Linking with Nasal Consonants

Jun 16, 2021

Linking with Nasal Consonants

6/16/2021

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(Video Transcript)

Hi, I’m Julie from San Diego Voice and Accent, and today I’m going to talk about how to link words together using the nasal consonants.

 

If you want to sound smooth and natural when you speak English, you need to perfect your linking skills. Linking refers to the connections between words and syllables in spoken English. 

 

And in English, linking happens as often as it can. As soon as two words, or two syllables, come up next to each other, it’s almost like they become one big word. This helps English to sound smooth, fluid, and connected.

 

I’ve talked about linking in prior videos, so if you’re new to the concept of linking, please review my earlier videos so you can learn more about it.

 

In this video, I'm going to discuss how to link words together using the nasal consonants M, N, and NG.

 

Linking with nasal consonants

There are two types of linking situations that can occur with the nasal consonants. One situation is linking a word that ends with a nasal consonant to a word that begins a vowel, such as the phrases in a house or running around

 

The next situation is linking a word that ends with a nasal consonant to a word that begins with a consonant, such as the phrases time to go and ham sandwich

 

Let’s talk about consonant to vowel linking first.

 

Consonant to vowel linking: N and M consonants

I’m going to say the phrase in a house slowly, but I’ll maintain the linking that occurs between the words. Listen carefully to the N in the word in

 

In a house

In a house

 

It’s almost like the N in the word in moved over to the beginning of the next word, a. Listen again:

 

In a house

In a house

 

That’s exactly what happened! The N in the word in moved over to the beginning of the next word. So the words in a sounded like one word, inna

 

In a 

In a

In a house

 

This also happens with the M consonant, such as:

 

The time is now.

 

Time is now

 

Time is now

 

The words time and is merged into one word, timeis

 

Time is

Time is

Time is now

 

Consonant to vowel linking: NG consonant

The same thing happens with the NG consonant, such as:

 

Sing a song

Sing a song

Sing a song

Sing a song

 

The words sing and a merged into one word, singa.

 

Sing a

Sing a

Sing a song

 

In some American accents, like the accent spoken by some people who live in New York, a G consonant is inserted after the NG when you link that word to a vowel. So for some native speakers, the phrase sing a song might become 

 

Sing - guh song

Sing - guh song

 

So the words sing and a might sound like 

 

sing - guh

 

However, that is not the accent that I use, so I don’t add in a G sound when linking the NG consonant to a vowel.

 

Consonant to consonant linking in English

The next type of linking that can occur is when you link a nasal consonant to another consonant. This type of linking can become a bit more confusing because there are many more consonant to consonant combinations than there are consonant to vowel combinations, and sometimes the pronunciation of one consonant will change to become more similar to the consonant it connects to. 

 

I can’t describe every type of consonant to consonant linking that can occur with the nasal consonants, but I’ll talk about a few of the most common linking examples. 

 

Consonant to consonant linking: Same consonants

When one word ends in a nasal consonant and the next word begins with the same nasal consonant, like in the phrases: 

 

Green nature

Or 

Time management

 

You simply hold out the N or M so that the two words connect with one sound:

 

Greennnature

 

Timemmmanagement

 

It’s not green nature with a stop between the two Ns. The words link together so they sound like one word:

 

Greennnature



Consonant to consonant linking: Voiced consonants

When you link a nasal consonant to a different type of consonant, like in the phrase:

 

Turn left 

 

Turn left

 

You simply move directly from the N to the next consonant as smoothly as possible.  In this phrase, both the final N in turn and the initial L in left are voiced consonants, so you need to continue with your vocal cord vibration as you link the words together. This will help you to smooth out the transition.  

 

Turn left 

 

Turn left




Consonant to consonant linking: Voiceless consonants

When the next word begins with a voiceless consonant, like in the phrase:

 

Time to go

 

You still need to smooth out the transition between the final M in time and the initial T in to, but you don’t use vocal cord vibration to help with the transition since the T in to is voiceless. 

 

Time to go

 

Time tuh

 

Time tuh



Linking with assimilation

Now I’ll talk about the more complicated form of consonant to consonant linking. Sometimes the pronunciation features of one consonant will change to become more similar to the consonant it connects to. For example, the tongue placement of one consonant may change, or the voicing of one consonant may change. This is called assimilation, and it can happen any time two consonants link together. Assimilation doesn’t happen all of the time, but it can. 

 

I’ll give you an example of assimilation using a nasal consonant.

 

Look at this phrase.

 

You have the N in then linking with the G in go. The G consonant is a velar consonant, which means it is made with the back of the tongue touching the velum, the back of the mouth. 

 

G

G

G

 

Sometimes in fast speech, the tongue placement of the N consonant will assimilate with the G consonant. In this case, the N, which is a nasal consonant, might actually become the velar consonant NG /ŋ/ in order to become more similar to the velar consonant G in go.

 

That explanation might sound confusing, but this is what that sounds like:

Then go for it.

 

I pronounced the N like an NG /ŋ/ consonant. 

 

Then go for it.

 

Then go for it.

 

This type of assimilation doesn’t happen all of the time, but it can happen, and especially when native speakers are talking quickly.



Linking with nasal consonants: Practice

Let’s practice a few phrases that link with the nasal consonants, and we’ll do both consonant to vowel linking and consonant to consonant linking. I’ll say the phrase three times, and then you’ll have a chance to repeat.

 

Bring it today.

 

Ham and cheese sandwich.

 

Turn right.

 

I’m making lunch.

 

Ten keys.



I hope you enjoyed this video from San Diego Voice and Accent! Thanks for watching, and have a great day!