-g, -ng, -s endings in American English

Ben   Thursday, May 13, 2004, 16:38 GMT
I'm an American and I've long puzzled about a certain feature in my own accent that I don't understand. It's about "o" words. Words like "hot, top, and cod" are pronounced flatly as "haht, tahp and cahd."

HOWEVER, words that end in -g, -ng, or -s like "log, long, and moss" are pronounced in the more rounded British fashion--i.e. "lawg, lawng, and mawss." Why does American English have this discrepancy?
Ben   Thursday, May 13, 2004, 16:45 GMT
Same thing goes for "f" endings as well-office, cough, etc.
Smith   Thursday, May 13, 2004, 18:41 GMT
I pronounce all ''o's'' as [a:]. I pronounce ''aws'' and ''aus'' the same way.

For me, ''cot'' and ''caught'' are pronounced the same. [ka:t].
Julian   Friday, May 14, 2004, 03:14 GMT
I pronounce hot, top, cod, log, long, and moss all with the same "ah" sound that you mentioned. So, in my American accent (Californian) there is no discrepancy.
Me...to Julian   Friday, May 14, 2004, 04:26 GMT
Represent! California! (I'm soo kidding)

Anyway, the other day I was told I say "aunt" weird. Other's say "aunt" the same as "ant" but in my way the "au" sounds like the "au" in "caught"
Jim   Friday, May 14, 2004, 05:03 GMT
Yeah, where's the rhyme and reason?

My guess is that Ben is from Eastern USA and Smith is from the West like Julian. Am I right? I think that there is no disctinction between /a:/, /o/ and /o:/ (as in "cart", "cot" and "caught") in Western USA where /a:/ and /o:/ merge to [a:]. It seems that in Eastern USA the /a:/ and /o:/ distinction is made.

It seems, however, that nowhere in the USA does [o] exist. It's an interesting question Ben raises as to what becomes of words that the rest of us pronounce with /o/ in North America. It seems that it's not just restricted to /a:/ verses /o:/ either. There is also /^/ making things all the more tricky.

Here are some words that I pronounce with an /o/: "hot", "top", "cod", "log", "long", "moss", "office", "cough", "from", "of", "was", "what" and "on". Have a look at the last five, don't North Americans tend to pronounce them with an /^/?
Smith   Friday, May 14, 2004, 05:10 GMT
''from'', "of", "was", "what" and "on". I pronounce all of those with [^] except for ''on'' which I pronounce as [a:n].
Ryan   Friday, May 14, 2004, 07:54 GMT
[o] still exists in New England/Boston, although it is not as rounded as how the vowel is spoken in the UK and Australia.
Ben   Friday, May 14, 2004, 13:20 GMT
Correct about the East Coast thing, Jim.

There is definitely a distinction in the East Coast between /a:/ and /o:/--the words "cot" and "caught" do not rhyme. However, this is different in Northeastern New England (Boston, Eastern New Hampshire, and Maine), where the two rhyme much in the same way they do out west.

/o/ is not heard only in New England, by the way. You can also hear it in Western Pennsylvania, some parts of the South, and many areas out West. It's also the standard pronunciation for much of Canada.
Guy   Friday, May 14, 2004, 16:42 GMT
So for those who say that they pronounce all [o], [o:] and [a:] like [a:], how would it sound if someone pronounces them all like [o:]?(with lips rounded
Ben   Friday, May 14, 2004, 18:49 GMT
It would sound the way that it does in New England and Canada: words like "not, top, god" would be somewhat more rounded than standard American English, whereas words like "caught, bought, tall" would be slightly LESS rounded than standard AmE.
Ryan   Saturday, May 15, 2004, 04:46 GMT
Also, Jim, the word "on" is not pronounced with a /^/ sound in the United States. In New York, New England and the Great Lakes states, it is spoken with the /a:/ sound. Everywhere else, it is spoken with the /o:/ vowel, with an extreme form of it spoken in the Mid Atlantic/Western Pennsylvania areas that makes me laugh when I hear it.
Smith   Saturday, May 15, 2004, 12:26 GMT
Jim, you were right about all of these words "from", "of", "was", "what" and "on" except for ''on'' which is pronounced [a:n].
Ryan   Sunday, May 16, 2004, 04:43 GMT
"Jim, you were right about all of these words "from", "of", "was", "what" and "on" except for ''on'' which is pronounced [a:n]."

Not if you are from Philadelphia
Jim   Monday, May 17, 2004, 02:25 GMT
Afterwards I though that I might have got it wrong with "on" but this illustrates the difficulty I have with guessing what something would sound like in a North American accent. Does anyone know whether there is a general rule by which a North American chooses between [a:], [o:] and [^] when the rest of us say [o]?