learn English linking



Hey there, thanks for joining me for today’s 王霸胆公开课. I’m 王霸胆. And today I’ll be giving you an in-depth tutorial on English linking.

What is linking?

Hava you ever wondered why native English speakers seems to talk so fast? Research has shown that, in terms of speed, English speakers speak significantly faster than Mandarin Chinese speakers. However, Mandarin conveys information more densely. So how do English natives manage to speed at such breakneck speed?. Well, it turns out that when native English speakers talk to each other. They don’t … talk…like…this, accentuating every vowel and consonant. Instead, they blur the lines between words, slurring them all together into one consonant flow of sound. In linguistics, this phenomenon is called linking. In today’s open course, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know to master the skill of linking in American English.

Do you know anyone who talks really fast? If you do, you’ve probably heard them complain that their mouth can’t keep up with their brain. They’re forced to cut corners between words by deleting, reducing, or sometimes even adding sounds. Over time, as more and more people adopt these shortcuts, they become codified unwritten rules in the language and get passed down to younger generations, like a linguistic inheritance. If you really want to sound like a native speaker of English, you should attempt to master at least some rules that you’ll learn in today’s open course. Real quick, let’s take a look at some of the benefits you can gain by mastering linking.

why should you learn linking?

First, mastering the rules of linking will dramatically improve your listing. Many students spend counrless hours listening fruitlessly to program like VOA and BBC radio. But in reality, listening to native speakers talking without understanding linking is like trying to launch a rocket without understanding gravity. They’re both doomed to fail. Linking is so omnipresent in English that it’s almost invisible. But once you discover it, you’ll wonder how you never noticed it before.

Second, learning how to link English words will dramatically improve your pronounciation. Native speakers are lazy, so we use linking to make speaking easier. If you’ve ever felt that speaking English is difficult or tiring, it’s probably because you aren’t following the linking rules.

Finally, mastering linking will greatly improve your nativeness. Native speakers are easily fooled by good pronounciation. English learner with good pronouncation, but small vocabularies consistenly get higher scores than English learners with bad pronouncation but large vocabularies. If you’re looking to get a quick boost in your IELTS or TOEFL oral test, learning linking is a great way to do it!

What are the rules of linking?

Now, let’s take an in-depth look at the most common linking rules in English. I highly encourage you to download this video and review these rules, examples, and exercises individually over a long period of time in order to maximize your understanding and mastery. I’ve even made this course available as a free download online. Check the description for details!

Practicing just a few minutes a day can have amazing results! So as a shorthand, all of the rules and patterns below take place between the LAST syllable of the first word and the FIRST vowel of the second word. For example, s -> m means that if the first word ends in s and the second word begins with m, they will be linked. The following rules of linking are divided into different patterns with each pattern containing several rules.

Pattern 1: Unvoiced Consonant -> Voiced Consonant

Sometimes a word ends in s, but is actually pronounced z or ends in f, but is actually pronounced v. In these cases, we’re dealing with a linking technique in which unvoiced consonants, such as t, s, and f, are converted into their voiced couterparts d, z, and v. The difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants is that voiced consonants vibrate the vocal cords. But unvoiced do not. For example, s is unvoiced, and z is voiced. Can you hear the vibration? Try putting your hand on your throat and saying, Dad. Generally speaking, voiced consonants flow better in rapid speech. So native speakers tend to link their speech with voiced consonants whenever possible. Below is a list of rules you can follow:

  • Rule 1 : TT becomes DD in the middle of a word unless the vowel before the TT is schwa(Ә).
Examples Exceptions
Better, butter, shatter, batter, mutter, mettle Mattel, attest, attack
  • Rule 2 : S becomes Z when preceded by a voiced syllable or the word is made plural using es.

    Examples: Rides, ladies, bridges, bugs, angles, misses

    Words ending with the ts sound are always unvoiced

    Examples: Hats, hates

  • Rule 3 : T becomes a tap in the middle of a word.

    Examples: Gated, lateral, notable, water

  • Rule 4 : Of is pronounced ov of oh

    Examples: Game of Thrones, Bottle of water, Cup of tea

Pattern 2 : Consonant + Vowel

In our next pattern, the first word ends in a consonant and the second word begins with a vowel. In this pattern, the consonants will generally blend into the vowel of the second word. This process is called blending and is an extremely fundamental concept in linking. Mastering this pattern alone will great improve your English speaking fluency. Let’s look at some examples.

  • Example 1: Can I have this? linking: Ca(n)I have this? In this example, the n is transformed or blended onto the next word, I. It is pronounced Ca ni, ca ni.

