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Pronunciation help in dictionaries

How can a dictionary help you speak? A dictionary has all the information you need to help you learn how to say a word correctly.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

We have thought about the meaning of words and meaning in context; now we need to think about how we pronounce them.

Look at the dictionary entry below. Which parts do you think can help you understand how to say a word?

The dictionary entry includes the following parts: headword, what type of word it is, the definition, an audio clip of how the word is pronounced and the phonemic transcript.

Annotated dictionary entryAnnotated dictionary entry (Click to expand)

A dictionary has all the information you need to understand the meaning of a word, but it also has all the information you need to say a word correctly and make yourself understood.

You need three things to start with:

Firstly you need the word you want to learn, secondly you need the phonemic transcript and thirdly you need the phonemic chart to help you understand the phonemic transcript.

Three things to help you pronounce a new wordThree things to help you pronounce a new word (Click to expand)

Why is this information important?

In some languages, each letter only has one sound, so it is easy to read a word and understand how you should say it. However, in English, it is not so simple. Letters in the English alphabet can have lots of different sounds and it is impossible to understand how to say a word simply by reading it.

Also, words in English are often spelt very differently from how they are said. This can be confusing and can make it difficult for people to understand you if you are trying to say a word in the same way that it is spelt.

For example, think about how you would say the words in bold in the following sentences:

A. I love to read books
B. Yesterday I read a book

You can see that the infinitive verb ‘read’ (A) is spelt in exactly the same way as the past tense of the verb ‘read’ (B). However, these two words are said in very different ways. This means it is impossible to know how to say both of these words correctly without more information.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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English for Academic Study

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