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11.14: The Sound [r] and the VCC Pattern

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

The Sound [r] and the VCC Pattern

1. In the VCV pattern, the first vowel will usually be long; but in the VCC pattern,the vowel will usually be short.

Vowels before [r] are often pronounced differently from the way they are pronounced in front of other consonant sounds. This difference is most noticeable in VCV words in which the consonant is [r] spelled <r>. For instance, the <\mathrm{a}> in dare spells a sound quite different from that spelled by the <a> in words like date, dame, and dale. In dare the <\mathrm{a}> spells a sound close to [e].

There is variation, too, in VCC strings in which the CC is <rr>. For instance, in some people's pronunciation the words merry and marry sound exactly alike, but in other people's pronounciation they sound different from one another.

2. Here are some words with <rr> in VCC patterns. Read them and pronounce them.Listen carefully to see if you can hear which short vowel is right in front of the [r].Sometimes it can be a bit hard to decide, so don't be too discouraged if you have a little trouble with it. The spelling is a major clue:

& \text{narrow} && \text{marriage} && \text{merry} && \text{mirror} \\& \text{sorrow} && \text{error} && \text{carriage} && \text{terrible} \\& \text{sorry} && \text{borrow} && \text{carry} && \text{territory} \\& \text{marry} && \text{terrify} && \text{raspberry} && \text{arrow} \\& \text{terrace} && \text{narrative} && \text{horrible} && \text{cherry} \\& \text{tomorrow} && \text{sparrow} && \text{barrel} && \text{errand}

3. Sort the words into these four groups:

Words with <rr> following a ...
short <\mathrm{a}>, [a] short <e>, [e]
narrow carriage terrace terrible
marry carry error territory
marriage barrel terrify cherry
narrative arrow merry errand
sparrow raspberry
Words with <rr> following a ...
short <\mathrm{i}>, [i] short<o>, [o]
mirror sorrow tomorrow horrible
sorry borrow

4. About 99 \;\mathrm{times} out of a hundred [r] is spelled either <r> or <rr>. Most of the time [r] is spelled either <r> or <rr> .

5. You have worked with four different things that sometimes lead to <rr> in a word. The first one is simple addition. What are the other three?

& assimilation && twinning && VCC

Teaching Notes. You may decide not to assign this lesson, since it can be a difficult exercise, for both teacher and students: The vowel sounds can be hard to distinguish because of the coloring produced by the following [r]. Also, there are considerable differences from one dialect to another. The spellings are a clue here: Usually words spelled with <e> have an [e], those spelled with <\mathrm{a}> have [a], and so on. But if trouble breaks out, it may be a good time to get out the dictionaries and have a lesson on the reading of the pronunciations in whichever dictionary you have in your classroom. The sorting in this lesson is based on the pronunciations given the the American Heritage Dictionary, but not all dictionaries agree all of the time. This is clearly a lesson that deals with tendencies rather than clearcut distinctions.

Dictionaries quite consistently give [ar], [er], and [ir] for <arr>, <err>, and <irr>, which is probably a case of the editors letting the spelling simplify things for them. Dictionaries show more variation in <orr>, though the two sounds that vary are two that we have collapsed into the single sound we call short <o>. There also is some variation in words with <urr>, such as hurry. For more on vowels before [r], see AES, pp. 307-26.

The main thing, I believe, is to be aware that students will differ in what they say and hear. So the groupings in Item 3 may look somewhat different from those given above.

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