ToC P 1 2 3 4 M

Art of Cueing: Segment Three

Three more handshapes are introduced in this segment, adding nine more consonants to your repertoire. The difference between /w/ and /wh/, liasons (cue blends across words), and some variations on the sound /t/ are also discussed.

Handshape 6 /w l sh/ "Welsh"

The thumb and forefinger are extened for handshape 6. The thumb should be straight up and in the plane of the hand, as if your hand were flat on a table. Handshape 6 is for /w/ as in way, quick, and swell. A fun fact about /w/ is that it can not occur at the end of a syllable in English. In spelling, w's at the ends of syllables usually indicate a diphthong, cow is /k ou/ not /k ah w/. /l/ is the second sound associated with handshape 6; it occurs in the words love, tell, and collar. Sometimes /l/ is called a semi-vowel because it often functions like a vowel in syllables. For example, little is usually said /l i t l/ rather than /l i t uh l/. The final phoneme for handshape 6 is /sh/ as in the words shell, wash, and ration. Practice words:
well wall will wool woe
shell shawl shill wish show
let left little look almost
school wrestle shuttle washer shrill

Handshape 4 /b wh n/ "by when"

Handshape 4 has all four fingers extended and touching, while the thumb is tucked across the palm, out of sight. The sound /b/ is in the words beam, able, and tab while /n/ is in the words nice, inner, and tan. /wh/ needs some explanation.
Languages and their pronounciations evolve over time. For example, knight is spelled with a k because it used to be pronounced /k n ie t/. /wh/ is a phoneme that is currently disappearing from American English; it's gradually being replaced by /w/. If you pronounce which and witch or whether and weather differently, /wh/ is the consonant at the beginning of the first word in each pair. It can be difficult to hear the difference between /wh/ and /w/, especially if there is any background noise. Another way to determine which phoneme you use is to hold your fingers in front of your lips as you say why slowly. /wh/ is aspirated, meaning there will a strong, steady stream of air coming through your lips before your vocal cords begin to vibrate. If you're using /w/, you will feel little or no air stream. Try cueing:
bye ban bet rebel tub
night nab net button can
white whistle when wheel whale
ribbon brain what whirl basin
Shelby's snores annoy everyone. But when he really rattles
the masonry I want to stuff a mitten in his nose. He ought
to move into the barn where the cows stay. Still, until he
hears himself, I sense he will say I whine too often. Only
a fool or boor ruins a romance over nighttime tuneless tones.


A liason occurs when the consonant ending one word and the vowel beginning the next word are combined into one cue. For example, Look at it is cued loo+ka+ti+t:
/l oo/ /k a/ /t i/ /t/
Although cueing liasons require extra thought, there are two advantages: liasons capture the run-on nature of speech and they reduce hand motion allowing (eventually) faster cueing. Practice these short phrases:
get out look at me Sam I am
little ant ride over seven eight
do not enter red and blue it isn't awful
mares eat oats cut it out that's a nice apple

Handshape 1 /d p zh/ "deep azure"

Handshape 1 has only the index finger extended, as if you were pointing at someone. It is used for the phonemes /d/ as in dome, tied, and sadder; /p/ as in pit, zipper, and ape; and /zh/ as treasure, Asia, illusion, and barrage. In English, /zh/ only begins words and names that have been borrowed from foreign languages such as genre /zh ah n r uh/, gendarme /zh ah n d ah r m/, Zsa-Zsa /zh ah zh ah/ and Jacque /zh ah k/. For practice:
dad did dome duck kid
pad pop puppy apple up
beige rouge vision amnesia collision
daughter pestered drip pedal cashmere
Offbeat breweries have popped up everywhere. Their taps, from
Asia to Poughkeepsie serve draught, soda and mead. Soup, pasta,
apple pie and a pint will perfectly please pretty lasses and
doughty lads alike. These pleasures await anyone today, so drift
down to a local pub and pour one for me.

/t/ vs. /d/

The phoneme /t/ can sound quite different depending on its phonetic context (the surrounding sounds). At the beginning of words like tip or tatter, the phone corresponding to /t/ is aspirated; there is a little extra burst of air as the the tongue moves down but before the vocal cords start vibrating for the vowel. Contrast this with the phone for /t/ at the ends of words like bet and mat. In this context, one can optionally not release the /t/; you may clamp off the air flow with your tongue as usual or you may (especially in a sentence) clamp off the air flow in the back of your throat without moving your tongue at all, but in either case -- the air flow never resumes (at least until the next word is spoken). When the /t/ phoneme occurs between two vowels, as in liter, matter, mutter, is produced with a "flap": your tongue only briefly touches the ridge behind your teeth enroute to the next vowel without giving your vocal cords a chance to stop completely. It sounds like /d/ but is still cued as a /t/. Beginners rarely find this rule difficult; it only after you become sensitized to your speech that you begin to wonder. You might convince yourself that it really is a /t/ phoneme and not a /d/ phoneme by speaking the word slowly and clearly using one of the other phones for /t/. A listener should still correctly identify the /t/ word rather than its countpart with /d/, liter rather than leader, for example.


ToC P 1 2 3 4 M

© 1998-2001 J. Frisbie