Pronunciation: a before m or n in AE and BE

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deslenguada

Senior Member
Castellano
Is there any difference between AE and BE when pronouncing words like "am", "bank", "hand", "romantic", "permanent", "andrew"... etc ? because when I listen to the audio in WR I can appreciate that in AE it sounds like and "e" in "letter" and when I hear to the UK one it sounds like an "a" in "tap".

Thank you for your help :) and if you can give more examples it would be great! ;)
 
  • viera

    Senior Member
    English/French/Slovak
    I agree that a sounds like e in Australian English, not so much in AE.

    In this Forum:
    AE = American English
    BE = British English
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I more or less agree with your analysis, but I don't see the point of the topic. Americans and British speakers pronounce vowels differently in many ways, but then people within the USA and within the UK pronounce vowels very differently from each other, according to location and class. That is undeniable, but I'm not sure there is anything to gain from raising it here.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    The vowel a in "am" and the vowel "e" in letter sound nothing like each other in the AE pronunciation that I use. They also sound nothing like each other in any AE pronunciation with which I am familiar. I must therefore tell you that I doubt you have heard what you think you have heard.
     

    domangelo

    Senior Member
    United States English
    There must be a dozen ways to pronounce the letter "a" in English, all along a continuum. I'm am totally overwhelmed by phonetics, so I can't tell you what is open, closed, forward or back, etc. However, it is my impression that the pronunciation of this letter is a key distinguisher between various regional and class-related pronunciations, (as has already been mentioned above). Thus it is far too complex to boil down to AE vs. BE.
     

    deslenguada

    Senior Member
    Castellano
    I see I shouldn´t have focused the thread only on an AE/BE difference.

    Could you please give me some tips about its relation with the class issue?
    I´m completely lost about this. Thanks a lot.

    Thank you Matching Mole and domangelo.
     

    domangelo

    Senior Member
    United States English
    Okay, here is what I have to say about the letter /a/. It is my own quirky idea and I would love to hear other people's reactions to it.

    On one end of the continuum is the /a/ as in "air" "lassie" as pronounced in AE and AusE standards. It is the lowest prestige of the various /a/ sounds, and everyone accuses everyone else of using it. It is a common sound in my AE pronunciation, yet I cringe to hear it in BE, used in words like "mafia" and "Nicaragua". On the other end, at the high prestige level is the /a/ sound that probably comes from French, like the /a/ that the French use to say "La France" and RP speakers in Britain use for "dance" "can't", etc. It is my opinion, (and I solicit commentary) that the use of this sound for the letter /a/ is a recent arrival into the phonology of English, coming in after the spelling and the great vowel shift (and the AE - BE split). If it had been in the language before that you would find alternate spellings of "donce" and "con't" in old texts, since this sound is normally associated with the letter /o/.
     

    Phil-Olly

    Senior Member
    Scotland, English
    On one end of the continuum is the /a/ as in "air" "lassie" as pronounced in AE and AusE standards. It is the lowest prestige of the various /a/ sounds, and everyone accuses everyone else of using it. It is a common sound in my AE pronunciation, yet I cringe to hear it in BE, used in words like "mafia" and "Nicaragua". On the other end, at the high prestige level is the /a/ sound that probably comes from French, like the /a/ that the French use to say "La France" and RP speakers in Britain use for "dance" "can't", etc. It is my opinion, (and I solicit commentary) that the use of this sound for the letter /a/ is a recent arrival into the phonology of English, coming in after the spelling and the great vowel shift (and the AE - BE split). If it had been in the language before that you would find alternate spellings of "donce" and "con't" in old texts, since this sound is normally associated with the letter /o/.
    Isn't pronunciation fascinating?

    I'm surprised that you can say "a" as in "air/lassie" since these 2 a's sound totally different to me. Otherwise I agree with the analyses of your extreme "long a" and your equally extreme "short a", the short one tending towards 'e' as Deslenguada pointed out.

    I wonder if the origins aren't somewhere in the middle (Look to the Spanish 'a' for a nearly pure vowel sound). 'Glasgow' in Scotland sounds wrong if it is pronounced with the 'a' either too long or too short.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In England, the pronunciation of the letter a in am", "bank", "hand", "romantic", and "Andrew" is basically a regional matter. For example, speakers from the Midlands and north of England pronounce like this a like the a in Spanish Espana. Nearer to London, the a is pronounced somewhere between this /a/ and /e/. The London-style a enjoyed special prestige in the past, but this is not so true now. The same applies to many a's before other consonants, for example in map, drab, sack, bad, bag...

    The pronunciation of a in "permanent" is quite different, because here the syllable is unstressed.
     
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