# How do you pronounce these words?

1. Sep 7, 2005

### honestrosewater

My linguistics book says that some people pronounce the following words differently, but it doesn't say how these people pronounce the words! So... what do you do?

(I think they're talking about American English, but any English dialect is welcome.)

witch - which
horse - hoarse
morning - mourning
sot - sought
cot - caught
bawdy - body
father - farther
Mary - merry - marry
poor - pour - pore

I pronounce father and farther differently - there's an /r/ sound after the a, as in far, in the latter. There's no consistent difference in my pronunciations of the others.

2. Sep 7, 2005

Regional pronunciations

Because of my particular regional accent, I pronounce them all the same (except for father - farther). M_W says differently (and lets you listen to the funny pronunciations; * = only a subtle difference; + = first word, as opposed to the second or third word):
m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=which

'hwich
'hOrs *
'mOrn *
'sät +
'kät +*
'bo-dE +*
(father - farther; people from New England pronounce these the same way)
'mA-rE +
'pur +

Last edited: Sep 7, 2005
3. Sep 7, 2005

### honestrosewater

The dictionary?! :surprised

4. Sep 7, 2005

Staff Emeritus
witch - which I pronounce which with a little more breath.
horse - hoarse The same.
morning - mourning The same.
sot - sought Different: saht - sawt
cot - caught Likewise: caht - cawt
bawdy - body Bawdy as spelled vs. bahdy
father - farther I pronounce the first r in farther
Mary - merry - marry The same

5. Sep 12, 2005

### Nereid

Staff Emeritus
Same:
witch - which
horse - hoarse
morning - mourning
poor - pour - pore (sometimes the first has a different vowel, the mark of a 'Pommie' - someone who has recently migrated from the England).

Different:
sot - sought (the latter has a longer vowel)
cot - caught (ditto)
bawdy - body (the former has a longer vowel)
father - farther (this one is tricky; sometimes the same, sometime the second is the same as 'further')
Mary - merry - marry (three different vowels)

6. Sep 12, 2005

### Smurf

body - body
father - fahther

7. Sep 12, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
When I was first taught reading/spelling, I was taught that "wh" as in "which" should be pronounced "hw". It never stuck with me, so I pronounce "witch" and "which" the same.

Ones I pronounce differently (hyphens are to separate sounds, not syllables here):
cot = c-ah-t
caught = c-aw-t
bawdy = b-aw-dee
body = b-ah-dee
father = f-ah-ther
farther = f-are-ther

Not sure how to explain how I pronounce Mary, merry, and marry, but they are all different for me. The "a" in Mary and marry is essentially the same, but in "marry" I say the double-r much harder than the r in "Mary." The 'e' in merry is very different from the 'a' in marry...not quite like "beer" but slightly in that direction.

8. Sep 13, 2005

### honestrosewater

Great, thanks for the info. I'll look for those differences in some speech samples.
My first comparison was based mostly on the shape of my vocal tract while pronouncing the words. Even now that I'm focusing more on the sound itself, I still don't notice a difference.

9. Sep 13, 2005

### hypnagogue

Staff Emeritus
I have the same pronunciations on these words as Moonbear, except perhaps for Mary - marry - merry. I'd say Mary and marry have the same vowel sound ('a' as in cat, hat, and fat), but I pronounce the r sound in marry slightly longer, and I also stress the first syllable in Mary more than I do in marry. It's kind of like MA-ree as opposed to mar-ree. The first syllable in Mary is kind of like a quick attack while the first syllable in marry is more relaxed and drawn out.

Merry has a completely different vowel sound for me, 'e' as in wet, bet, jest, etc. The first syllable has a stress similar to marry, but the r sound is not drawn out but curt, as in Mary. So I guess using my above notation I'd write it as me-ree. (Hope you can make sense of that-- I'm not up on the linguistics representations of various language sounds.)