  • Example 2: And I think you’re right. Linking: An(d)I think you’(r)ight. In this example, the d is blended or transformed onto the I, also note that the R is held slightly longer. We’ll talk about that rule soon.

  • Example 3: How’s it going? Linking: How(z)it going? In this example, the s becomes a z(according to the rule above) and gets transfered or blended onto the it that follows. How’z it going?

  • Example 4: Can a cat climb trees? Linking: Ca(n)a cat climb treez? In this example, the n in can gets transformed or blended onto the a. Also, the s in trees automatically becomes a z. This rule is very simple, yet very powerful. Now that you know about it, try listening for it in conversations by native speakers. You’ll be surprised, and amazed that you never heard it before!

Patttern 3: Consonant + Consonant

We’ve already discussed what happens when vowels and consonants meet. But what happens when two consonants bump into each other?

  • Rule 1: When the consonants are the same, hold the sound slightly longer(Applies to S, L, F, M, N, D, J, W, H, V, Z). Example: This Saturday. Here, we hold the s sound a little longer without pausing between words. Until later. Here, we hold the L sound a little longer. Half finished.

  • Rule 2: When the consonants are the same, break very briefly between the two sounds(Applies to T, P, K, B, G, C). Wet towel. Here, there is a short break between the two T’s. However, the mouth position remains the same. Big game. Gag gift. Black cat.

Pattern 4: Linking “the”

According to the Wikipedia, the is the most common word in English, which means mis-pronouncing the will have a huge impact on your English. Therefore, you need to be aware of the following linking patterns that relate to the:

  • Rule 1: The + consonant When the is followed by a word that begins with a consonant, it is pronounced the(schewa). Examples: The dog, the cat, the woman.

  • Rule 2: The + vowel(except long e) When the is followed by a word that begins with a vowel that is not long E, it can be pronounced either the(schwa) or the(ee). Examples: The otter, the interesting thing, the apple.

  • Rule 3: The + vowel(long e) When the is followed by a word that begins with a long E vowel, it is pronounced the(ee). Examples: The election, the evil spirit, the eagle. Note that the is NEVER pronounced ze or le. These are both common mistakes made by non-native speakers.

Pattern 5: Vowel + vowel

Of all the pairing out there, vowel on vowel in definitely my favorite. When two vowels come together in linking, sometimes the spark fly and they create a entirely new sound between them. The following rules will explain more!

  • Rule 1: ee, ih, ay, aye, oi + vowel = y sound in the middle. When the vowels ee, ih, ay, aye, and oi are followed by a vowel in the second word, a y sound is inserted in order to smooth over the transition. Examples: He is happy = He(y)iz happy She ate a burger = She(y)ate a burger That boy is hungry = That bo(y)is hungry I ate lunch = I(y)ate lunch

  • Rule 2: Ooh, oh, ow + vowel When the vowels ooh, oh, and ow are followed by a vowel in the second word, a w sound is inserted in order to link them. Examples: Go in = Go(w)in Do it = Do(w)it You are = You(w)are Go out = Go(w)out How are you? = Ho(w)are you?

Pattern 6: Deletion

  • Rule 1: H-deletionh Examples: Did he get it?[Dl-diy GE-dit] he ->[iy] him -> [lm] his -> [lz] her -> [Ә] has ->[Әz] have ->[Әv]

  • Rule 2: Whenever t or d comes between two consonants, they get deleted. Examples: Old man -> Ol man Gold ring -> Gol ring Most famous -> Mos’famous Hand bag = Han’bag Next day = Nex’day World religion = Worl’ religion

Pattern 7: Transformation(assimilation)

  • Rule 1: When t is followed by j, it becomes tj. Example: What do you want -> Watchu want? Note: talking in this way will sound more native, but also slightly uneducated.

  • Rule 2: When d is followed by j,, it becomes dj. Example: Would you -> Wouldju

In today’s video, I’ve given you an in-depth presentation of the most common linking rules in American English. There is a lot of information in this video. Much more than anyone can digest in one single setting. I highly recommend you download this video and take detailed notes on the information contained within, if you really want to maximize your learning.

By watching this video, you have gained a passive understanding of the linking rules in English. However, becoming aware og the rules is only the first step. Simply watching a video will not improve your English. You have to spend time reviewing every section of this video, pausing to intimate my pronounciation and practicing the examples.

Once you have mastered the examples provided, you can continue improving your mastery of linking by creating your own examples. Creating your own examples allows you to own the material. It is an example of active learning. Finally, the last step in the learning process is teaching someone else. Once you feel you have mastered the material, you should try teaching it to your friend or classmate and encourage them to ask questions. Togother, you and your new student can practice linking. Good luck!