Connected speech is a term that refers to sound changes that occur when we are speaking. Understanding these changes can dramatically improve your understanding of, and communication with fluent native speakers of English. Without using connected speech yourself, you may sound stilted and formal. This can be a barrier to communication, particularly in informal situations. Formal presentations without the features of connected speech may also be a strain on a native speaker audience.
There are three features of connected speech:
As the name implies, these words are usually 'smaller', less important words than the stressed information words, which carry most meaning in English. Unstressed words are usually pronounced more lightly and softly than stressed words and many are pronounced with the indefinite or schwa vowel sound .
e.g. I'm a student at UTS
3 unstressed words: I'm, a, at
2 information words: student, UTS
Stressed words, in contrast, are usually 'content' words such as nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs.
Unstressed words are important because they make stressed information 'stand out'. Saying unstressed words more quickly and lightly also gives the speaker time to lengthen the stressed syllables in key words and make clear intonation contours. Here is a summary list of unstressed words.
|articles||the, a , an|
|prepositions||at, to, for|
|pronouns||me, you, him, her, it|
|auxiliary verbs||is, was, has, have, had|
|modal verbs||can, could, should|
Fluent speech at normal speed is spoken without breaks between words. The sound at the end of one word is joined or linked to the beginning of the next word. Often these words sound like one word.
There are basically three different ways of linking in English.
Consonant + vowel
Consonant + consonant
Vowel + vowel
Are there any 'secrets' for how to link words together?
The secret to linking words is to speak as much as possible in phrases and try to keep your breath and your voice going as you 'move' from one word to the next.
Sometimes linking sounds together actually produces a new or different sound. This usually happens in two ways.
/t/ + /j/
/d/ + /j/
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