the phrase "It's gonna be okay" phonetically looks like: [ɪts gʌnə bɪ oʊkeɪ] There should be a glide (y) or (w) between the words "be" and "okay":

  • ɪts gʌnə bɪ(y)oʊkeɪ, or

  • ɪts gʌnə bɪ(w)oʊkeɪ

I'm not sure which glide should I use. My ear can't distinguish. I'm not a native speaker. Any suggestion is appreciated.

Thank you!

  • Even for speakers who have what seems to be a glide, it is often not exactly the same as a phonemic glide, so be careful not to overemphasize it. The classic example of this is the contrast between "the lesser of two evils" and "the lesser of two weevils". Phonetician John Wells talks about about this in these two posts: phonetic-blog.blogspot.com/2010/08/linking-semivowels.html Apr 9, 2015 at 23:26
  • 4
    Are we sticking to standard IPA conventions? I.e. /y/ is a close front rounded vowel; /j/ is the palatal approximant semivowel glide.
    – Michaelyus
    Apr 10, 2015 at 12:59
  • Probly not. This is English, and American English at that, so phonemic notations are in order except for specific points. American phonemic systems universally use /y/.
    – jlawler
    Jun 10, 2015 at 21:12

2 Answers 2


I don't think (w) is possible. I have [bɨ] there, no glide. [bi] sounds possible, perhaps with (y).

  • 1
    Certainly with /y/ in my idiolect (Midwestern US, ca. 1950s). Apr 9, 2015 at 18:11

There is a good rule for determining whether to use a [j] (like the first sound in yes) or [w] to link two words like this. The first thing you need to know is that the choice depends on the first vowel and not the second. Therefore in terms of the Original Poster's question, the choice is determined by /i/ at the end of the word be, and not by the beginning of the word ok.

Now if the first vowel is either a high front vowel, for example /i/ or a diphthong ending in a high front vowel, in other words /eɪ, aɪ, ɔɪ/, then we need to use a /j/ to link the words. If you think about it, [j] is phonetically like a high front vowel. It is the same type of sound. So this kind of makes sense.

On the other hand [w] is phonetically like a high back vowel. When the first word ends in a high back vowel such as /u/, or with a diphthong that ends in a high back vowel such as /oʊ/ or /aʊ/, then we use a [w] to link the two vowels.

If the vowel is not a high vowel, or doesn't end in a high vowel, then you may find linking with a glottal stop, [ʔ], in Gen Am. In non-rhotic Englishes (those which don't have /r/ in the coda of the syllable) such as British RP, you will often find /r/ used to link a non-high vowel with a following vowel.

  • 1
    Surely the chief contribution of /u/ or /ʊ/ to the /w/ glide is not the height but the rounding? Jun 9, 2015 at 23:29
  • 1
    @StoneyB Probly not, because the other rounded vowels available in other Englishes don't use a /w/, but more importantly /ʊ/ is not rounded for a very large proportion of speakers. (By the other available rounded vowels in other Englishes, I specifically mean /ɔ:/ in RP, which usually occurs before an orthographic /r/ when not closed by a consonant). But - perhaps rounding plus high backness is the main factor? I don't know:) I'll ask some sources ... Jun 9, 2015 at 23:56
  • @StoneyB As you might know, in RP we don't get /ɒ/ (the rounded equivalent of Gen AM /ɑ/) in open syllables. However, it seems a bit unlikely, even if we did, that we'd get a [w] as a joining sound after //ɒ/, as it would need the jaw to go from the most open position possible to a near close position - which would be a really big articulation, and therefore time-consuming ... It seems to me . Jun 10, 2015 at 0:03
  • @StoneyB Sorry, my thoughts aren't runningsmoothly but in fits and starts. It's obviously also possible that any data from RP is a complete red herring when trying to analyse Gen Am .. :) Jun 10, 2015 at 0:06
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    Yes -- with us, /ɔː/ doesn't "imply" /ɔR/. ... and I have to acknowledge that my dialect diphthongalizes practically everything (except /ai/ terminally and before voiced consonants, which it monophthongalizes), so my contrasts may be stronger than even ordinary Midwest American--which itself is a lot tenser than most BrE dialects. Jun 10, 2015 at 0:28

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