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AA vs. EH Sounds

Today I want to compare the ‘aa’ as ‘bat’ and ‘eh’ as in ‘bed’ vowels. There are a few differences in the mouth and tongue position. First, the corners of the mouth: aa: they are raised a little higher than on eh. Aa, eh. and this is due to the pulling up of the mouth here. The second change is in the jaw position. The jaw is more dropped on the aa, aa, and it’s sort of more of a back and down: aa. On the eh, it is dropped but in a more relaxed manner, just straight down. Eh, aa. The third change is with the tongue. I find this the hardest to describe because I can’t actually see what is happening beyond what I can see through my open mouth. Aa, eh. And as you can see through the open mouth, there is a bit more relaxation in the eh The aa: you see more of the tongue as a wall. And the way that I would describe the difference, is in the aa, aa, it — from the root of the tongue it seems to lift out of the throat more before it comes down and forward. Aa, aa, eh, eh. And the eh is more relaxed than that. It’s not doing this raising up out of the throat.

Here, you can see a comparison of the aa and eh sounds. As you will notice, on the aa on the left, the jaw is a bit more dropped. Also, it is difficult to see, but the mouth is pulling in this direction. This comparison comes from speaking an entire sentence, in other words, I was not just saying the sound itself. I choose this because it illustrates better the lifting of the top lip. As you can see, there is more of the top teeth showing because of this raise. Here, you see the sounds in profile If you look at the corner of the mouth, you can see that in the aa, there is more of a gap back where the lips meet than in the eh, where the jaw has a more relaxed dropping. As you can also see, this results in the jaw dropping more. There is a larger gap between the top teeth and the bottom lip in the aa as in bat. Here, the white arrows illustrate the movement of the corners of the mouth.

Eh, aa. Bed. Bat. I’m going to bed. He was at bat. Some sample word pairs: bad/bed. Lad/lead. Dad/dead. Japanese/jeopardy.

[æ] ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’

The ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’ vowel sound. To make this sound, the tongue stretches up in the back, aa, towards the soft palate and roof of the mouth, aa. The front of the tongue stretches forward and presses here behind the bottom front teeth, aa. And the tongue sort of flattens wide, aa, aa. Because the tongue is raising and then coming forward, you can see a lot of tongue, aa. This is different from the ‘ah’ as in ‘father’ vowel, for example, ah, where the tongue is pressing down and you see more dark space in the mouth. Ah, aa. You can also note the corners of the mouth are pulling back a little, aa, exposing some of those top teeth, aa.

Here is the ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’ vowel sound on the right compared with the mouth at rest on the left. Here the inside parts of the mouth are drawn in. Notice that, as with all vowels, the soft palate is raised. But more importantly, note the difference in tongue position. In the ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’ vowel, the tongue is raised and pulled up in the back, towards the throat and soft palate. However the front of the tongue is still touching behind the front bottom teeth. Sample words: habit, apple, blast, that. Sample sentence: The master gardener now, sadly, has a bad back. Now you’ll see this sentence up close and in slow motion, both straight on and from an angle, so you can really study how the mouth moves when making this sound.

The, tongue comes through the teeth for the TH. Lips together for the M, and here is the ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’, ma-, you can see the top lip a little raised. Rr, the R sound, the master gardener, the ‘ah’ as in ‘father’ mixed in with the R. Gardener. Tongue up to make the N. Now, with the ‘ow’ as in ‘now’ diphthong. Sadly, teeth together to make the S. And here is another ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’ sound. Sa-, the jaw drops, you can see the top teeth, the lips is a little pulled up for it. Tongue up for the D, and down, ‘ee’ as in ‘she’, sadly. Has, another ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’, you can see the tongue is spread very wide in the back. A bad, lips together for the B, another ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’. You can see again the top lip is pulled a little bit. Back. Again, the ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’ sound. Here from an angle:

The, tongue tip through the teeth for the TH. Master, lips together for the M. Here is the ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’, see the tongue is raised more in the back. Master, the R consonant shape. Gardener, ‘ah’ as in ‘father’ mixed with the R consonant sound. Tongue tip up for the D and the N. Now, tongue comes down from the N into the ‘ow’ as in ‘now’ diphthong. Sadly, teeth together for the S. And here is another ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’ sound. The tongue tip down by the bottom teeth, raised in the back. Tongue tip up for the L. Sadly, pulled wide for the ‘ee’ as in ‘she’. Has, another ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’ sound. A, the schwa, bad, lips together for the B, the ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’, you can see the tongue is really stretched from forward to back. Back, again, the stretched tongue raised in the back. Then it raises more in the back and touches there to make the kk consonant sound. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.

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