pronunciation: hat/hot/hut

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YPY

Senior Member
Spanish (Latin American)
Hello everyone.

Well, I can tell the difference between (I don't know but "among" doesn't sound good to me) those words when a native speaker says them. However, when I try to say them (and I record myself) I can barely tell "hat" apart from the other two.

I know that these are the phonetic transcriptions:

Hat = /hæt/ Ok, it's a open "a" with a little "e" sound (it's probably the easiest one for me)

Hot = /hɑ:t/ I have my lips kind of rounded (oval shape)

Hut = /hʌt/ ---> schwa

I think that my problem is "hot" because sometimes I hear people saying "hat" (and I wind up saying either "hæt" or "hʌt") and sometimes saying "hot" (a full "O")

The same happens with bought, caught, dawn...

cut - caught , but - bought, dawn - done...

So, could you tell me how could I pronounce "ɑ:" correctly?

Thanks in advance (I'm sorry if I didn't make myself clear enough :()
 
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  • ><FISH'>

    Senior Member
    British English
    Americans will sort of say "Hat" instead of "Hot", though it has a subtle difference if you can notice it.

    Unfortunately, this is the nature of the English language. The pronunciation varies between different people, and it is necessary to examine context to understand it.
     

    YPY

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Latin American)
    Yes, I guess you're right. This sound drives me crazy! (the caught, bought...)

    In fact, I was watching a British TV show today and I heard a woman saying:

    "caught" like "coat."

    Hmmm what a pickel! :confused:
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    No, you didn't hear 'caught' like 'coat'. What you heard was 'caught' not like 'cart'. The pronunciation of O-sounds as in 'hot' with an A-vowel ([ɑ:]) is purely AmE. Most other accents don't do this. In them 'hot' has some kind of [o] vowel, something like your Spanish [o] in fact, though not exactly the same. Unfortunately there's so much accent difference here that it's impossible to give clear, simple guidelines – especially as we're doing it in writing.

    In Southern England BrE neither 'hat' nor 'hot' has a vowel that exists in Spanish. But 'hut' and 'heart' do: it's your Spanish A sound, short in 'hut', long in 'heart'.

    In General AmE none of the three words 'hat', 'hut', 'hot' has a vowel that exactly matches a Spanish one.

    So I don't know what we do here. Do we continue trying to describe phonetics in words? Can we say things like 'now move the root of your tongue backwards'? In my experience it's impossible to follow directions like that. Pick a native speaker, know what dialect you've got, and if it's a useful dialect imitate that native speaker. Be aware that a lot of people will not pronounce it that way.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    So I don't know what we do here. Do we continue trying to describe phonetics in words? Can we say things like 'now move the root of your tongue backwards'? In my experience it's impossible to follow directions like that. Pick a native speaker, know what dialect you've got, and if it's a useful dialect imitate that native speaker. Be aware that a lot of people will not pronounce it that way.
    This is when I usually suggest an audio comparison such as at acapela
    Type something like the following into the text box, and select one of the speakers (US or UK):
    hut hat hot nut not hut cat fat mat mutt hot cot lot

    You can add caught next to cot and see which speakers say them the same, and which say them differently.

    There are various speakers and by having different ones say the same text, one can get a feel for some of the ranges these vowel sounds cover.
     

    frenchforschool

    Member
    English
    I'd recommend to practice with other similar sounding words:
    hot - pot - lot - ought
    hat -at - pat - sat - mat (sounds liek at with an added letter at the beginning)
    hut - but - cut
    Hope it helps! :)
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Neither have I. The following words all have distinct pronunciations for me:

    beet
    bit
    bait
    bet
    bat
    bot
    bought

    but
    boat
    boot


    (and there's also the vowel in put, but there is no word but that rhymes with put)

    So you should know that many speakers distinguish bot from bought, but many do not. So since you have the choice, you could take the easy road and just merge them. :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Neither have I. The following words all have distinct pronunciations for me:

    beet
    bit
    bait
    bet
    bat
    bot
    bought

    but
    boat
    boot


    (and there's also the vowel in put, but there is no word but that rhymes with put)

    So you should know that many speakers distinguish bot from bought, but many do not. So since you have the choice, you could take the easy road and just merge them. :)
    This is true for me as well. Note that Brian is from southern Louisiana, and I am originally from Wisconsin and have lived in the northeastern U.S. most of my adult life.

    For me, bot and hot share—precisely—the vowel sound of the Spanish letter a.

