What are Vowel Sounds?
English uses a combination of different letters to make 15 vowel sounds. We usually divide these into three categories: long vowels, short vowels and other vowels. However, there’s another set you need to know! Yes, some of the trickiest vowels sounds to pronounce are r-controlled vowels since the pronunciation of the vowel is affected by the rhotic r in American English. To find out how these same combinations are pronounced in British English, check out these articles:
- /eə/ (Bear, Square, Mare) (British English)
- /ɪə/ (Ear/Here/Near) (British English)
What are r-controlled vowels?
In American English, there are 4 additional sounds that can be created if the letter r follows a vowel sound. In fact, because the r affects the vowel sound, we sometimes refer to this as the “bossy r”. Keep in mind that American English is very different from British English in this respect.
- ‘schwa+r’ /ɚ/ ex. stir
- ‘ar sound’ /ɑr/ ex. car
- ‘or sound’ /ɔr/ ex. fork
- ‘air sound’ /ɛr/ ex. stair
Practice with R-controlled vowels in context:
Read the following sentences out loud:
- After dinner we’re going to the fort.
- There are many birds at the farm.
- The cat will start to purr at the bird.
- Her little girl fell from the bar at the park.
- I will start making the tarts for the party.
- Carl will hurl the ball on the turf.
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