pronunciation: about, cow, down, town (MOUTH vowel)

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stephenlearner

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

What is the exact sound of the underlined vowel in these words out, about, cow, down, and town?

Dictionaries suggest [a] sound, the open front unrounded vowel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_front_unrounded_vowel).

But I have read a book about American English which described this vowel as [æ] in can [kæn], and have [hæv].

By the way, are there somebody who pronounce this vowel as [ɑ], the open back unrounded vowel?

Thanks.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hi, Stephen. I won't attempt to describe how I pronounce the vowel in those words, but I can tell you that the pronunciation provided by WR for American English is really accurate. As far as I can tell, I pronounce the vowels in words like "cow" and "about" like the speaker does in the suggested pronunciation for AE. If you haven't tried it before, you should click on the audio files at the top of the page for each word you look up.
     

    dipsota

    Senior Member
    Español- Buenos Aires -Argentina
    /aʊt/ - /əˈbaʊt/ - /kaʊ/ - /daʊn/ - /taʊn/

    /kæn/ and /hæv/ have a different sound. This is the English vowel n°4. It is useful in practising the sound to keep the mouth wide open.

    Is there somebody...?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    There are different pronunciations of this vowel. This is true even within AmE and most certainly within BrE. There is also a range in AusE.

    Most prestigious accents have an [a] vowel - a low vowel, perhaps a bit centralised.

    There are many accents that have a neutral vowel at the beginning - a schwa [ə]. This is the stereotypical Canadian vowel, but you can hear this in many parts of the UK, particularly Scotland and northern England.

    Then there are accents that have a more raised vowel [æ]. This is typical of Cockney, and the diphthong is [æʊ] or [æə]. You can also hear this in many Australian accents.

    In other parts of southern England, you get [ɛ].
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you very much.

    So there are differences among native speakers in pronouncing this vowel.
    But is the [ɑ] rarely heard?
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The traditional educated BrE accent, Received Pronunciation, had [ɑʊ], but this now sounds old-fashioned. Middle-aged and younger speakers of the equivalent accent now have [aʊ].
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I've been watching some programmes on television presented by Dublin-born food writer and musician Donal Skehan, and have noticed that he also seems to have the MOUTH vowel beginning with [æ].
     
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