Thursday, April 26, 2007

“Voiced” and “Voiceless” Sounds (Past Tense)

When I teach lessons to ESL students on how to pronounce regular Simple Past tense verbs (those ending with “-ed”), I first have to teach the concept of “voiceless” sounds and “voiced” sounds.

The “-ed” endings of regular past tense verbs are pronounced in three different ways. They end with either a /t/ sound, a /d/ sound, or an /ed/ sound. Verbs ending with an /ed/ sound are easier to teach. Determining whether a past tense verb ends with a /t/ or /d/ sound is more difficult for ESL students. See English Past Tense Pronunciation for more info.

Whether the ending of a Past Tense verb should be pronounced as a /t/ or a /d/ is dependant upon the final sound at the end of the base form of the verb (before you add “-ed” to the verb). For example, for the word “work,” the “k” sound (not the letter sound) determines that the ending for “worked” is pronounced “work/t/”; for the word “clean,” the "n" sound determines that “cleaned” is pronounced “clean/d/.”

“Voiced Sounds” have a /d/ ending

To distinguish a voiced sound, I have the student determine the final sound of the base form of the verb (before adding the “-ed”). For example, for the word “save,” the final sound is "vvvvvv". I then ask the student to hold three fingers to their throat and make the sound "vvvvvv". I ask them if they feel a vibration in their throat. If there is a vibration, then the ending is pronounced as a /d/.

“Voiceless Sounds” have a /t/ ending

To distinguish a voiceless sound, I have the student determine the final sound of the base form of the verb (before adding the “-ed”). For example, for the word “miss,” the final sound is "sssssss". I then ask the student to hold three fingers to their throat and make the sound "sssssss". I ask them if they feel a vibration in their throat. If there is no vibration, then the ending is pronounced as a /t/.

When using this method in a lesson to teach pronunciation of Past Tense verbs, you really have to demonstrate the way to determine if the sound vibrates or not. ESL students sometimes feel silly or are otherwise reluctant to put their fingers to their throats and make a funny sound. So I consistently model what the student should do.

The mistake students usually make during this pronunciation lesson is that they look at the last letter and say the letter, rather than make the sound that the letter makes.

2 comments:

Beni Bevly said...

Wow! I like this blog. As an ESL speaker, I need this information. Keep up with this good work.

Beni Bevly
http://www.overseasthinktankforindonesia.com/

Anonymous said...

I have a question concerning this rule-



plated

The verb "to plate"- I realize that in the past tense, the last sound shifts to a 'd' sound, which is vocalized, which, following the convention, ends in a 'd' sound in the past tense- "play-did" and not "plate-it"

Is there a rule for ferreting out the group of verbs for which this transformation (from an unvocalized to vocalized [or the opposite] final consonant sound when shifting tense) happens?


fasted

The verb "to fast"- this one seems to be an exception to your rule- one says "fast-ed" rather than "fast-it", and as far as I can tell, the "t" sound at the end of "fast" is unvocalized, even in the past tense. Are any of my assumptions mistaken?

Assuming this to be an exception, what others are there and is there a rule for defining this group of verbs?

Thank you for the clear information on your site!!!

-BB