pronunciation: short O (hot, dog etc.) [AE/BE difference]

Greg from Poland

Senior Member
Polish
Hi guys,

I wonder if there are any rules for changing the pronunciation of words such as "dog", "boss, "pot", "hot".

To me, the letter "o" in these words sounds more like "aw" (="dawg"), whereas in British English this letter is clearly pronounced as "o" (=dog).

Are there any rules for changing this sound in American English?
 
  • ajo fresco

    Senior Member
    Hi Greg,

    Sorry, there isn't a rule for it. There are many different American (U.S.) regional accents, so the "o" sound varies depending on which part of the country you're from.

    As an example, if you put someone from New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, and Los Angeles in the same room and asked them to say "dog", you'd hear each one with with a different "o" sound, specific to that region.

    I hope that helps.

    Ajo Fresco
     

    Transatlantic

    Member
    srpskohrvatski; English
    Hi guys,

    I wonder if there are any rules for changing the pronunciation of words such as "dog", "boss, "pot", "hot".

    To me, the letter "o" in these words sounds more like "aw" (="dawg"), whereas in British English this letter is clearly pronounced as "o" (=dog).

    Are there any rules for changing this sound in American English?
    Some North American speakers have two sounds in the words which have the RP short 'o'. I personally never know which of the two a word is supposed to have unless I look it up, as people in Toronto have only one sound, and it is similar, for instance, to the Finnish 'aa'.

    Interestingly, as soon as you cross the Niagara River and enter the US, everybody starts pronouncing "coffee" so that it sounds like "caffee" to our ears.
     

    Greg from Poland

    Senior Member
    Polish
    That's what I'm talking about, Transatlantic :)
    Some words that have the letter "o" sounds as if they had the letter "a" to me ears, for instance:

    da:cument (instead of document)
    pra:bably (instead of probably)
    na:t (instead of not)

    I was wondering whether there are any rules for it; it's a pity there aren't.
     

    curlyboy20

    Senior Member
    Peruvian Spanish.
    Well, the way I see it, the words that would sound more like a short "o" in British English (dog, hot, pot, thought, bought) have the "a" sound in America. Therefore, in the states you here, pa:t, da:g, tha:t, ba:t instead of po:t, ho:t, do:g, tho:t, bo:t in England.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    This is not how I hear Britons speak. Would any British member of the forum agree with me in saying that in the UK, "hot" and "thought" do not rhyme? They certainly do not have the same vowel in my accent of American English, so I can discount that portion of the statement as clearly wrong.
     

    Transatlantic

    Member
    srpskohrvatski; English
    You're right, GWB, RP 'hot' has the same vowel as RP 'not'. 'Thought' tas the same vowel as 'port'.

    In this part of Canada, however, they have the same vowel for most speakers.
     

    Transatlantic

    Member
    srpskohrvatski; English
    That's what I'm talking about, Transatlantic :)
    Some words that have the letter "o" sounds as if they had the letter "a" to me ears, for instance:

    da:cument (instead of document)
    pra:bably (instead of probably)
    na:t (instead of not)

    I was wondering whether there are any rules for it; it's a pity there aren't.
    This is the situation in this part of Ontario. When you cross into upstate New York, however, people have an audibly fronter vowel in these words that sounds like our 'a' in 'cat' to us.

    ...

    However, it's not that simple. Not all words that have the short 'o' in RP have the same vowel in General American. I looked this up and here's an example.

    RP: 'not, 'dog', and 'cot' all have the same vowel (short and rounded, /ɒ/)

    General American: 'not' and 'cot' have the same vowel (the one you hear like a long 'aa', /ɑ:/), but 'dog' has a more rounded vowel, like the British one, but longer, /ɒ:/.

    Toronto: All the words have the same vowel for most speakers (the one that resembles the Finnish 'aa' sound, /ɑ:/)

    Upstate New York: All the words (I think!) have the same vowel, but it sounds similar to the vowel we here use in 'cat', so we hear these speakers as saying 'nat', 'cat' and 'dag' when trying to say 'not', 'cot', 'dog', /æ:~a:/
     
    Last edited:

    Franzi

    Senior Member
    (San Francisco) English
    You might want to read the Wikipedia articles on vowels in English or on dialects of American English. They won't tell you a consistent rule, but they might be interesting:

    Here are a few that seem especially relevant:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonological_history_of_English_vowels
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_English
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_English_regional_phonology
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonological_history_of_English_low_back_vowels#Cot-caught_merger

    If you have very specific questions about accents, you might also want to use the IPA or some other system like that to give examples. I can't tell which "a" and "o" sounds you're talking about.
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    This is not how I hear Britons speak. Would any British member of the forum agree with me in saying that in the UK, "hot" and "thought" do not rhyme? They certainly do not have the same vowel in my accent of American English, so I can discount that portion of the statement as clearly wrong.
    I pronounce "hot" and "thought" with exactly the same vowel sound. But then I don't use RP.

    The UK possibly has even more regional variations in pronunciation than North America, so again it's quie impossible to offer you a generalisation.

    EDIT: and anyone pronouncing "thought" like "port" would get some very strange looks in most parts of the UK!
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Oh, RP has the exact same vowel in 'thought' and 'port', transcribed as /ɔ:/, but remember that RP speakers drop their /r/, whereas Scottish speakers don't.
    It's OK, I'm not arguing with the theory, simply giving people a heads up on the situation on the ground, as it were. Particularly in case anyone thinks that RP is anything other than a minority dialect now.
     

    BlackRaven

    Member
    Hungary, Hungarian
    I'm only asking this out of curiosity, I use (General) American pronuncation. For me, "thought" sounds like "thawt" and rhymes with "law", "dog", "caught", "taught" etc... It could also be important that it DOESN'T rhyme with "horse".
     
    Last edited:

    Adge

    Senior Member
    USA- English (Southern)
    I'm only asking this out of curiosity, I use (General) American pronouncation. For me, "thought" sounds like "thawt" and rhymes with "law", "dog", "caught", "taught" etc... It could also be important that it DOESN'T rhyme with "horse".
    For me, all of these words except "law" have the same vowel.

    Unfortunately, there is no such thing.
    I don't see anything unfortunate about it. Life would be terribly boring if there weren't people who talked "funny" that we could pick on! :D (and this coming from a certifiably funny talker)
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I'm only asking this out of curiosity, I use (General) American pronuncation. For me, "thought" sounds like "thawt" and rhymes with "law", "dog", "caught", "taught" etc... It could also be important that it DOESN'T rhyme with "horse".
    There is of course a difference between rhyming and having the same internal vowel sound, and you may be confusing the two. But I understand what you are asking.

    I'm not - to my regret - able to explain to you in terms of the IPA (maybe one day!), so it will have to be a form of phonetic representation. And one other general comment before I attempt to explain how I pronounce these words: pronunciation changes from time to time depending on things like thelocation of the word within a sentence, whether the word is used alone or along with another word, and so on.

    Generally, I pronounce "thought" as "thot" - or at least in my mind I do so. To that extent, the vowel sound I use is the same as in "hot". If I say "I thought so", with the itallicised word spoken with emphasis, the vowel sound is undoubtedly longer. If, however, I say something like "thought process", the vowel sound is markedly shorter. (I believe the same happens with "hot" in similar various circumstances.)

    This is simply my very basic explanation - possibly half-baked! - of how I (alone) pronounce these words. My mother, who was brought up in a different part of the country, will pronounce them slightly differently; my sister, who has lived in another part of the country for over twenty years, slightly differently again; and so on. But in general terms each of us, speaking with a Scottish accent, would pronounce "thought" and "hot" in a broadly similar way.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top