6

I know there are actually two different "th" sounds in English, but they are very similar. I'm very confuse. Please share some tips to pronounce them.

5
  • 1
    The th sound is an interdental fricative. It is so called because you put your tongue between your teeth (interdental: between the teeth) when you pronounce it. Of it there are two varieties, one voiced, one voiceless.
    – Anonym
    Jun 19, 2014 at 2:36
  • 2
    Shouldn't this be on ELL?
    – Brian Donovan
    Jun 19, 2014 at 3:18
  • @BrianDonovan: What does ELL mean? I don't understand your question.
    – Le Anh
    Jun 19, 2014 at 5:49
  • @LeAnh - Welcome to ELL. You can read a short synopsis about the two communities here. Lots of people land in the wrong place the first time around.
    – J.R.
    Jun 19, 2014 at 9:52
  • ell.stackexchange.com/questions/458/… is another question that is quite similar posted earlier.
    – JB King
    Jan 4, 2016 at 23:19

3 Answers 3

5

Here is my tip. It's a little experiment you can try on your own.

Let's assume that you can pronounce the /f/ sound and the /v/ sound in English properly. The /f/ and /v/ sounds are basically the same sound except one is voiceless (/f/) and the other is voiced (/v/).

Here is the experiment I mentioned: Try making the /f/ sound, keep making the sound continuously, then turn it into the /v/ sound without moving any parts of your mouth.

If you can do that, you can do the same thing with the "th" sound.

Let's consider what just happened a little.
What exactly have you done, to turn that /f/ into /v/?

Repeat the experiment again, but this time place one hand on your neck. You should be able to feel the vibration when you make the /v/ sound. That vibration should not exist when you make the /f/ sound.

Basically English has two "th" sounds: one is voiceless (/θ/), the other is voiced (/ð/). Try making the voiceless "th" sound (/θ/), and keep making the sound continuously. Place your hand on your neck to prepare yourself to feel the vibration. Then turn your voiceless "th" (/θ/) sound into the voiced one (/ð/) by making the vibration. Make sure that you can feel the vibration. If you can feel the vibration, it's /ð/!

Now you know the difference. The rest is getting used to it. Let you voice guides your ears. Repeat this until you can tell the difference without having to think about it too much. I hope that you can tell the difference between /θ/ and /ð/ soon!

2

I'm not sure these are the two you're thinking of, but there are certainly both unvoiced ("teeth") and voiced ("teethe") versions. It's like the difference between the S and Z sounds.

I'm not sure how to explain the difference any further than that in writing. There are audio examples at http://www.antimoon.com/how/pronunc-soundsipa.htm, and if you google "define teeth" and "define teethe" you'll be offered recordings of those two words.

As far as knowing which one to use from the spelling: The final silent "e", when present, is a hint that the voiced version should be used. But that assumes you know that the "e" was supposed to be silent. English orthography has entirely too many exceptions.

1
  • Thanks, I've practiced follow the above tips. I can pronouce 'th' sound well, now. Jun 20, 2014 at 16:00
0

How to pronounce the voiced and unvoiced 'th sounds' /ð,θ/

The 'voiced th' /ð/ and 'unvoiced th' /θ/ sounds are the only pair of English sounds that share a single, common spelling.

With the exception of being voiced or unvoiced, the /ð/ and /θ/ are nearly identical; the tip of the tongue is placed behind the top front teeth. The friction occurs between the tip of the tongue and the top front teeth. Subtle friction may also occur between the top of the front of the tongue and the tooth ridge. The lips are kept relaxed during the production of these sounds.

An alternative method of producing the 'th sounds' is to place the tip of the tongue between the top and bottom front teeth. While this method will produce the correct sound, it often creates difficulties transitioning to and from other sounds. This is because the tongue needs to be so much further forward when between the front teeth as compared to behind the top front teeth.

These sounds are continuous consonants, meaning that they should be capable of being held for a few seconds with even and smooth pronunciation for the entire duration. Because the sounds are fricatives, the majority of the sound comes from the friction of the air traveling through a small opening in the vocal tract.

Unvoiced th sound: http://epronunciation.com/pronunciation/consonants/unit-6-%CE%B8.html

Voiced th sound: http://epronunciation.com/pronunciation/consonants/unit-7-o.html

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .