Hi, I’m Julie with San Diego Voice and Accent, and in this video you’ll learn how to link words together using the K consonant.
The K /k/ consonant
The K consonant is a stop consonant. This means that the airflow is stopped somewhere along the vocal tract - somewhere between the vocal cords and the lips. For the K consonant, the airflow is stopped in the back of the mouth, and specifically at the soft palate. This is where the back of the tongue makes contact when you say the K sound.
You probably learned to pronounce the K sound like this, /k/, /k/, /k/, with an audible puff of air that comes out as you say the sound as the back of the tongue releases from the soft palate. This can happen in a word like
Did you hear the /k/ sound at the end? That was made when my tongue released from the back of my mouth, and the airflow continued to come out.
However, the K consonant is not always fully released, especially when it comes at the end of a word and the next word begins with a consonant, and especially when it’s a stop consonant.
Linking with K /k/: Unreleased stop
In this case, two things can happen. First, the K sound can be unreleased. This means the back of the tongue makes contact with the soft palate, and then it stays there - there isn’t a release of the tongue. The tongue remains in that position, and then you would transition immediately to the next word.
Here’s what an unreleased K sounds like in the word backpack.
I’ll say it slowly so you can hear how the K sound is unreleased - my tongue remains pulled back and in contact with the soft palate as I transition to the P consonant in pack.
Linking with K /k/: Mini-released stop
The second thing that can happen is the K consonant may have a mini-release of the tongue. This means the tongue moves away from the soft palate at the end of the K sound, but just a little bit.
Here’s what a mini-released K consonant sounds like:
I’ll say it slowly so you can hear the mini-release:
I’ll demonstrate an unreleased K consonant, a mini-released K consonant, and a fully released K consonant. Listen closely to the K sound and see if you can hear the difference.
Either the unreleased K or the mini-released K would be acceptable for linking; but the fully released K is too much of a release, and it disrupts the fluency of the phrase.
How to link the K /k/ consonant to a vowel
I’ve discussed how to link with the K consonant when the next word or syllable begins with a consonant...but what if the next word begins with a vowel? Luckily, this type of linking is a little bit easier to imitate.
When one word ends in a K consonant, and the next word begins with a vowel, like in the phrase back up, native speakers usually take the K consonant and put it onto the beginning of the next word.
So the phrase back up is really said like “baa - cup”.
“baa - cup”
“baa - cup”
It’s not, back up with a mini-released K, it’s “baa-cup”, with the K sound placed at the beginning of the word up, and the K sound is released.
Linking with K /k/: Practice
Let’s practice linking words together using the K consonant, and in these examples, the next word will begin with either a consonant or a vowel. Remember that if the next word begins with a consonant, the K sound will be unreleased or have a mini-release. If the next word begins with a vowel, the K sound will be moved to the beginning of the next word.
I’ll say each phrase three times, and I want you to repeat in the pauses.
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I hope you enjoyed the video! Thanks 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!