Britlish

The Weak Was

Pronunciation | IPA Symbols | Speaking

Pronunciation

No matter how good your English grammar and vocabulary may be, if your pronunciation is so bad that nobody can understand a word you say, then your English won't be much good as a means of communication. You might be good at grammar, have a broad vocabulary, and be able to explain all the aspects and tenses of English, but it's not much good if you can't be understood when you speak. I have designed these Activities to help you to improve your pronunciation, as well as other areas of your English.

IPA Symbols

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation that was devised in the 19th century as a standardised way of representing the sounds of speech in written form. The British English IPA chart consists of 44 symbols representing the pure vowels (monophthongs), the gliding vowels (diphthongs), and the consonant sounds of spoken British English. The Britlish Library contains a wealth of Activities to help you to learn, remember, and use the British English IPA symbols efficiently whether you are a student or a teacher.

Speaking

It's not easy to teaching speaking skills remotely through a website, however good the site is. To really practice your speaking skills, you need someone to speak to who can correct your mistakes as you go. The Activities here will go some way to helping you to improve your speaking skills by helping you to mirror the speech you hear in the lesson. In this way, you can notice how your speech differs from that in the Activities and, by recording your own speech, you can adjust your pronunciation to more accurately match that in the Activities.

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In normal fast-spoken speech some words are not prominent, and we only hear the strong form of these words in certain circumstances. The words that we normally only hear the weak form of include was, as well as the other forms of the verb to be: is, am, are, and were. The children’s rhyme, Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear, shows how these weak forms are necessary for the correct pronunciation and rhythm of English.

In normal fast-spoken speech some words are not prominent, and we only hear the strong form of these words in certain circumstances. The words that we normally only hear the weak form of include was, as well as the other forms of the verb to be: am, are, and were. The children’s rhyme, Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear, shows how these weak forms are necessary for the correct pronunciation and rhythm of English. The was in the rhyme uses the weak form of the vowel, known as the schwa and represented by the IPA symbol / ә /.

The strong form of was / wɒz / is used when:

•             it is made prominent

•             when it is said on its own

•             when it is at the end of a sentence.

Otherwise it is said in the weak form, was / wәz /.

Prominence

A word such as was is made prominent when we are implying or expressing a contrast. For example:

A: He wasn’t at the meeting. / hi ˈwɒznt әt ðә ˈmiːtɪŋ / B: He was at the meeting! / ˈ hi wɒz әt ðә ˈmiːtɪŋ / Said on Its Own

A word such as was is made prominent when it is said on its own. For example:

Was. / wɒz /

At the End of a Sentence

A word such as was is made prominent when it comes at the end of a sentence. For example:

A: Was she very happy with your report? / wәz ʃi ˈveri ˈhæpi wɪð jә rɪˈpɔːt /

B: Yes, she was. / jes / ʃi wɒz /

Now that you understand the difference between the strong form of was / wɒz / and the weak form of was / wәz / read the IPA script on page 5 and find all the examples of the strong and weak forms of the word was.

Then try recording yourself saying the poem with the correct strong and weak forms of was.

Fuzzy. Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,

Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he? Funny, isn’t it?

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,

 

Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?

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