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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sound-symbol correspondence: O

One of the most frustrating things about English is the weak relationship between spelling and pronunciation. At the request of some students, I'm going to go through some of the patterns. Today I'll explain "o" pronunciation in single-syllable words (音節が一つ "o" 母音). "O" has many patterns and also many exceptions:

#1. In oC and CoC words: "o" = [a]
C = 子音
Examples: on, ox, got, hot, lot, snot, bomb

These words are some of the most common "o" pronunciation mistakes.

Exceptions happen when the final sound is made with the lips (p, b, f, v, n, and m). In these cases "o" = [u]

  • In "tomb" and "womb," "o" = [u]
  • In "move," "o" = [u] but in "love," "o" = [ə]
  • A further exception is "comb," "o" = [o]

#2. In CooPBFVNM, words: "o" = [u]
C = 子音
Examples: poop, boob, poof, soon, boom, woof, proove, 

"Groove" doesn't fit the pattern exactly, but same principle applies: when you have a labial (lip) consonant at the end of the word, "o" = [u]

#3. In CoCe words: "o" = [o]
C = 子音
Examples: Cole, Dole, nope, stole, vote, dote, grove

#4. In CoaC words: "o" = [o]
C = 子音
Examples: goat, moat, groat, boat

#5. In Cood, Cook, and Could words: "o" = [ʊ]

C = 子音
Examples: good, stood, book, took, could, should

The ʊ vowel is pronounced like [u], but with flat lips.

#6. In Co, CoE and CoW words: "o" = [o]
C = 子音
Examples: bow, fro, go, hoe, mow, so, grow, tow, toe

There are exceptions though:

  • "to," "two," and "too" are all pronounced [tu]

#7. Some CoW words: "o" = [au]
This is a diphthong (二重母音)

Examples: ow, growl, fowl, plow

It can be confusing:

  • Like rule #6, "bow" is [bo] if it's a weapon (noun)
  • Like rule #7, "bow" is [bau] if it's an action (verb)
#8. In CoY and CoiC words, "oy" = [oi]
Examples: boy, coy, foil, moil, toy

I will probably have to come back and edit this, but I think it's pretty complete as it is.