pronunciation British: difference in "a" [e.g., father / tramp]

mmmoggy

New Member
Japanese
As far as I am aware, there are two ways of pronouncing "a" sound in BE. (I don't know much about AE pronunciation)
For example, words such as father, bath, pass and can't are pronounced with long a sound like "ɑː", whereas majority of words spelled with "a" are pronounced like "æ" such as tramp, stamp and back.
I wonder that there are any rules in the pronunciation difference. I would appreciate it if you had some ideas for it and could help me with the question.

Thanks
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The general rule (with numerous exceptions) is that [æ] became [ɑ:] in two situations: first, before the voiceless fricatives [f] [θ] [s] (but not [ʃ]): this gives the long vowel in words like half, after, laugh, draft, bath, path, pass, class, master, mask (but not splash). Second, before [n] and another consonant: this gives the long vowel in words like aunt, can't, grant, command, demand, dance.
     

    Silver_Biscuit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    There is also the long a in bake, pale, tame etc - you can usually recognise this one because of the 'e' in the spelling.

    I am not sure whether there are really any rules, or even guidelines, for whether to say a as in tramp or father, but I did want to point out that BE is not uniform in this regard. Your assertions are true for received pronunciation (a Southern variety of BE) and other accents, but it can really depend on where the speaker is from. In many areas, bath and tramp share the same a sound.

    I suppose it is likely you are only really interested in RP, but I just wanted to mention it.
     

    JordyBro

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    It's really difficult to create rules for English pronounciation. I took a stab :

    before s (long sound, like your example father)
    -class
    -last
    -past
    -mast
    -grass
    before f
    -shaft
    -laughed
    -draft
    -staff
    before r (long)
    -art
    -fart
    -cart
    -Martin
    -part
    -dart
    -karma
    -startle
    -sharp
    before x, d, t, k, g, p, b ... (short)
    -taxi
    -drag
    -bat
    -bad
    -mad
    -shackle
    -tackle
    -lacking
    -lab
    -stab
    -cap

    Some (albeit uncommon) exceptions
    lass (short) (probably from the Scottish pronunciation)
    gas (short)
    cafe (short)

    Also, I'm only covering the two A sounds you describe, when repesented by the A symbol. For example "race" uses another sound entirely.
     
    Last edited:

    mmmoggy

    New Member
    Japanese
    entangledbank

    That is the exact answer which I was looking for.
    Thank you very much for your clear and helpful explanation.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    This is most certainly not any sort of 'rule', not for millions of perfectly well spoken educated people who do not happen to speak the variety of southern English unhappily known as 'received pronunciation', as if it is somehow more acceptable than any other sort, formerly known as the Queen's English or Oxford English or some such.

    I pronounce all the words below with an A like the one in 'taxi'/'lass' and I'm proud of it.


    before s (long sound, like your example father)
    -class
    -last
    -past
    -mast
    -grass
    before f
    -shaft
    -laughed
    -draft
    -staff
    Maybe lists with exceptions are useful for learning purposes.
     

    mmmoggy

    New Member
    Japanese
    Silver Biscuit

    I didn't know that it only applies to RP accent. I appreciate for your suggestion.
    I like the other parts' accent as well like Scouse, Geordie and of course Scottish. where I lived was Scotland and I thought that I had to speak in bbc accent as a non-native speaker.
    I picked up Glaswegian accent and my flatmate told me that a number of Asian people has immigrated in the U.K. and it's really weird to hear that they speak in Scottish accent. So that's the reason.
     
    Last edited:

    mmmoggy

    New Member
    Japanese
    JordyBro

    Your explanation is straightforward and easy to understand. I am glad to hear that there are some patterns for it.
    I appreciate for your giving me a lot of examples.
    Yes, but it's also really confusing that some people from London pronounce "race" in a completely different way.
    I have to just get used to different accents..
     

    mmmoggy

    New Member
    Japanese
    Hermione Golightly

    I apologise if the way I questioned was kind of offensive to the people living in the other parts of the British Isles.
    Thank you for your help.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Jordybro, I appreciate your effort to try and formulate guidelines for this thorny subject, for a Japanese learner. However, these are not rules - they are a description of one south British dialect.

    Many millions of British people living more than about 52° north pronounce all of your first list (-class -last -past -mast -grass -shaft -laughed -draft -staff) with a short "æ".
     

    jmichaelm

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I have to just get used to different accents..
    Native English speakers will have different accents depending on their locality and ethnicity. On top of that you are almost certain to encounter non-native speakers unless you are in a very isolated spot. So yes, we all do our best to get used to the many different accents we hear. :)
     
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