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ire as in fire

Posted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:02 pm
by Maltesers
I noticed on the read write inc sounds chart there is the sound /ire/
I have never taught this and am confused. If I was sounding out fire I would say f/ ie/ r
Am I totally wrong in this? Would be grateful for some advice.

Re: ire as in fire

Posted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 8:24 am
by Susan Godsland
SRS teaches it as f -ie-r too. I don't think either way is right or wrong.

The same thing occurs with /eer/ -you can teach it as d-ee-r or d-eer.

/air/ is heard more clearly as one sound, at least in England.

Re: ire as in fire

Posted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 7:11 pm
by Kiki
yes, I imagine accent will affect how you teach it and American English has a much stronger /r/ sound in vowel+r graphemes.

Re: ire as in fire

Posted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:56 pm
by Maltesers
Thank you! :grin:

Re: ire as in fire

Posted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:38 pm
by chew8
Accent certainly comes into it: in rhotic accents (e.g. USA, Canadian, Scottish, Irish) the 'r' in 'fire' is sounded, which means that this word is no different in principle from other i-consonant-e words (e.g. 'hide', 'file', 'fine', 'time', 'wise' etc.). In non-rhotic accents, however (e.g. British Received Pronunciation), the 'r' in words ending in 'ire' is not sounded, so mappings between sounds and symbols in these words are a bit different from those in words where the consonant between the 'i' and the 'e' is something other than 'r'.

There's another point, though, which gets us into rather deeper water: the sound represented by 'ire' in non-rhotic accents does not count as a phoneme in English, whereas apparently parallel examples such as the vowel sounds in 'care' and 'here' do count as phonemes. I suspect that this is because the vowel sounds in 'care' and 'here' are diphthongs whereas the sound represented by the 'ire' in 'fire' is if anything a triphthong - the /igh/ sound (as in 'fie') is itself a diphthong (a seamless glide from one vowel sound to another), so if one adds a schwa sound, pronouncing 'fire' as /figh-uh/ (as in British RP) a third vowel sound is involved in the glide and it's close to two syllables.

In the set of International Phonetic Alphabet symbols applicable to English, diphthongs are represented by the two vowel symbols which come closest to representing the two sounds in the glide - e.g. /oi/ is represented by the symbol for the /aw/ sound and the symbol for the short /i/ sound, the vowel sound in 'here' is represented by the symbols for short /i/ and the schwa, and /igh/ is represented by the symbol for the /ah/ sound and the symbol for the short /i/ sound. The IPA does not go beyond these two-symbol combinations, however, which is what makes me think that triphthongs probably don't count as phonemes. In this context, it's interesting to consider 'hire' and 'higher': most of us probably pronounce these identically, but morphemic considerations make us think of 'higher' as two syllables but 'hire' as one - it makes one realise, though, that it's not too far-fetched to think of 'hire' as two syllables and therefore of the 'ire' as representing more than one phoneme (the diphthong /igh/ plus schwa).

All this is unnecessarily technical for phonics teaching, however. What is clear, to my way of thinking, is that children need to know, for reading purposes, what sound(s) to say, in their own particular accents, when they see 'ire' in a word. To make them think about whether the sound is technically a single phoneme or not is to take them into inappropriately deep water.

Jenny C.

Re: ire as in fire

Posted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 5:48 pm
by chew8
Going back to your original post, Maltesers...
You wrote:If I was sounding out fire I would say f/ ie/ r
Would your blended (normal) pronunciation then end with a clear /r/ sound? - or having sounded out /f/ /ie/ /r/ would you then tweak it into /f ie uh/?

If the former, then 'fire', in your accent, can be dealt with as any other i-consonant-e word (e.g. 'fine', 'file' etc.). If the latter, then it can't be so dealt with - either you would need to know (e.g. by being explicitly taught) what sound to say when you see 'ire', as I think I was (/ie-uh/), or you would need to have tweaking as part of your general repertoire.

Jenny C.