pronunciation: fairy / ferry (AmE)

stephenlearner

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

Do you pronounce fairy and ferry the same in AmE?
I listened to WR audio. They sound the same to me.

Thanks.
 
  • RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I have the full marry/merry/Mary merger -- all three of those words rhyme with both ferry and fairy. (I use the "Mary" vowel.)
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yes, I think that's quite common in the U.S.

    dairy, wary, merry, terry, Harry, hairy all rhyme with very for me.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Since nobody has thought to define the actual sounds, can I venture:
    AMERICAN: ferry = marry = fairy = Mary means they all rhyme with /feri:/ or with /feəri:/.
    BRITISH: ferry = /feri:/. Marry = mæri:/. fairy = /feəri:/.​
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Hi,

    Do you pronounce fairy and ferry the same in AmE?
    I certainly do not, and there is no such thing as a single "American English" way of saying anything.

    In a survey of American dialects, 11,422 respondents from across the country were asked " How do you pronounce Mary/merry/marry?" (Note: regardless of your accent, "Mary" and "fairy" have the same sound, however y ou say them, and "merry" and "ferry" have the same sound.)

    Here are the results:
    a. all 3 are the same (56.88%)
    b. all 3 are different (17.34%)
    c. Mary and merry are the same; marry is different (8.97%)
    d. merry and marry are the same; Mary is different (0.96%)
    e. Mary and marry are the same; merry is different (15.84%)

    The question, then, is "which US accent do you want?" If you want to sound like someone from Boston, or New York, or Philadelphia, then do not use the same vowels in "fairy" and "ferry." On the other hand, if you want to sound like someone from Los Angeles or Seattle, then go ahead.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    And so if you have a merged pronunciation, have you got a short vowel or a long vowel? Or is this different from different speakers with the merged pronunciation?

    For me, merry and marry have different short vowels, whereas Mary has a long vowel. (I have the vowels of met, mat and mare respectively.)
     
    Last edited:

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Wikipedia says: In accents that do not have the merger, Mary has the a sound of mare, marry has the "short a" sound of mat, and merry has the "short e" sound of met. In modern RP, they are pronounced as [ˈmɛːɹi], [ˈmæɹi], and [ˈmɛɹi]; in Australian English as [ˈmeːɹi], [ˈmæɹi], and [ˈmeɹi]; in New Zealand English as [ˈmi̞əɹi], [ˈmɛɹi], and [ˈme̝ɹi]; in New York City English as [ˈmeɹi⁓ˈmɛəɹi], [ˈmæɹi], and [ˈmɛɹi]; in Philadelphia English, the same as New York except merry is [ˈmɛɹi⁓ˈmʌɹi]. There is plenty of variance in the distribution of the merger, with expatriate communities of these speakers being formed all over the country. The most common phonetic value of the merged vowel is [ɛ], so that, for example, Mary, marry, and merry for many Americans all become merged as [ˈmɛɹi].

    I'm one of the latter (all merged with the ɛ vowel).
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Many thanks! And so your Mary, marry and merry would (to me) sound like merry.
    My merry, marry and Mary are all the same (to me). But when I listen to the UK version of the word "merry" in the WR dictionary that does not sound like what I'm saying. If you listen to US merry and UK merry, they're different. Do you hear merry like UK merry? My merry, marry and Mary sound like US merry.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Thanks for checking and comparing. My impression is that I pronounce the m*ry's like mare-y (i.e. horse-like :)). I'm not too surprised that it sounds somewhat like your Mary.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    The pronouncer at Merriam-webster says "merry" more like how I say all three: Definition of MERRY
    Is that one more like yours, natkretep?

    Also: I have been sharing this question with someone (US native from the Southwest) and she pronounces Mary, merry and marry all differently (similiarly to Natkretep actually) BUT she pronounces fairy like ferry (to rhyme with her version of "merry"). By the way, I can't hear the difference at all between how she says "merry" and "marry" and also I can barely hear the difference with "Mary" - she says the difference is that the "y" sounds more like long a (eɪ) than like long e (iː). So she's saying /mɛri:/ (merry), /mæri:/ (marry), and /mæreɪ/ (Mary)!

    And for me the ɛr and ær have completely merged (æ and ɛ are distinct but when followed by an r they don't sound different - same phoneme even if different sounds, I probably say both interchangeably and don't even notice)!

    GWB note: at least one person doesn't rhyme Mary and fairy. ;)
     
    Last edited:

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The IPA transcription for fairy is [ˈfɛərɪ]. Do American native speakers pronounce fairy like what the IPA transcription shows?

    I don't think so. I can't hear the schwa in the audio file in the WR dictionary.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Yes, I think that's quite common in the U.S.

    dairy, wary, merry, terry, Harry, hairy all rhyme with very for me.
    Kentix, could you please reply to one more question?

    Do you pronounce the words "character", "embarrassed" and all the other words that have [ɛə] and [æ] followed by an [r] with the same vowel as in "very" too?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The IPA transcription for fairy is [ˈfɛərɪ]. Do American native speakers pronounce fairy like what the IPA transcription shows?

    I don't think so. I can't hear the schwa in the audio file in the WR dictionary.
    I think that is a more old fashioned British pronunciation. These days, you can hear [fɛːri] with a long vowel instead.

    The difference between fairy and ferry in some BrE accents is not the quality of the vowel but its length.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I think that is a more old fashioned British pronunciation. These days, you can hear [fɛːri] with a long vowel instead.

    The difference between fairy and ferry in some BrE accents is not the quality of the vowel but its length.
    I agree. My accent is Standard Southern British and I say:

    Fairy : /ˈfɛːri/

    Ferry: /ˈfɛri/
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top