The Story of Sounds: Episode 6. Discover /θ/ and /ʃ/ starting from /s/

In this episode we discover how /s/ lies between consonants /θ/ and /ʃ/ and that either can easily be approached from /s/

The story so far. In Episode 4 we saw how 11 of the 24 consonants are articulated from the 3 mouth positions for /m/ /n/ and /ŋ/  … and in Episode 5 we saw that a further 2 consonants (the infamous pair /l/ and /r/) can each be approached in one simple move starting from the sound /n/ which acts as a sort of transition between them.

And this brings to 13 the number of consonants that can be approached, discovered, or corrected with reference to one of /m/ /n/ and /ŋ/

As before it is important that you take a little time to do these journeys while you read. It is your insight that translates directly into your students’ insight.

Journey 1

  1. Take the position for /s/. This means prepare to say /s/ but don’t exhale any air. (Taking the position in this way and not activating the acoustic sound can show you more clearly what is going on in your mouth). Notice where the tip of your tongue is.
  2. OK, now exhale, letting the air pass between the tip of your tongue and the tooth ridge, so that you make the unvoiced sound /s/.
  3. Take enough breath to sustain the sound /s/ and very slowly slide the tip of your tongue back to the rear edge of the tooth ridge. At about the point where the tooth ridge seems to turn upwards and into the palate, while still letting air pass over the tip of the tongue in the same way, you should notice that the sound /s/ transforms in the sound /ʃ/
  4. Slide the tongue forward again to /s/ and then back again to /ʃ/. Toggle between the two sounds all the time noticing that the only difference you make is to slide the tongue forward a little or back a little.

 Journey 2

  1. Once again take the position for /s/.
  2. Then let the air pass of the tip of you tongue so you make the acoustic sound /s/.
  3. And now slide the tongue forward until it meets the lower edge of the upper front teeth. And if you continue to let the air gently pass between tongue tip and tooth edge, you should find the unvoiced sound /θ/
  4. Adjust it if necessary to get the sound /θ/ right, then slide the tongue back to /s/. Now alternate between the two sounds /θ/ and/s/, all the time noticing that all you are doing is to slide the tongue forward a little or back a little, so that that tip of the tongue engages the in a slightly different place.

Journey 3

  1. Finally, slide back and forth between the three sounds /θ/ /s/ and /ʃ/ noting the very small tongue movement that takes you between these three consonants. Relate the sensation of the tongue movement to the sound you hear.
  2. Keep trying this out as you walk along the street, and if you get funny looks from people, just direct them to this blog.

Only by sensing your muscles, by knowing from the inside how you make all the sounds in your own mouth, can you be fully versatile and fluent in the way you guide your students around this territory. This is the importance of working with pronunciation as a physical activity.

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