/i/ and /iy/ Pronunciation Guide
The pronunciation of /iy/, such as in the word “read”, is easily confused with the pronunciation of /i/, such as in the word "rid". It is particularly difficult for Spanish speakers to get this correct. However, the difference in pronunciation can be easy to learn and can make a large improvement on your accent reduction.
The sound of /iy/ is that of a long “E” sound. Frequently the ESL student will pronounce it as a short sound, making a word such as “keep” sound like “kip”.
The differences in pronunciation of the /iy/ and /i/ sounds have to do with how the tongue is placed in the mouth. For both sounds the tongue is placed toward the front of the mouth and the lips are relaxed. The difference is that with the /iy/ sound, the center of the tongue is pressed upward toward the roof of the month. For the /i/ sound, the center of the tongue is allowed to relax downward. In addition, the vowel sound of /iy/ has a slightly longer duration than that of /i/.
Words with the /iy/ sound
The /iy/ sound is a long E sound. Words that have this sound will have the vowel combinations below:
Practice speaking these examples of words with the /iy/ sound: tea, feed, me, believe, receive, concrete, she’s.
Words with the /i/ sound
The /i/ sound is a short I sound. These words will have an “i” in them without a silent “e” at the end.
Practice speaking these examples of words with the /i/ sound: flip, sit, chin, winter.
Minimal Pairs for /iy/ and /i/
Learning the difference between these two sounds can be aided by studying minimal pairs. Minimal pairs are pairs of words that are the same except for the vowel sound. The English language has a large number of minimal pairs for these two vowel sounds. So, mastering the difference between these two sounds can go a long way toward reducing your accent. Alternatively, not understanding the difference may lead to many misunderstandings.
Click here for examples of minimal pairs for the /iy/ and /i/ sounds and to hear how they are pronounced.
Now that you understand the difference in these two sounds, practice speaking the following words and listen to how they sound different. Can you identify which sound (/iy/ or /i/) is used for each of the words?
- His, he’s
- This, these
- Live, leave
- Rid, reed
- Rich, reach
As with all other areas of your ESL studies, practice is essential. After you have reviewed these rules and practiced them, try taking this quiz.
If you are looking for more help with pronunciation and accent reduction, I do offer private tutoring. I am a qualified Accent Reduction Tutor and have successfully coached many English learners.
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