation of the habituated setting takes place, the conventional sound can be heard and the more intelligible setting usually found by the learners themselves. I therefore encourage my students to over-exaggerate the length of all long vowels until the contrasts are inscribed in their muscle memory. Resetting/reconceptualising consonant articulation Similar principles can also be applied to the re-training of commonly misplaced consonant settings. For example: • The common problem of articulatory confusion between /r/ (rot) and /l/ (lot) can be tackled kinaesthetically. The technical problem is that, while /r/ is an alveolar approximant, with the tongue held near but not connecting with the roof of the mouth, some learners allow the tongue to actually touch. Merely telling them this seldom produces change (though it is important to tell them nonetheless, so they at least gain a theoretical understanding as a first step). However, many learners with this challenge can unproblematically make the labiodental fricative sound /f/ (fit), with the upper front teeth proximate to the lower lip. If this position is not only held but exaggerated into a buck-toothed Bugs Bunny grimace when attempting /r/, the blade of the tongue tends naturally to pull back and down, and so be less likely to make alveolar contact. It is useful if the learner can work with a mirror. Once the original habit has been thus deconceptualised, the learner can abandon the Looney Tunes snarl, but should be encouraged to persist with a more relaxed labiodental /f/-like position. Once /r/ is worked through, learners usually reconceptualise and reset /l/ for themselves.
English Australia Journal 28.1
English Australia Journal 27.1