The / θ / in Thumb and the / ð / in Feather
Pronunciation Activation Pack – 31
/ θ / Thumb / ð / Feather
In this Pronunciation Activation Pack we will be looking at the consonant sounds / θ / and / ð /.
We will look at the letter combinations that give the / θ / and / ð / sounds.
We will look at lots of words which have the / θ / and / ð / sounds in them.
Finally, we will activate your ability to hear and produce the / θ / and / ð / sounds correctly.
The / θ / and / ð /sounds are dental fricatives made by disrupting the air flow through a narrow channel formed by the tip of the tongue and the top front teeth to cause turbulence.
The / θ / sound on the chart is shown in blue, which means it is unvoiced, while the / ð / sound is shown in green, which means that it is voiced.
Letter Combinations for / θ /
This unvoiced dental fricative only ever has this letter combination:
Not all words containing the letter combination TH have the / θ / sound in them.
Letter Combinations for / ð /
This voiced dental fricative has these letter combinations:
TH, and THE at the end of some words.
Not all words containing the letter combinations TH or THE have the / ð / sound in them.
The bird thought it worthwhile to bathe.
/ ðə bɜːd ˈθɔːt ɪt ˈwɜː.θwaɪl tə beɪð /
These feathers are smooth.
/ ðiːz ˈfe.ðəz ə smuːð /
Mother Earth can barely breathe.
/ ˈmʌð.ər ɜːθ kən ˈbeə.li briːð /
The smooth rhythm of the athlete.
/ ðə smuːð ˈrɪ.ðəm əv ði ˈæθ.liːt /
I think she was betrothed on her sixteenth birthday.
/ ˈaɪ ˈθɪŋk ʃi wəz bɪ.ˈtrəʊðd ɒn hə siːk.ˈstiːnθ ˈbɜːθ.deɪ /
Problems for Students
Fortunately, both the / θ / and / ð / sounds are quite rare in English and mistakes between the two sounds are few and far between. Indeed, there are only 11 minimal pairs which involve these two sounds, and none of them are common words.
More problematic is the contrast between the / θ / sound and the / s / sound, two voiceless fricatives, and the / ð / sound and the / z / sound, two voiced fricatives.
In this Pronunciation Activation Pack we will be looking at minimal pairs using / θ / and / s /, and / ð / and / z / .
Resources and Activators
As with all of my English Activation Packs, this Activation Pack has valuable resources to help you activate the language in this lesson.
Download the resources from the link at the top left.
You will also find the Activators at the end of the Pack.
These will give you plenty of exercises to help you make the language in this lesson part of your active vocabulary.
Interactive British English IPA Chart
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