ToC P 1 2 3 4 M

Art of Cueing: Segment Two

In this segment you will learn a special rule for cueing unstressed /ee/ phonemes. The remaining vowel placements and one more handshape covering four consonants will be covered. You'll also see how the consonant /r/ can "color" nearby vowels.

/ee/ vs. /i/

In the last segment you learned to cue the /ee/ phoneme at the mouth placement, but Cued Speech has a special rule: /ee/'s that occur in unstressed syllables are cued at the throat placement. To help you remember, in all of our transcriptions we've used the symbol /i/, which is cued at the throat, to represent the sound at the end of words like lately. Don't change the way you say the words, just cue unstressed /ee/'s at the throat. Even though they are not pronounced the same way, swift lit upper and swiftly tupper should be cued identically: /s w i f t l i t u p ur/. Here are some practice words:
cookie /k oo k i/ Mary /m a r i/
eighty /ay t i/ likelihood /l ie k l i h oo d/
deviate /d ee v i ay t/ oceanic /o sh i a n i c/
Jeanie /j ee n i/ appropriate /uh p r o p r i i t/
We've highlighted the /i/'s corresponding to the unstressed /ee/'s. You haven't learned the cues for all these words, so you may want to return to this chart later. The important thing is know that unstressed /ee/'s should be cued the throat.

The Side Placement: /uh oe ah/ "aloha"

The side placement is somewhat tricky because there is nothing to touch to give you feedback that you're in the right place. Nevertheless, you must reliably reach the same spot each time you go to the side placement: four inches to the side from the center of your chin tip and in the same plane as your face. The side vowels are unique in that their cues also involve little motions to further distinguish between similar appearing vowels. /uh/ as in about, cut, and sofa involves a downward motion of about half an inch after the side position has been established. /oe/ as in moan, toe, and beau, and /ah/ as is father, progress, and heart, both have a forward motion of about one inch following the establishment of the side position.

The handshape for the preceeding consonant must be present when the side position is reached and held during the downward or forward motion. The hand moves directly to the following placement for the next CV, the handshape changing enroute. For example father is cued:

/f.. ..ah TH ur/
Note that the hand moves directly from the side-forward placement to the mouth placement. In sofa, the second syllable is also cued at the side:
/s.. ..oe f.. ..uh/
Cueing begins with handshape three at the side; the hand moves forward about one inch; the hand moves back to the side position changing enroute to handshape five. Once the side position is reached, the hand moves down half an inch. The hand does not come back up. Here are words to cue:
hoe hut hot Momma mutter
soe rut rot so-so fussy
tow Tut Tom roast ha-ha
Moe mutt Mom oat from

/r/ Colored Vowels

We've already seen how the consonant /r/ can affect the pronuciation of a preceeding /e/ as in air, /e r/. The effect, called /r/ coloring, also alters other vowels sometimes making them more difficult to identify. In the author's dialect, syllables that rhyme with are, car, bar, etc. have the /ah/ vowel with a following /r/ and so would be cued /ah r/ (open hand side forward, then back to handshape 3 at the side or 5s-f 3s for short). Similarly /k ah r/ would be cued: handshape 5 side-forward, handshape 3 back at the side (5s-f 3s), and /b ah r/: 4s-f 3s. In other dialects, the words might instead contain the vowel /aw/ and then would be cued: /aw r/ handshape 5 at the chin, handshape 3 at the side (5c 3s); /k aw r/ 2c 3s; and /b aw r/ 4c 3s. It can be very difficult to identify the vowel. Say the word stopping just before you start to move your tongue for the /r/. Are your lips tensing to become more rounded? If so, it's an /aw/.

Words like four, war, tore, and orbit also have vowels that are colored by the following /r/. In the author's dialect, these vowels are all /oe/ and so are cued side-forward. In other dialects, the vowel in these words is /aw/. Again you must listen very carefully and cue what you say. Sometimes it can help to have someone else listen and tell you what vowel they hear. (This sort of feedback is an excellent reason for attending a cueing class or workshop periodically).

