pronunciation: /æ/ vowel (as in TRAP, cat) [+ /a/ ]

fabry

Member
Italy - Italian
Hello people!
I studied at school that both the American and the British English have this phoneme "æ", but I couldn't help noticing that Americans pronounce it differently than the British and vice versa. To me it sounds like the British pronounce it in a more "open" way, so closer to an "a", the American, instead, closer to an "e".
So I ask you native speakers if it's just a wrong impression I have, or if there is really a difference between the two ways of pronouncing the same phoneme..?

Thanks

<Edited for standard capitalisation, as pointed out by GreenWhiteBlue below. Nat, moderator>
 
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  • There is no single British or single American pronunciation of anything. If one looks in Britain and in America, one will find people pronouncing any given word all sorts of ways.

    By the way, if you don't mind a minor correction, the sentence should have been:
    Americans pronounce it differently than from the British
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I absolutely agree with GWB, and for these reasons I don't think it's fruitful to discuss it here. The history and distribution of differences in the pronunciation of the letter "a" and all its phonetic variations is extremely complex: I would say mind boggling.

    There is an article here which may help you: Phonological history of English short A

    < Edited to replace link that no longer worked with one that does. Cagey, moderator >
     
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    Jiung

    Member
    Chinese, Taiwan
    Dear all,

    I am so confused by the sound æ as in American and in British accent, for example, as I check the word "flag" in Oxford online dictionary,
    it shows both the British and the American sound are "flæɡ",
    flag_1 noun - Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes | Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com

    But as I click to hear the actual pronunciation, they sound completely different.
    Does that mean the æ sound in British and American is pronounced differently?

    Thanks!

    < Edited to replace link that no longer worked with one that does. Cagey, moderator >
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Mod note: Jiung's thread has been merged with an earlier thread.

    The vowel has been changing its quality, and of course there is internal variation within BrE and AmE too. If you consider RP (Received Pronunciation), the vowel has become more open so that the Oxford English Dictionary now uses /a/ in its newer entries for BrE. This is the OED pronunciation entry for map:

    map, n.1
    Pronunciation: Brit. /map/ , U.S. /mæp/

    English in the US and Australia tends to use the less open vowel.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Just to add that I have found this British Library site very interesting:

    Received Pronunciation Phonology

    It lists all the vowels used and includes sound clips for viewers to listen to, and labels /æ/ as 'conservative RP' and /a/ is not given a label. (There's a vowel labelled 'contemporary RP' and another labelled 'contemporary female RP'! :eek:)
     

    le Grand Soir

    Senior Member
    Anglais, dialecte de San Francisco
    Remember that in the United States alone there are 26 different dialects of English. They are rather different, especially to the ear of a native speaker.
     

    Listenever

    Senior Member
    Korean
    When I presented British /ӕ/ sound to three English familiar persons online - they are doing answering English-related questions activities, and asked what sound it’s like /ӕ/ or /ɑ/. Astonishingly all three of them without hesitation checked out /ɑ/. That shows how difficult it is to differentiate the two sounds for Koreans.
    I can perceive both British and American /ӕ/ are made at the front. But the former sound is far more similar Korean’s [ㅏ] sound. That’s why the Koreans all hear /ɑ/. And this definitely shows that there’s some difference between British and American /ӕ/. Would you let me know the difference?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Listenever, I have merged your thread with an earlier one on the same question. Do look above, and there are some useful links provided too.

    The TRAP vowel has been undergoing change, and in the earlier part of the 20th century, southern British accents would use a vowel close to the DRESS vowel (whereas northern British accents had a more open vowel), similar to the one used in many accents in the US, Australia and South Africa. Many southern British accents now have a more open vowel, sometimes represented as /a/, and is different from /ɑː/, the PALM vowel.
     

    Listenever

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Listenever, I have merged your thread with an earlier one on the same question. Do look above, and there are some useful links provided too.

