Key to pronunciation: Caribbean English

View the pronunciation model for Caribbean English here.

The pronunciations given are those in use among educated urban speakers of standard English in the Caribbean. While avoiding strongly regionally or socially marked forms, they are intended to include the most common variants for each word. Many different forms of English are spoken in the Caribbean; the pronunciations given here do not reflect one variety but are intended to reflect some of the commonalities between some of the forms of English as spoken in Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Belize, the Bahamas and Barbados, as well as in some of the smaller Eastern Caribbean nations. The keywords given in this key are to be understood as pronounced in such speech.

Words associated with the Caribbean are given British and American pronunciations alongside the Caribbean pronunciation(s). Where a word is associated with an additional part of the English-speaking world, further pronunciations in the appropriate global variety of English are also given.

To hear the pronunciation spoken aloud, click the blue play icon to the left of each transcription.

Note from Catherine Sangster, Head of Pronunciations, October 2020

“A small but significant number of our World English pronunciations lack audio at the moment. Audio is created by freelance actor-phoneticians working with our sound engineer in our Oxford recording studio, but for the last several months it has been unsafe for us to run these sessions. We will prioritize addressing this backlog as soon as we can safely get back into our studio.”

 

Vowels

Caribbean English As in…
fleece
i happy
ɪ kit
ɛ dress
a trap, alpha, letter
ɑ lot
ɔː cloth
ʌ cup
ʊ foot
ɜː(r) nurse
eːr here, square
oːr (occasionally ɜr) cure, force
aːr start
palm, bath
ɔː, aː hawk
goose
face
ai pride
aʊ, ɔʊ mouth
goat
ɔi, ai choice

Consonants

  As in…
b big /bɪɡ/
d dig /dɪɡ/
jet /dʒet/
f fig /fɪɡ/
ɡ get /ɡet/
h head /hed/
j yes /jes/
k kit /kɪt/
l leg /leɡ/
m mud /mʌd/
n net /net/
ŋ thing /θɪŋ/
p pit /pɪt/
r red /red/
s sit /sɪt/
ʃ ship /ʃɪp/
t tip /tɪp/
chip /tʃɪp/
v vet /vet/
w win /wɪn/
z zip /zɪp/
ʒ vision /ˈvɪʒ(ə)n/

Caribbean English uses /t/ where other varieties may use /θ/, and /d/ instead of /ð/.

Unlike in British and U.S. Englishes, the consonant /m/ can take on the function of a vowel in some unstressed syllables only if the preceding sound is /p/ or /b/. Similarly, /n/ can only do so if the preceding sound is /t/, /d/, /s/ or /z/. /l/ can only do so if the preceding sound is /k/, /g/ or /ŋ/. It should generally be clear when this interpretation is intended, but in cases of potential ambiguity, the consonant symbol may appear with a diacritic, as in the British and U.S. pronunciations. A bracketed /(ə)/ indicates that some speakers may not pronounce the /ə/; in some cases this means the following consonant would take on the function of the vowel (e.g. U.S. saddle /ˈsæd(ə)l/).

After a vowel, some varieties of Caribbean English are similar to U.S. English in that they can have /r/ regardless of the sound which follows (whereas British English retains the /r/ only when it is followed by a vowel). Where an /r/ sound is possible in some forms of Caribbean English, the /r/ is given in brackets (e.g. force /foː(r)s/).

Stress

The symbol ˈ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with primary stress. The symbol ˌ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with secondary stress. The symbol ˈˌ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable may be pronounced with either primary or secondary stress.