10:31 am

What is word linking in English pronunciation?

Word Linking is how we join the words together to speak FASTER, MORE NATURAL and MORE FLUENT.
If English is not your mother tongue, you are probably not doing word linking. If you do not join the words together when you speak, you can't follow native speakers' speed and THEY can't follow your line of thought. Native speakers (not only of English) process the language in big chunks and could lose concentration when the sentence sounds broken or incoherent.
In order for you to produce a stream of English sounds, you must understand and apply 3 speech patterns as follows:

  1. Linking Consonant To Vowel (CTV)
  2. Linking Consonant To Consonant (CTC)
  3. Linking Vowel To Vowel (VTV)

1-Word Linking: Consonant To Vowel (CTV)

It is the most frequently recurring word linking pattern in English. Attention teachers! That is a very important detail to remember especially when you are teaching English to Asian students as most Asian languages, such as Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese etc, contain very few or no words ending with consonants and therefore the process of linking a consonant to a vowel is very unfamiliar, hence difficult for most of them. Let us look at some examples shall we?

Example 1
1st WordConsonantToVowel2nd Word
Wake/k//ʌ/up

Explanation:
Say [way cup] and you will be saying [wake up]

Example 2
1st WordConsonantToVowel2nd Word
Stop/p//iː/eating

Explanation:
Say [sto peating] and you will be saying [stop eating]

Example 3
1st WordConsonantToVowel2nd Word
that's/s//ɪ/it

Explanation:
Say [That sit] and you will be saying [That's it]

2-Word Linking: Consonant To Consonant (CTC)

If CTV is the most common word linking pattern in spoken English, CTC is the most difficult to apply as it involves loads of details and presents a number of exceptions.

Example 1
1st WordConsonantToSame Consonant2nd Word
stop/p//p/playing

Explanation:
Say 1 longer /p/(by longer I mean keep your lips closed for a little longer before starting the 2nd word). That is known as the "hold" in phonetics. Like /t/,/k/,/b/,/d/ and /g/, /p/ is a plosive. By compressing the air and preventing it from coming out, we are "holding" it in, and in Example 1, we "hold" it in for a little longer before we release the air for [playing].

Example 2
1st WordConsonantToSimilar Consonant2nd Word
move/v//f/forward

Explanation:
Say /f/ longer (by longer I mean release more air from the gap between your lower lip and upper teeth). The /v/ undergoes "assimilation" here, in that it assimilates into the /f/. Since both consonants are both produced by moving the lower lip against the upper teeth (they are known as Labiodentals - Labio=lips & dental=teeth)

Example 3
1st WordConsonant /t/ or /d/ToConsonant /ð/2nd Word
getsaid/t/ or /d//ð/that

Explanation:
Before consonant /ð/, pronounce the /t/ by sticking your tongue tip slightly between your teeth and by blocking the air with your teeth and then releasing it. As a result of that process, consonant /ð/ after /t/ should sound a little similar to /d/. As it is impractical to pronounce the /t/ as ordinary by placing the tongue tip against the ridge (the bony part behind your upper teeth) when succeeded by /ð/, the /t/ assimilates into /ð/ which in turns gets affected by /t/. This means that when /t/ or /d/ are in opposition to /ð/, neither of the consonants sound exactly the same as they are "coarticulated".

Example 4
1st WordConsonant /n/ToConsonant /ð/2nd Word
on/n//ð/the

Explanation:
Before consonant /ð/, pronounce the /n/ by sticking your tongue tip between your teeth slightly and by pushing the air out through your nose. Consonant /ð/ after /n/ should sound similar to /n/. See the explanation of Example 3.

Example 5
1st WordConsonant /t/ToMost consonants2nd Word
get/t//g/going

Explanation:
Commonly, before consonants /p/,/b/, /k/, /g/, /r/, /m/ and /w/, consonant /t/ either becomes a glottal stop /ʔ/ or simply assimilates into the consonants succeeding it. For example, [get going] sounds like [geggoing] or [ge(/ʔ/) going] [fat brother] sounds like [fabbrother] or [fa(/ʔ/) brother], [white cake] sounds like [whiccake] or [whi/ʔ/ cake]. When producing a glottal stop, no tongue movement is necessary. What is very common in American English though is to bring the tongue tip up against the gum behind their upper teeth not to produce a consonant but rather to abruptly end the vowel preceding it and by doing that produce a glottal stop effect. Just so that you can visualize the sound, the glottal stop is similar to the reflex sound we would make if someone poked us in the stomach when not expecting.

Example 6
1st WordMost consonantsToConsonant /h/ especially
in pronouns [he],[her],[him],[her] etc
2nd Word
hate/t̬//h/him

Explanation:
After most consonants, some native speakers omit /h/ in pronouns such as [her],[him],[he] etc. That means the consonants preceding the /h/ can directly be linked to the vowel in the aforementioned pronouns, which often changes into a schwa sound. (When the vowel in pronouns [her] [him] or [his] etc is pronounced as a schwa, it means they are pronounced in their WEAK FORM). The process above called "elision".

Example 7
1st WordMost consonantsToConsonant /ð/ especially
in pronoun [them]
2nd Word
love/v//ð/them

Explanation:
After most consonants, some native speakers omit /ð/ in [them]. That means the consonants preceding consonant /ð/ can directly be linked to the vowel in [them], which usually changes into a schwa sound. See the explanation of Example 6.

Example 8
1st WordConsonant /t/ or /d/ToConsonant /j/2nd Word
next
could
/t/ or /d//j/year
you

Explanation:
When consonant /j/ comes after /t/ or /d/, some native speakers produce /tʃ/ or /dʒ/. That is known as "coalescent assimilation" or Yod coalescent in phonetics.

3-Word Linking: Vowel To Vowel (VTV)

This pattern involves linking the words ending with a vowel to those that also begin with one.

Example 1
1st WordVowelTo
Linking with /j/
Vowel2nd Word
I/aɪ//ʌ/understand

Explanation:
When vowels /aɪ/, /eɪ/, /ɔɪ/ or /iː/ come before any other vowel, native speakers link them to the vowels succeeding them with consonant /j/. For example, [we eat] sounds like [we yeat] and [boy and girls] sounds like [bo yan girls] etc.

Example 2
1st WordVowelTo
Linking with /w/
Vowel2nd Word
so/oʊ//æ/angry

Explanation:
When vowels /uː/ or /oʊ/ come before any other vowel, native speakers link them using consonant /w/. For example, [you are] sounds like [you ware] and [who is it] sounds like [who wiz it] etc.

Example1
wake up
1st WordConsonantToVowel2nd Word
Wake/k/ /ʌ/up