Learn the Sounds of American English! This video covers the AA as in BAT [æ] Vowel. Sample words: Chapter, can, act, last, bank, bypass.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to learn how to pronounce the AA as in BAT vowel.
This is a sound that changes depending on the following sound. So, it can either be a pure vowel or a modified vowel. We’ll go over both in this video.
To make the pure AA vowel, the jaw drops quite a bit, AA.
The tip of the tongue stays forward; it’s touching the back of the bottom front teeth, AA. The back part of the tongue stretches up.
The tongue is wide, AA. Because the tongue is high in the back and low in the front, you can see a lot of it. This is different from the ‘ah’ as in ‘father’ vowel, for example, where the tongue presses down in the back and you see more dark space in the mouth. AA, AH.
You can also see the corners of the mouth pull back and up a little bit. AA.
Let’s take a look at the pure AA vowel up close and in slow motion.
The tongue tip is down and the back of the tongue lifts. Here’s the word ‘sat’. The tongue position is easy to see because of the jaw drop needed for this vowel.
When AA is in a stressed syllable, the vowel will go up and come down in pitch, AA. Sat, AA. In an unstressed syllable, the vowel is flatter and lower in pitch, quieter, aa. This vowel is unstressed in the second syllable of ‘backtrack’. Let’s look up close and in slow motion.
In the first, stressed syllable, the jaw drops, and we see the corners of the lips pull back and up for the stressed AA. In the unstressed syllable, the jaw drops less. Let’s compare them.
On top is the stressed AA. You can see the jaw drops more. For the unstressed AA, the corners of the lips are a little more relaxed than in the stressed version, where they pull slightly back and up.
Generally, the unstressed version of a vowel or diphthong is more relaxed and doesn’t take the full mouth position, in this case, a little less jaw drop, and relaxed lips. This is because unstressed syllables are shorter, so we don’t take the time to make the full position.
At the beginning of this video, I said the AA vowel is not always a pure AA. This vowel changes when it’s followed by a nasal consonant. When it’s followed by the M or N sounds, the tongue relaxes in the back, making an UH sound after AA. AA-UH. It’s not a pure AA sound. Unfortunately, this change is not represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet. It’s still written with the same AA symbol. So, you just have to know when it’s followed by [m] or [n], it’s different.
We don’t say ‘man’, aa, ‘man’, with a pure AA. We say ‘man’, aa-uh, aa-uh, relaxing the tongue and corners of the lips before the consonant. You can think of this UH relaxation as the ‘uh’ as in ‘butter’ sound or schwa sound. Let’s look up close and in slow motion at the word ‘exam’.
First we see the familiar shape of the mouth, when the AA is in a stressed syllable. Watch how the relaxation that happens: the corners of the lips relax in. The tongue will relax down in the back. And the lips close for the M consonant.
This relaxation of the corner of the lips and back of the tongue happens when the AA vowel is followed by the N consonant as well. For example, the word ‘hand’. Haa-uhnd. Hand.
So, when you see this symbol followed by this symbol or this symbol, it’s no longer a pure AA. Think of relaxing out of the vowel, AA-UH.
If the next sound is the NG consonant, it’s a little different. Rather than ‘aa-uh’, the vowel changes into AY. It’s really like the AY as in SAY diphthong. First, the middle part of the tongue lifts towards the roof of the mouth, then the front part of the tongue. Let’s watch ‘gang’ up close and in slow motion.
The position for the first sound looks a lot like AA, but the part of the tongue lifting up is more forward. Gaaaang. Then the front part of the tongue arches up towards the roof of the mouth, while the tongue tip remains down.
When you see this symbol followed by this symbol, it’s no longer a pure AA. It’s more like AY. Gang. Thanks.
Pure stressed AA: Sat, aa
Pure unstressed AA: backtrack, aa
AA, aa, AA, aa.
AA vowel modified by M: exam, aa-uh
AA vowel modified by N: man, aa-uh
AA vowel modified by NG: gang, ay
Example words. Repeat with me:
Chapter, can, act, last, bank, bypass.
I hope this video helps you understand this sound. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.