Value On The Vowel

Value On The Vowel

Speaking can be dynamic when we learn some simple tricks of the trade. Say vowels, for example.

Have you thought much about the VALUE of a vowel versus the value of a consonant? Well, I have. I have thought about it a lot over the past 25 years and I’ll tell you why.

When we emphasize a word in English, we do it by holding the stressed syllable. And, what makes a syllable a syllable is the utterance of a VOWEL sound. That’s why the vowel has more value than the consonant.

Does that make sense to you?

Here are some examples:

  1. When we say the word member, there are two syllables. There is mem and there is ber. The first syllable is stressed, so we get MEM-ber. And to emphasize it, we elongate the vowel in the first syllable while adding a bit of volume and a bunch of melody. So we say MEEEEEM-ber. We don’t hold the second m and say MEMMMMM-ber. It’s not as warm and open, nor is it as easy to recognize in speech. Try saying it both ways.
  2. Here is another word you can try. Settle. Do you know why it is impossible to hold the letter t? Because it is a plosive sound. It explodes. It is not like the m in the previous example which is a continuant. Try holding the t. Can you do it? Uh-uh. So, HOLD the vowel. SEEEEET-tle. See how good it feels?
  3. The final example I’ll give you is a word that has multiple syllables. In this case, there is a primary and secondary stress. The vowel of the primary stress will have the longest value and the vowel of the secondary stress will get some attention too. Check it out: Simplification. Hold the first and fourth syllables with the longest emphasis on the fourth syllable: SIIIM-pli-fi-CAAAAA-tion.

To wrap it up, just think V-ot-V: Value on the Vowel. Hold the vowel sound and while you are there add a little volume and some intonation to really make your syllable pop!