During the holiday I spent much of my time on a local discussion forum, reading and discussing topics regarding the English language. One question that was raised again and again by local students was this: Why does the ‘p’ in spy sound somewhat different from the ‘p’ in pie, and in fact, for Chinese speakers, the same as ‘b’ in buy?
After reading about a phenomenon in a book, which I found particularly interesting, I decided to do a small experiment to verify it. The methodology I employ is to make use of a flash game to perform a simple psychological test. Before I proceed to explain on the phenomenon, you may want to first try the flash game below (don’t peek at the text below before you take the test).
We all know that the final ‘e’ is almost always not pronounced, so ‘bite’, ‘ripe’, tape’ and ’shote’ are all monosyllabic words – there is only one vowel. Nevertheless, the ‘e’ at the end of all these words is definitely not useless, as it helps us pronounce these words correctly, and distinguish them from ‘bit’, ‘rip’, ‘tap’ and ’shot’ respectively.