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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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!