Index of terms A to Z

index of terms a to z

Learn some terms related to pronunciation and the English language.

Learn some terms related to pronunciation and the English language.

Accent: An accent is a speaker’s distinct pronunciation of a language that is similar to others from that same locale, region or part of the world.

Accent modification: Accent modification is changing the way you speak to sound more like a native speaker of that language from that region of the world.

Articulation: Articulation is the production of the speech sounds of one’s language.

Auditory discrimination: Auditory discrimination is the ability to compare and distinguish distinct sounds.


Body Language: Body language refers to how we use our body to communicate without our words.  This includes our eye contact, gestures, posture and even proximity to our listener.


Consonants: The consonants of one’s language are the sounds that are made when the airflow is blocked by the teeth, tongue, or lips.

Conversation partner: A conversation partner is someone with whom one speaks in order to improve their fluency in a language.

Dialect: A dialect is a variation from a standard language in its pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. A dialect typically is regional in that people from a particular geographical location may speak a dialect that differs from others within that same country.

ELL: An English Language Learner is a student who is in the process of developing his or her English language skills.

ESL: ESL stands for English as a Second Language and can refer to the instruction an English Language Learner receives while in a country where English is the main language spoken.

Eye Contact:  Our eye contact is the way in which we use our eyes when communicating.  This is both when we look at the person with whom we are communicating and when we look away.

Fluency: Fluency refers to how easily and accurately one speaks or writes in another language.

Fricatives: Fricatives are those speech sounds (consonants) that are made with a partial blocking of the air by the tongue, teeth, and/or lips. There is a noisy release of that air when the sound is made.


Grammar: One can think of grammar as being the sentence structure and rules of a language.

Habit: A habit is a behavior one acquires that when practiced regularly it becomes involuntary.

Idiom: Idioms are expressions that we use casually in English and don’t mean literally.   The meanings of idioms aren’t the sum of the individual words but rather the expression itself.  Examples of idioms are “raining cats and dogs”, “study hard”, and  “beat around the bush”.

Intelligibility: Intelligibility of ones’ speech is a subjective measure in how clearly it is understood by others.

International Phonetic Alphabet: The International Phonetic Alphabet, used worldwide, is an alphabet of the sounds of a language with corresponding symbols.

Intonation: Intonation is the musical aspect of our speech and includes pitch, stress, duration, and speech rate.

Jaw (height): We use our jaw when speaking, and the highness or lowness of our jaw positioning affects the pronunciation of vowels.

Key word: In speech training, a key word (used frequently and produced correctly)  can be compared to a new or difficult word containing the same sound one is practicing.

Language tutoring: In language tutoring, a student receives instruction and practice in vocabulary, grammar, presentations, conversation, writing and reading.  Tutoring is specific to a student’s needs.

Lip (rounding): We use our lips when speaking, and depending upon the sound, we may round the lips or pull them back (retract).

Loudness: The loudness of our speech pertains to its volume. We achieve loud speech with breath support.

Manner: The way in which a speech sounds is produced is referred to its manner of production.

Multisyllabic: A multisyllabic word is one with 3 or more syllables.


Natural speech: Natural speech is speech that sounds similar to others speaking the same language from the same geographical area.

North American English pronunciation: Pronunciation of North American English (NAE) is referred to as the way the speech sounds are said in English by native speakers in this region of the world.


Ordinal Numbers: These come before a noun and indicate place or rank.  Examples are “first, second, third”, etc.  When we write ordinal numbers, we can either write the word or the number followed by a suffix, as in “1st, 2nd, 3rd”.

Oxymoron: This is a phrase or expression of speech where two seemingly contradictory words are combined.  An example of an oxymoron is “small crowd” or “seriously funny”.

Phoneme: Phonemes are the sounds in a language.

Pitch: Pitch is the highness or lowness of ones’ voice.

Placement: When we talk about where in our mouths the sounds are made, we are referring to placement.

Pronunciation: Pronunciation refers to how we actually make the phonemes (sounds) of our language.

Question inflection: The inflection, or intonation pattern in a question can be rising or falling depending on the type of question being asked.

Quick speech screening: There is a quick speech screening on this website that once completed can be used to determine your program goals.

Rate: Your speech rate is the quickness at which you speak and can be determined in number of words per minute.

Self-monitoring: When you listen to yourself as you speak and make needed adjustments, you are practicing self-monitoring.

Speech training:  In speech training, a student works on producing the sounds and intonation patterns of English in order to sound more clear and natural.  Typically the student is speaking English as a second or third language, but that may not always be the case.  Regional dialects can be addressed in speech training as well.

Stop consonants: Stop consonants are those sounds that are produced when the air is completely blocked and then released. These include p,b,t,d,k and g.

Stress: When we speak about stress as part of intonation, we are referring to the syllable that is emphasized in a multisyllabic word and/or the word that is emphasized in your message.

Syllable: A syllable is a part of a word that is at a minimum one vowel but can also include consonants. Words in English can be 1,2,3 or more syllables in length.

TEFL: The acronym TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and is one of the certificates that can be obtained to be a teacher of English to nonnative speakers.

Tongue (height/position): The height and front to back position of our tongue affects how we produce our vowels.


Unstressed: An unstressed syllable is a syllable in a word that does not receive emphasis.

Vocabulary: The words we know and use can be considered to be our vocabulary.

Vocal cords: Within our larynx (voice box), lies our vocal cords which vibrate during speech.

Voice projection:  Using our voice and visuatization rather than straining or yelling to effectively speak through barriers and across distances.

Voiceless: A voiceless sound is one where the vocal cords are not engaged.

Voicing: When we engage our vocal cords in speaking, we are voicing the sound we are making.

Volume: The loudness of our voice is considered to be the volume.

Vowels: Vowels are the sounds in our speech which are produced with our voice and no stopping of the airflow.

W:  The “w” sound is vowel-like in that there is not stoppage of air.  Rather, the lips fully round and protrude allowing the air and acoustic energy to flow forward out of the mouth.

X:  How do we say the “x” sound in North American English?  It can be produced two different ways depending on where the sound is positioned in a word.  X at the beginning of a word is said like a “z” (e.g. xylophone), and x at the end of a word is said like a “ks” (e.g. box).

Y:  The “y” sound in North American English is vowel-like in that there is no complete blocking of the air or acoustic energy.  Rather, the body of the tongue elevates and lowers as the speaker says the sound.  In actuality, the “y” really sounds like it’s a combination of two vowels, “ee” and “uh” said in quick succession.

Z:  The “z” sound in North American English is made just like the “s” but with vocal cord vibration (see “voicing”).  Sometimes it is spelled with an “s” rather than a “z”, as in “was”.

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