Lesson 1.6 Clear Alphabet

1.6.1  Clear Alphabet (sometimes shortened to CA) is a new phonetic alphabet for English. We use it to write words and sentences as a collection of different sounds. It is similar to the more popular International Phonetic Alphabet (or IPA) because they both enable a reader to see all the phonemes (sounds) contained in a word or sentence.

You can read the Clear Alphabet chart here: clear-alphabet-chart

Unlike the IPA, which uses unfamiliar symbols to represent sounds, Clear Alphabet uses the familiar Roman alphabet letters – a, b, c, etc. This is important because it means that we can write in the Clear Alphabet on a keyboard without buying a special font. Also the words are easier to read.

Compare:

image-1-6-1-compare-phonetic-alphabets

1.6.2  In Clear Aphabet words are broken up into syllables. There is a gap between each syllable and the stressed syllable starts with a capital letter, for example:

television  =  te l Vi zzn.

A capital letter always indicates a stressed syllable – not a new sentence or proper noun. Apart from that punctuation remains the same – we still use full stops, commas, question marks, and so on. For example:

ar y Wing glish?  =  Are you English?

1.6.3  Each of the 48 sounds of English has its own written ID (identifier). For example,the ‘a’ sound in ‘cake’ is always written as ei – Keik. In normal spelling this sound can be written in different ways, but with CA it always looks the same: ei. For example:

make  =  Meik  |  day  =  Dei  |  brain  =  Brein, etc.

1.6.4  While the normal written alphabet has 26 letters with 21 consonant letters and 5 vowel letters. Clear Alphabet has 48 sounds, with 25 consonant sounds and 23 vowel sounds.

1.6.5  The consonant sounds can be voiced (pronounced with voice) or unvoiced (pronounced without voice). We make consonant sounds when we move our tongue, lips, and mouth into different positions before releasing breath from our lungs. There are 15 voiced consonant sounds (we can feel our vocal cords moving when we make them):

image-1-6-2-voiced-consonant-sounds

and there are 10 unvoiced consonant sounds (we can’t feel our vocal cords moving when we make them):

image-1-6-3-unvoiced-consonant-sounds

There are a few difficult consonant sounds to pronounce, like  tt  (the ‘th’ sound in thick) and  th  (the ‘th’ sound in this). The  hh  sound (in ‘loch’) is difficult for most English native speakers to pronounce, and occurs mainly north of the Scottish border! It is not common in British English. Having said that, most consonants sound as you would expect them to from looking at them (they are phonetic), so it is more important to spend time learning how the vowel sounds and diphthongs look and sound than worrying about consonant sounds.

1.6.6  The vowel sounds can be short, long, or diphthong, which means double vowel sounds – two vowel sounds together. The discrepancy between the large number of vowel sounds in English (twenty-three!) and the small number of vowel letters to represent them (five!), causes a lot of problems with spelling and pronunciation. Vowel sounds are made when we allow breath to move freely from our lungs out of our mouths, without blocking it with our tongue, lips, or mouth (as we do with consonant sounds). Learners whose first language does not contain any long vowel sounds or diphthongs will often try to use only short vowel sounds to make all of the vowel sounds in English – which leads to errors and a breakdown in communication, because we rely on the vowel sounds to carry the meaning in a word or sentence.

There are eight short vowel sounds:

image-1-6-4-short-vowel-sounds

…five long vowel sounds:

image-1-6-5-long-vowel-sounds

…and ten diphthongs:

image-1-6-6-diphthongs

1.6.7  When pronounced on their own, all consonant sounds (including unvoiced) are followed by a schwa sound. This is called an embedded schwa sound. For example, the word doctor, which has a strong first syllable and a weak second syllable – with t + schwa sound – is represented like this: Do kt.

1.6.8  We need to use a phonetic alphabet like Clear Alphabet in the classroom to represent sounds, because most English words are not phonetic. This means that they sound different to how they look. For example, we write the word ‘daughter’ like this, but pronounce it  Dor t. There are several letters that are not pronounced. We don’t hear the letters ‘g’ or ‘h’ because the spelling pattern ‘augh’ represents the vowel sound  or, while the letter ‘r’ at the end is silent.

So we can use Clear Alphabet to learn about the difference between spelling and sound.

1.6.9 However, there are a few words which look like they sound, which makes Clear Alphabet rather unnecessary. They are phonetic words. For example:

image-1-6-7-phonetic-words-in-english

Note that we still need a capital letter at the beginning of the Clear Alphabet translation to show that this is a stressed syllable.Click the link to download a fuller list of phonetic words in English: phonetic-words-in-normal-english-spelling

Exercises:

Ex. 1.6.1 Reading  Match the Clear Alphabet translation of each word with the normal spelling:

image-1-6-8-clear-alphabet-translation-activity

Ex. 1.6.2 Writing  Write five words which contain each vowel sound. Underline the sounds:

image-1-6-9-vowel-sounds-writing-activity

Ex. 1.6.3 Writing  Write five words which contain each consonant sound. Underline the sounds:

image-1-6-10-consonant-sounds-writing-activity

Ex. 1.6.4 Writing  Write your first name in Clear Alphabet:

________________________________________________________

Now write the first names of four friends or family members:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

Ex. 1.6.5 Writing  Translate the following common words from Clear Aphabet:

  1. Twen tii _________________
  2. Num b _________________
  3. Jan y rii _________________
  4. Wun  _________________
  5. Se vn teen _________________
  6. Mun dei _________________
  7. Se vn  _________________
  8. Fi ftii _________________
  9. Mei _________________
  10. i Le vn _________________
  11. o Kteu b _________________
  12. Dei _________________
  13. Wen stei _________________
  14. Nain _________________
  15. March _________________
  16. TTree _________________
  17. Frai dei _________________
  18. Su m _________________
  19. di Sem b _________________
  20. Win t _________________

Ex. 1.6.6 Writing  Translate the following common words into Clear Aphabet:

  1. November _________________
  2. August _________________
  3. February _________________
  4. five  _________________
  5. Thursday _________________
  6. autumn _________________
  7. two _________________
  8. eighteen _________________
  9. Saturday _________________
  10. twelve _________________
  11. July _________________
  12. April _________________
  13. September _________________
  14. eight _________________
  15. Tuesday _________________
  16. forty _________________
  17. June _________________
  18. season _________________
  19. Sunday _________________
  20. month _________________

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