When I was learning the English phonemes, I noticed that the phoneme represented by /z/ was pronounced significantly differently in the two tutorials I had purchased.

I had thought that maybe one of the pronunciation information was wrong, so I wanted to find more sounds so I could figure out which one was wrong.

I found two web pages about English phonemes, and it turned out that the pronunciation on these two sites corresponded to the pronunciation of those two pronunciation materials respectively.

  1. Interactive Phonemic Chart | Pronunciation | EnglishClub

  2. Interactive Phonemic Chart: The 44 sounds & symbols of English

I was confused.

So why are there two different pronunciations?

I made this guess: maybe the two different pronunciations are distinguishable in my language system, but in English the two pronunciations are the same phonemes.

But I am not sure if this is the case or not.

2 Answers 2


You will notice that both charts represent the sounds of B and D as 'bə' and 'də' (with the 'schwa' or indeterminate vowel sound), because it's virtually impossible to pronounce a consonant without a vowel. In an actual word, the pronunciation depends on the vowel - ba, be, di, do etc.

One chart does the same with Z (zə), the other represents the sound as 'zz' because it is possible to say that without a vowel. In a real word it would be za, ze, zi like any other consonant.

  • Many consonants are difficult to pronounce without a vowel, so some people add ə to the end. Am I understanding this correctly?
    – Andy
    Oct 22, 2021 at 9:04
  • 1
    It's common to add the schwa when representing the sound of the letter on its own. The 'official' names of the letters are pronounced Ay, Bee, Cee (see), Dee, Ee and so on, but their sounds are represented as Ah, Bə, Kə, Də, Eh. Oct 22, 2021 at 9:12

Different websites use different pronunciation conventions to represent the phonemes of English; some pronounce a vowel after consonants while others don't (as @Kate Bunting said).

Some consonants (such as p, t, k etc.) are almost unpronounceable without vowels so speakers pronounce them in combination with vowels to make it easy to demonstrate how the consonants are pronounced. The speaker in Cambridge English Online doesn't pronounce a vowel after most consonants while the second speaker does pronounce vowels after consonants. Also listen to Wikipedia where the speaker also pronounces a (kind of strong) vowel after consonants. Also note that some consonants such as l, m, n, s, z etc (also called 'continuants') are pronounceable without vowels.

This does not mean that the pronunciation given in one site is different from the pronunciation given in the other. The sound of the /z/ is the same in both i.e. the hissing sound produced at the ridge behind the top teeth.

  • As a pure novice who basically doesn't understand English, I'm really confused. Thank you for your answer!
    – Andy
    Oct 22, 2021 at 10:09

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