British English: The “Ear” Diphthong

Diphthongs are sounds that contain two sounds within one syllable. If you were to clap for each syllable while you say these words, the diphthong would be part of just one clap. Let’s discuss a uniquely British English diphthong, the “ear” diphthong. To make the /ɪə/ sound, you will need to know how to make the separate sounds of /ɪ/ as in “fish” and “pin” ,and /ə/, the schwa sound, shortly after each other. In a diphthong, the sound slides from the one sound, in this case the /ɪ/ to the /ə/. You may notice that your mouth closes slightly and your lips move slightly forward as the vowel sound changes.

The “ear” diphthong (/ɪə/) is commonly heard in British English.   In contrast, very few American dialects use this sound at all. For example, note how these words with the the ɪə diphthong are pronounced as “r-controlled vowels” in American English:

Ear /ɪə/ in British English.               /ɪr/ in American English

Near /nɪə/ in British English           /nɪr/ in American English

Here /hɪə/ in British English          /hɪr/ in American English

 

Need help?

For more on diphthongs, check out these articles:

Do you need a little more help with your pronunciation?  To learn more about English pronunciation, get needed feedback and practice in conversation, join SpeakUp, a dynamic program that engages you in authentic conversations on relevant topics and provides you with feedback from a professional and experienced English teacher.  In fact, the first week is free for you to try it out!  

 

Sabine Hobbel

Sabine Hobbel

Sabine Hobbel has been helping people improve their English since 2004; the knowledge she gained from completing her Master's degrees in Psychology and in English helps her every day. She has lived in 4 different English-speaking countries and she currently lives in the Italian Alps.
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