Last edited: Sep 13, 2005
10. Sep 13, 2005

### honestrosewater

Yes, that's all fine.
How you guys describe vowels followed by an /r/ is interesting. When /r/ follows certain vowel sounds, it tends to change them in ways that are difficult to categorize. Sometimes, IMO, producing entirely unique sounds. Here are the basic non-/r/ English vowel sounds:

1) easy
2) imitate
3) able
4) edge
5) battle
6) father
7) fought
9) book, should
10) food
11) aroma
12) but
13) ride
14) house
15) boy

Those are the examples from the book. As has already been demonstrated, everyone doesn't pronounce every word the same way - they are just guides. Try following each vowel sound with an /r/ and see what happens. (You can try some other consonants for comparison too.)

How would you classify, for instance, the vowel sound in air? Is it a variation of the vowel sound in able? Or maybe edge or battle? What about her, ear, core, car, etc.? Which vowel sounds are they variations of? Should they even be considered variations? Hmmm...

Last edited: Sep 13, 2005
11. Sep 13, 2005

### Nereid

Staff Emeritus
mary, not an air-head: same vowel (diphthong, actually). Not the same as in any of the other words you list (but the first part of the diphthong is the same - or just close? - to edge.

But then, not all native speakers of English pronounce the 'r' in these words (except, of course, in mary/merry/marry).

12. Sep 13, 2005

### neurocomp2003

those words are examples emphasizing elongation versus short sound of phonemes(i believe the middle phonemes of the words)...au(short) aw(long)
the chinese language is so much better at this aspect of language wiht respect to alphabets/sounds. In comparison i believe the chinese call it tonality(5 tones in total)...not sure what the english language calls it. the english language is messed up in this aspect having many sounds to a single letter, for many letters and having the children trying to learn all these exception rules...NO WONDER asiatic people have troubles reading english in the adult stages(heh my mom has been in cdn for 25 years and still has troubles spelling..though her talking has improved)..but subtitles make a movie funny sometimes.

Any ways back to tonality...which is the hardest part of an asiatic language. and why some westerners can't grasp the language...for asiatic people its the grammar/tense of the western world.
I can speak only of mandarin(heh half cantonese but i don't know how to speak, only listen)...There are 5 tones...and for those example english words above i believe they exhibit tone1(short) and tone3(long)
the other 3 tones-tone0(ching-soft), tone2(medium), tone4(hard).

13. Sep 13, 2005

### honestrosewater

neurocomp2003,
The suprasegmental properties that I'm familiar with are pitch, loudness, and duration. Tone is a pitch specification. English isn't a tone language (though it does use pitch for intonation, stress, etc.). I thought that Mandarin and Cantonese were tone languages, but I'm not sure. Which of those properties are you talking about - the length, pitch, or loudness of a phoneme?

I think the examples covered several things. English does have some predictable duration variations. For example, /e/ (that's a long a sound) is shorter when followed by an unvioced sound than when followed by a voiced sound.
Voiced - Unvoiced
Abe - ape
save - safe
aid - ate
phase- face
Is this what you mean?

Edit: Nevermind. I see from Nereid's link that you were talking about tone.

Last edited: Sep 13, 2005
14. Sep 13, 2005

### honestrosewater

Yeah, I'm just learning about this (I keep jumping all over the place ). This /r/ business all revolves around something called 'rhoticity' if anyone wants to look up more info.

I don't think the IPA has a symbol for the air vowel sound; You just have to use the rhoticity diacritic (http://www2.arts.gla.ac.uk/IPA/diacritics.html). The problem is deciding which phoneme to attach it to. I think, for instance, air is most similar to able. But someone else may go with edge. So the 'one sound, one symbol' goal is out the window. Of course, the IPA isn't the only system to use. There are some things about it that I don't like, but I may just not understand the reasoning behind them yet.

Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
15. Sep 13, 2005

### Nereid

Staff Emeritus
They are; as are perhaps most http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/t/to/tone_(linguistics).htm [Broken]. However, most Indo-European languages are not tonal.

Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
16. Sep 13, 2005

### honestrosewater

Interesting. I would think that intonation would be used much less in tonal languages than in non-tonal ones. I don't know anything much about tonal languages though - I just wonder whether that's the case.

Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
17. Sep 13, 2005

### loseyourname

Staff Emeritus
No mention of ancient Greek, but I personally find that to be the most interesting variety. They used tone the way we use stress, speaking the accented syllable of a word at a higher pitch than the others. I sometimes imagine it sounding like a priest chanting at mass, but nobody really knows.

Those are actually both long vowel sounds, probably best represented by the Spanish "au" and the Irish "á." In fact, strictly speaking, neither is a phoneme, as they are both compound sounds, the former being a dipthong and the latter being a vowel sound that fades into a consonant (although, in Irish, the latter is a grapheme).

Actually, if you want an example of a very difficult language to spell, Irish might be as bad as English. Take the word "mheabhair," which means crazy. It's pronounced "va-wer" (the really short "a" sound, as in English "at"). Or try "garbhmheilte."

For a very difficult language to learn, try Cherokee, in which verbs can constitute complete sentences. Take the verb "yiwidogawonisisidolidoha," which roughly translates as "If he/she is going away randomly making the identical talks from place to place," of which the verb is simply "woni" (to speak). Other possible conjugations include "gawonisisiloelega" (He/she is going there to make the identical speech repeatedly for him), and "nigawoniha" (He/she is speaking with his/her side turned to the listener). The spelling and pronunciation are actually very simple and easy to grasp (it's based on a syllabary with only 67 possible syllables), but the possibilities for verb conjugations are daunting to say the least. The only other language I can think of that is nearly so agglutinating is Navajo, which is pretty closely related.

Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
18. Sep 13, 2005

### honestrosewater

We have different definitions of phoneme then. Perhaps your 'phoneme' is my 'phone'. ?

My phone is an 'atomic' unit of speech sound. The role of the sound in a specific language isn't important. The physical properties of the sound are the focus. Phone = speech as a physical event.

My phoneme is an 'atomic' unit of sound meaning. The sound must make a difference in the meaning of words. The physical properties of the sound aren't important. The role of the sound in the language is the focus. Phoneme = speech as conveying meaning.

So a phoneme can consist of two or more phones occurring together, as in diphthongs. For instance, partly because twos, shoes, and choose are different words, /t/, /$/ (sh sound), and /t$/ (ch sound) are phonemes. The sounds make a difference in the meaning of the words. But /t$/ is actually made up of two phones, /t/ and /$/.

Two different phones can also be counted as (variations of) the same phoneme, as in people pronouncing Boston differently - different sounds, same meaning; or in the above example of the short /e/ and long /e/ phones - different phones, same phoneme. Well, those examples are iffy, but I can't think of better ones.

That's what I gather so far, at least. I'm still learning and there seems to be a lot of um 'room for interpretation', even amongst professionals.

Oh, and the reason I said 'atomic' is that they aren't always strictly atomic in every way. /t/ and /$/ are also phonemes, so you could look at /t$/ as consiting of two phonemes, but that's a bit misleading. /e/ (the long a in bay) contains the phoneme /j/ (the y in yes), as you pointed out. But /t\$/ and /e/ are still single phonemes for more complicated reasons, most of which I don't even know yet. Part of /e/ being a single phoneme would be that you can't separate the /j/ part from the rest of it. That is, the first half of /e/ is always followed by the second half - the first half never appears alone. The second half, /j/, can and does appear alone and makes a difference in the meaning of words, so it's a phoneme. So it's more like dealing with patterns of sounds than with individual sounds. Meh, if that makes sense.

Last edited: Sep 13, 2005
19. Sep 13, 2005

### DaveC426913

I am the same as you - except that in my language, there is no such word as 'sot'.

20. Sep 13, 2005

### DaveC426913

It must be very difficult to have a conversation with you.

"Hey hitssquad, which horse is your father going to ride in the morning?"

hitssquad: "My which is going to ride the which named Which, which will be in the which."

:rofl: