Difference between a cup and a cap

Sara   Tuesday, February 17, 2004, 22:30 GMT

I'm currently studying the British pronunciation.
My problem is that despite I'm able to differenciate the vowel sounds in «cup» and «cap» when hearing them, I am not able to imitate the sounds perfectly. Both sound like the same coming out of my mouth!
Therefore, I'd like some advice about the position of the tongue and lips, for mispronouncing them could be a problem in my attempt to communicate.

Many thanks in advance.
Steve   Tuesday, February 17, 2004, 22:49 GMT
Listen to these dictionary pronunciations of the words. These came from the Merriam-websters dictionary and see if you can tell the difference.

1. Cap-http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/audio.pl?cap00001.wav=cap
2. Cup-http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/audio.pl?cup00001.wav=cup
Simon   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 08:58 GMT
If you have a Cockney accent, there's no difference at all! Cockneys lav a nice cap of tea.
? Simon   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 13:49 GMT
This is not me. Or maybe it is me and I am not me.
Jarec   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 14:21 GMT
I have some good links about English phonetics. They explain how all English phonemes are pronounced.
American pronunciation

British pronunciation
- online phonology course
- a page about British English pronunciation
Unfortunately there are some broken links (consonants and dipthongs don't work) on the last page, but I have the whole page zipped on my PC, if you want it I can send it to you via email.

That fist page is the best but only if you want American pronunciation. If you want British, read the last page.
Adam   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 14:22 GMT
If you have a Northern English accent it is easy to tell the difference between "cup" and "cap". They are pronounced very differently.
Simon   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 16:46 GMT
I am Simon. Maybe we should call ourselves Simon 1 and Simon 2 from now on. I'll be Simon 2. OK?
Sara   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 18:12 GMT
Steve, thanks for your links.

Jarec, I didn't get yours. As a matter-of-fact, I have Mac OS X and what the author of the site provides works for Mac OS 9 or earlier versions only.

Well, could you english speaking people (from anywhere) try to explain me how to pronounce the 2 different sounds?

By the way which Simon is which Simon???! I only know the one who lives in Belgium.
Hythloday   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 19:27 GMT
The vowel sound in 'cap' is a front vowel between open and open-mid, and the vowel sound in 'cup' is a centralised rounded close-mid vowel.
Jarec   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 21:15 GMT
The difference between /^/ in cup and /@/ in cap is that /@/ is pronounced with your mouth wide open and your tongue at the bottom. Practise it.
Steve   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 21:28 GMT
Sara, Both of the words are played out on the links. Can you tell the difference?
Sara   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 21:41 GMT
Of course, I said I am able to distinguish the two sounds, but not to pronounce each of them. Hearing the difference and being able to reproduce the sounds are two different things.

Thank you Jarec, I've tried to say ”cap” whith my mouth wide open, and it works better. :)

Hythloday, what do you mean by 'centralised' and 'front'? Are you speaking about which part of the mouth the sounds come from?
Hythloday   Thursday, February 19, 2004, 09:01 GMT
If you familiarise yourself with the vowel quadrilateral, you will know what I mean.