In almost all dialects, the vowel in words like gear, beer, fear and here is an /i/ rather than an /ee/. Try saying /g ee r/. You can't really do it; it comes out /g ee ur/ -- two syllables. Now try /g i r/. It works as long as you transition beween the /i/ and /r/ without stopping your vocal cords. So unless you pronounce these words with two syllables, you should cue the vowel at the throat. Note that this has nothing to do with the unstressed /ee/ rule; all these words have a single syllable which must, therefore, be stressed. Practice cueing:

hair heart seer more stir
fair far mere store farmer
tear tarry eerie fort Moor
merry harm fear storm fairy

Handshape 2 /TH k v z/ "the caves"

In handshape 2, the index and middle fingers are extended and the thumb loosely holds back the the ring and pinkie fingers. The middle finger is the pointer finger. This handshape represents the consonants /TH/ as in that, /k/ as in cat, /v/ as in visit and /z/ as in zipper.

Be careful: in English, there are two sounds associated with the spelling T-H, one is voiced and the other is unvoiced. Handshape 2 is for the voiced T-H which occurs at the beginning of the words this, that, those, then, therefore, and thus. If you put your hand on your throat while you say these words, you can feel your vocal cords vibrating. Compare with the words thick, thin, thespian, therapy, thought, and thank. These begin with the unvoiced T-H; your vocal cords don't vibrate until you reach the vowel.

The /z/ phoneme occurs more frequently than you might think. Although most plurals in English are spelled with an S at the end, the corresponding phoneme is more often than not a /z/. Consider: toys /t oi z/, crews (or cruise) /k r ue z/, rams /r a m z/, fees /f ee z/, hisses, and /h i s i z/ (or /h i s uh z/). The /z/ phoneme is often spelled S within words too: tease /t ee z/, Tuesday, /t ue z d ay/, easy /ee z i/, his /h i z/ and hers /h ur z/. Now cue:

seethe other these rather the
coat tacky comb wreck stuck
vat move ever cover Steve
zest eaves tummies misses zoo
The scarecrow is from Oz. He has straw-stuffed smarts. To scare
crows, as he must, is tough though. It's rare for him to scare
over four. Toto scares more! The two of them are crow crazy. Or
is that cuckoo for crows? The fierce crows, of course, are very
calm. The fruit trees suffer the most, or so it seems to me.

Chin-Throat Diphthongs /oi ay/ "oy vay"

Diphthongs are combinations of two vowel sounds. The so-called "long-A", /ay/, for example, is actually /e/ that transitions into an /ee/. Cueing reflects this blending by presenting two cues in sequence. say is cued with handshape 3 at the chin, the same cue as /s e/, followed by handshape 5 at the throat, the cue for an unstressed /ee/ with no preceeding consonant. All the diphthongs in American English end with either an unstressed /ee/ or an /oo/ which are both cued at the throat. Diphthongs can be thought of as complex vowels that are cued by moving from the consonant's handshape at either the side or chin placement to the open handshape (5) at the throat. The chin-throat diphthongs are /oi/ which occurs in toy, moist and oyster, and /ay/ which occurs in may, sleigh and taste Cue these diphthongs at the chin placement and move to the throat while opening your hand. For practice:
Roy soy sauce coy voice hoist
say aim take safe haven
trace stay eighty-eight mate tame
cases race Fay Wray tasty haste

Side-Throat Diphthongs /ie ou/ "time out"

/ie/, as in height, my, and sire, and /ou/, as in trout, cow and tower, are also diphthongs. They are blends between vowels cued at the side and vowels cued at the throat and so are cued at the the side with consonant's handshape and then at the throat with the open handshape. Be sure to establish the side position crisply with the handshape appropriate for the initial consonant (if there is one) before opening your hand en route to your throat placement. Here are some practice words:
I'm mice hi fight rhyme
timer cry eyes strive arrive
our mouse how vows thou
outer cower roust arouses sour
Fame thus far has missed my favorite movie star -- me. I've
caught scouts eyes eight times! My voice cries out for raves.
Surveys say my face causes strife. Four out of five fight
survivors sigh over my curvy frame. My coy outfits are sights
to see. So how come I'm outcast, my fate to stay at home?


ToC P 1 2 3 4 M

© 1998-2001 J. Frisbie