    The TRAP vowel has been undergoing change, and in the earlier part of the 20th century, southern British accents would use a vowel close to the DRESS vowel (whereas northern British accents had a more open vowel), similar to the one used in many accents in the US, Australia and South Africa. Many southern British accents now have a more open vowel, sometimes represented as /a/, and is different from /ɑː/, the PALM vowel.

    So /a/ is similar to /ӕ/ in a regard to their positions: they are made in the front. But they are different in sounds because /a/ is more rounder or lower. And /a/ is different from /ɑː/ for the former is made in the front while the latter in the back: My understanding after reading the thread is like this. Is it right?
     

    Jignesh77

    Senior Member
    India- hindi
    <Merged to this thread. Nat, moderator>
    Jam : dʒæm
    I love pronunciation but the "æ" sound especially in British English gives me trouble. It is more closer to ae' in ˈfɑːðər'. I would really appreciate your help to clear this doubt forever!

    thanks
     
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    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I can understand why you might be confused: if you listen on the streets of Leeds you will hear dʒam not dʒæm.
    dʒæm
    is more of a London or American vowel. It lies half way between the vowels in Leeds man and men.
     
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    irinet

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Mod note: irinet's thread has been merged with an earlier thread. Nat, moderator

    Hello,
    I've recently heard 'cash' as /kāsh/, and I am very curious about the phonetic differences of this word.

    Can you tell me if /ka:sh/ is specific to English or you also use /kaesh/?

    Thank you,
     
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    irinet

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Hi,
    In Romania.
    I supposed that the customers were English people. And here's the context:
    How would you like to pay: by cash or by card?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I supposed that the customers were English people. And here's the context:
    How would you like to pay: by cash or by card?
    So the person selling the item that the English customers were buying said this?

    I suppose the speaker could have had a strong accent from the Cardiff/Swansea area of Wales - they tend to lengthen the sound of letter "/ae/" and make it "rounder".
     
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    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    The standard pronunciation of "cash" in US and British English is: /kæʃ/

    And it rhymes with several other words that end in -ash, eg

    If you don't pay cash for your bangers and mash, I'll have to smash the plates and put them in the trash.


    Of course, there may be regional, local or individual variations, but that is true of the pronunciation of most words.
     

    irinet

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you very much for your answers.

    I think I'll ask them where they come from if I see them again.
    I hope that they won't mind answering my question.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The quality of this vowel has changed in the last 60 years or so in BrE. If you listen to recordings or watch films from the 1950s, you'll hear a vowel in TRAP (or cash) that is closer to the DRESS vowel. These days the vowel is more open. Some British dictionaries have begun to use the IPA symbol /a/ rather than /æ/. But of course accents in nothern England and Scotland have always this more open vowel.
     

    irinet

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Well, these young customers didn't seem to understand /kae§/, and that was strange.

    Or was it more likely the phrase "by card" that they weren't used to?!
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Well, these young customers didn't seem to understand /kae§/, and that was strange.
    See Nat's comments, irinet.
    Maybe the person saying the word "cash" has been taught an older RP pronunciation of the /æ/ vowel? If so, their pronunciation of "cash" might sound like "kesh" to a younger speaker of BrE.
     

    irinet

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Yes. I wanted to get a better understanding of what I've just read in this thread, and what or how has been really said, Loob.

    So, it may also be this 'kesh' pronunciation that has caused some confusion on both parties.

    You are perfectly right. Thank you, Loob.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Meanwhile, back in the U.S., cash is like cat with the "t" replaced by "sh".
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I studied learned at school that both the American and the British English have this phoneme "æ", but I couldn't help noticing that Americans pronounce it differently than the British and vice versa.
    I've often wondered about this. It seems to me that if a Brit and I are pronouncing /æ/ differently, then only one of us is saying /æ/ -- the other is saying something else. :confused:


    (Verb correction provided for the benefit of future readers - I do realise that fabry was last here almost four years ago.)
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The OED has changed its usage. The second edition used /æ/, whereas the third edition uses /a/ for BrE to reflect the more recent pronunciation, but keeps /æ/ for its AmE examples.
     
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