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Guide to Vowels

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This is a reference sheet to remind the client what the vowels used in this second session, and in the third session, sound like. The vowels are represented orthographically for clients as follows.

orthographic representation IPA symbol
oo u
oh [1]
aw ɔ
ah ɑ
ee i


It is helpful to provide clients with a brief, simple explanation for the use of this sequence (u- oʊ – ɔ- ɑ- eɪ- i), i.e. it moves through most of the lip/mouth shapes (rounded → neutral → spread) and jaw positions (close → open → close) used when speaking. This can be described in terms of providing gentle ‘physical therapy’ for the muscles of the face and for helping to loosen any potential tightness in the jaw (temporo mandibular joint).

Guide to Vowels

Vowel Example of how it sounds in words
oo flu, to, goose
oh go, show, toe
aw hawk, all, ought
ah spa, ma, calm
ay day, name, they
ee bee, meal, brief


Try this…

This simple sequence of vowels (oo-oh-aw-ah-ay-ee) covers most of the mouth, lip and jaw positions that are used when speaking. Try the following.

  • While looking in a mirror, say the sound oo – you’ll see that your lips are pushed forward and rounded. Now say ah – you’ll see that your lips are no longer pushed forward and that the mouth shape is more open. Finally, say ee – this time you’ll see that your lips are more pulled back and spread.
  • Now, once more, say the sound oo – can you feel that your jaws are relatively closed? Now say ah – you should feel and see that your jaws are now open. Finally, say ee again – once more, your jaws are relatively closed.

Following this simple sequence acts as a kind of gentle physical therapy for the mouth, lips and muscles of the jaws and should help to relax the muscles.


[1] Speakers of Standard Southern British English (SSBE) will likely use the diphthong /əʊ/.

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