Linking with the K /k/ Consonant

Mar 8, 2021

Linking with the K /k/ Consonant

3/8/2021

Want to work with Julie? Click here!

The K /k/ consonant is a stop consonant, and even though it is called a "stop" consonant, it really should be called a "change" consonant - its pronunciation can change depending on where it occurs in the word. Sometimes it is released, sometimes it is unreleased, sometimes it is "mini-released", and sometimes it moves to the next word (!!!!!).

(Video Transcript)

 

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 

 

Back

Back

Back

 

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. 

 

Back

 

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.

 

Backpack

 

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



Backpack

 

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:

 

Backpack

 

Backpack

 

I’ll say it slowly so you can hear the mini-release:

 

Backpack

 

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.

 

Backpack

 

Backpack

 

Backpack

 

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. 



Backpack

 

Take it down

 

Truck stop 

 

Look up

 

Walk fast 



I hope you enjoyed the video! Thanks for watching, and please let me know if you have questions about how to improve your American accent!