    Another note (perhaps a pet peeve?): There was a mention in passing before about so-called General American. In reality, this is not a single accent, but a range of accents and intonation patterns found in a very large geographic area.

    It is not the way the majority of U.S. residents speak. It is a range of accent/intonation patterns heard among a substantial minority of the population. There is wide variation in the pronunciation of vowels within the population that speaks General American.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My pronunciation is the same as Elwintee's:
    "Hot", "pot" and "lot" have a short vowel.
    "Caught", "sort", "fought", "taught" and "wart" have a long vowel, pronounced with the lips rounded.
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    This Londoner [...] pronounces caught as rhyming with sort, fought, taught, wart.
    My pronunciation is the same as Elwintee's:
    [...]
    "Caught", "sort", "fought", "taught" and "wart" have a long vowel, pronounced with the lips rounded.
    Note that this only holds for non-rhotic dialects, i.e. dialects that drop r's in coda (syllable-ending) position.

    For a rhotic speaker like myself, caught and fought rhyme, but they are distinct from wart and sort, which also rhyme.
     

    Natalisha

    Senior Member
    Russian
    This Londoner pronounces hot-pot-lot with a short vowel, but pronounces caught as rhyming with sort, fought, taught, wart.
    I know that, but thank you all the same, Elwintee.:)
    I wonder how Frenchforschool pronounces these words. I don't think I wouldn't understand him/her if he/she pronounced them in a different way (I would probably rely on the context). But if these words were pronounced in isolation?

    pot or port?

    I wonder whether all these words (hot - pot - lot - ought) are pronounced with a long or a short vowel in the area where he lives.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I wonder how Frenchforschool pronounces these words.
    ....
    I wonder whether all these words (hot - pot - lot - ought) are pronounced with a long or a short vowel in the area where he lives.
    No location is provided by Frenchforschool but one might hazard a guess based on this map showing the distribution of the cot-caught merger. I think it very unlikely that they would all have the long vowel sound and the merger deals with the shortening of the ought type word to a shorter o sound.
     

    YPY

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Latin American)
    This is true for me as well. Note that Brian is from southern Louisiana, and I am originally from Wisconsin and have lived in the northeastern U.S. most of my adult life.

    For me, bot and hot share—precisely—the vowel sound of the Spanish letter a.

    Another note (perhaps a pet peeve?): There was a mention in passing before about so-called General American. In reality, this is not a single accent, but a range of accents and intonation patterns found in a very large geographic area.

    It is not the way the majority of U.S. residents speak. It is a range of accent/intonation patterns heard among a substantial minority of the population. There is wide variation in the pronunciation of vowels within the population that speaks General American.
    Yes, I just realized that's true :(.

    I was talking to someone from Chicago and I said the word "caught" using the Spanish "a" and they didn't understand me. They said I was saying "cat."

    For example: They cat it :eek: (They caught it.)

    Instead of an "a" they told me that I should say "cot" (like a long Spanish "O".)
     

    DavidWC55

    New Member
    English - United States (Alabama)
    I wanted to make a general comment regarding the reference to "spanish A" as it relates to the American English vowel used in words like "hot, pot, cot" etc. This is not EXACTLY the same sound as Spanish /a/. Spanish /a/ is a low central vowel, English "a" in these words (e.g. also in "father") is a more back vowel (it's also a low back vowel in British English, but it's rounded in BE and unrounded in American English).

    To distinguish Spanish /a/ from the English "a" in "father" (American English) further, in my dialect of southern American English, the word "I" has more or less the same pronunciation as the Spanish word "a", but this is not the exact same vowel I have in "father, hot, pot, etc." (but the exact vowel used for monophthongized "i" in southern American English does vary some from region to region)

    Moreover, since something about Chicago was mentioned, this may not have applied to the particular person that was referenced, but in some areas of the Midwest (in the US), the "a" vowel in "father, hot, pot, etc." IS actually fronted (or less back) relative to most other areas of the US, making the vowel somewhat more similar to Spanish /a/, although there's something different about it still (the Midwest US "a" sounds to me to be more fronted than Spanish /a/ or it may just be more tense, I'm not sure).

    All in all, my only point is to bring to attention that there is a noticeable difference in Spanish /a/ and the vowel used in "father, hot, pot, etc." in American English (although the difference is subtle and usually disregarded in L2 Spanish classrooms); in fact, when American English speaking learners of Spanish do use the low back unrounded vowel (e.g. in father) for Spanish /a/, I would say it contributes slightly to "foreign-accentedness."
     
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