Free Sounds Guidebook

How to Pronounce the OR /ɔɹ/ Vowel


(Video Transcript)


The OR vowel

The OR /ɔɹ/ vowel is in the words door, your, and order. OR.  I just described the OR sound as a vowel. You may be thinking - there’s an R in that vowel - isn’t the R sound a consonant? Well...the R sound is both a consonant and vowel, depending on where it occurs in the word. I discussed this concept in a previous video called An Introduction to R-colored Vowels, and if you want more background information about the R-colored vowels, I recommend that you watch that video first. 


You should feel movement in your articulators as you say OR. OORRRR. Because the OR vowel is made up of two sounds: the AW /ɔ/ vowel plus the R /ɹ/ sound. OR.  OORRRRRR. OR.


But when I say the OR vowel, the first part, the AW vowel, doesn’t sound like the AW vowel at all. AW. OR. AW. OR. This is because the R sound influences the way the AW vowel is pronounced. This is why these vowels are called R-colored vowels - because the R sound influences the vowel sound. You don’t need to worry too much about why this happens - just focus on the correct pronunciation of the OR vowel, and it will sound correct.


Let’s take a closer look at the OR vowel by itself and in the word door.


How to make the OR vowel

To make the OR vowel, the lips are rounded into a tight circle. The jaw is in mid position, and the tongue is low and pulled back into the mouth. Then as you progress to the second part of the vowel, the lips remain rounded but they relax just a bit, and the tongue moves up into a wide shape. The sides of the tongue push against the inside of the upper back teeth or along the upper gum line. The tongue tip is neutral - it doesn’t point up or down - it points straight out. And this is important - the tongue tip doesn’t touch anything in the mouth. 


Now let’s see the OR vowel in a word like door. Notice the tight lip rounding for the first part of the vowel. You can’t see the tongue, but it is low and pulled back. Then as for the second part of the vowel, the lips remain rounded, but they relax a bit. The tongue remains back in the mouth but it moves up, and the sides of the tongue push against the inside of the upper back teeth or along the upper gum line. 


Stressed OR vs. unstressed OR

When OR is in a stressed syllable, the pitch of the voice glides up and then down. OR. Door. OR. But in an unstressed syllable, the pitch of the voice is flatter, and the vowel is said faster. OR. This is common in American English. Unstressed syllables are said faster and at a lower pitch and volume than stressed syllables. The OR vowel is unstressed in a word like encore.


The pictures on the top are the stressed OR vowel in the word door. And the pictures on the bottom are the unstressed OR vowel in the word encore. The lip placement is very similar, but the unstressed OR vowel has a little less tension, a little less rounding than the stressed position. 


Stressed OR. Door. Or. Unstressed OR. Encore. OR.

Practice words and sentences: OR vowel

Here are some practice words and sentences.

Boring. OR. Boring.

This movie is boring - turn it off!

Blackboard. OR. Blackboard.

The teacher wrote on the blackboard.

Explore. OR. Explore.

I love to explore new places.

Born. OR. Born.

I was born in California.

Downpour. OR. Downpour.

We got soaked in the downpour.

Order. OR. Order.

Place your order at the counter.

Thanks so much for watching! And I'd love to hear from you - contact me to learn how we can work together to perfect your American English pronunciation!

Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent

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