Standard american accent

Jose   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 01:29 GMT
I've been trying to learn american standard accent for a while ,i've used different dictionaries, books, and this forum had helped me a lot, too
but i have a confusion ,

In american standard accent Caught and Cot are pronounced the same (cawt) , so that means that Hot and Haut are pronounced the same too (hawt) , therefore in standard american accent for and far should be pronounce the same too (fawr), am i right?
Smith   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 01:51 GMT

In pronounce ''caught'' and ''cot'' the same [ka:t] (kaht).

''hot'' and ''haut'' the same [ha:t] (haht).

But, ''for'' and ''far' are pronounced the same even by Americans that merge ''caught'' and ''cot''.

far-[fa:r] (fahr)
for-[fo:r] (fawr)
Jim   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 01:51 GMT
I don't think that your conclusion is justified.

Some Americans distinguish between "cot" and "caught" others don't. I'm not quite sure which they've decided to label as "stardard". However, considerations about the merger or distinction of /o/ and /o:/ are a different matter.

It's best to think of "or" and "ar" as digraphs rather than "a" and "o" plus "r". In most rhotic American accents "ar" and "or" represent distinct sequences of phonemes, /a:r/ and /o:r/. However, there are some accents where "or" and "ar" are pronounced the same (or so I've read).
José   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 01:54 GMT
That Jose is not the same Jose that was posting in the other thread (which is me).
Smith   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 01:57 GMT
I've heard that there are accents where ''or'', ''ore'', ''oar'', ''our'' and ''aur'' each represent distinct sequences of phonemes.

Smith   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 02:00 GMT
Does anyone have any idea of what accent that might be?
Jim   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 02:01 GMT
When I wrote "I don't think that your conclusion is justified." I meant Jose's not Smith's.

"6.2 A southern US merger

"Then there is the START-NORTH distinction, exemplified in pairs such as 'farm' and 'form'. It is not only the Jamaicans that tend to pronounce these identically; many Americans speaking popular accents in the south do so too. They have a test phrase about being 'born' in a 'barn', and it is well known that some people confuse or reverse the two: country bumpkins in the southern states are ridiculed as being 'barn' in a 'born', with the typical confusion of people trying to introduce a contrast into their speech that they don’t natively have."

J.C. Wells

So for some Americans "far" and "for" would be pronounced the same but I think it would be a mistake to try to link this to the "caught" vs. "cot" merger.

Perhaps some Americans could fill in any details I've over-looked.
Mxsmanic   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 05:27 GMT
A lot of Americans distinguish cot and caught, including myself. However, it's a fairly unimportant distinction, which is why it often disappears. You can choose to make the distinction or not make it, as you wish; it won't have any noticeable effect on your accent, as long as whichever vowel you decide to use is pronounced in the American way.

In other words, there's a difference between pronouncing something with a variation on American pronunciation and pronouncing it with an actual foreign accent. If you eliminate the latter, you'll sound American, no matter which American variant you choose. The differences between the variant American pronunciations are extremely small and usually not noticed by native speakers.
mjd   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 06:47 GMT
"The differences between the variant American pronunciations are extremely small and usually not noticed by native speakers."

I suppose it could go unnoticed if one were speaking fast, but here in the greater New York area it sounds very Midwestern to us when people start blending "caught" and "cot." For example, here "awesome" has the same vowel sound as "caught." To pronounce it with the "cot" sound would sound like you came straight from...well, like I said, the Midwest (not that I have anything against Midwesterners). Pronouncing "for" and "far" the same would definitely make your speech stand out around here (I live in New Jersey, by the way).

Someone who is learning English shouldn't get bogged down with all of these minute long as your speech is clear and understandable, there shouldn't be a problem.
Mxsmanic   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 19:00 GMT
Many New Yorkers don't speak GAE; naturally GAE sounds noticeably different to them. New York accents are extremely poor models for ESL students. I warn them that many people in New York have a strong and distinctive accent; I do not attempt to teach them this accent nor do I recommend that they attempt to learn it, as it is useles outside New York City.
Joe   Tuesday, October 12, 2004, 19:02 GMT
There are so many accents throughout the United States that to a speaker of another language learning American English it can be quite confusing. What exactly is a standard American English accent? The best example I can find is the accent typical of news anchors and those in radio. It almost sounds like there is no accent at all to an American. Many in Florida, having come from all over the nation, tend to develop that sort of accent. Still, it's very easy to pick out the differences when comparing a person from here in Tampa with someone from Tallahassee, where a southern drawl is common. We do have our own way of pronouncing things.

The way I pronounce it, cot and caught, haught and hot, are two totally different sounds. Others WOULD pronounce it the same.

You'll find that Americans speak so differently, that it doesn't matter what your accent is like. If you aim somewhere in the middle, not for extremes like southern or NY/NJ or New England English accents, you should be pretty "standard" Everyone will understand you either way, though. But it's good you show an interest in perfecting your accent!
Mxsmanic   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 03:26 GMT
There are many accents in the USA, but the vast majority of them are very tiny departures from a "standard" ideal accent. People may notice if you aren't from the same town that they are from, but they won't be able to identify your town of origin; all they notice is that an occasional word is pronounced differently. These minor differences are insignificant from an ESL standpoint, and all these variations come under the heading of "American English." The "broadcast English" used on television is a blend of endless varieties of American English that effectively makes differences unidentifiable. The person on TV may not talk exactly like you do, but the difference is so small that you probably will never even be aware of its existence.

The only exceptions are true outliers in the U.S., such as various southern accents, some marked regional accents (New York, Boston), and so on. These don't enter into standard American English, and they are so far from the ideal standard that they are best avoided in ESL learning. But outside of these exceptions, ESL students can use almost any American model and develop pronunciation that sounds completely neutral to virtually any American. In other words, one ESL student could use an educated Californian as a model and another could use an educated Minnesotan as a model, and they would still be pretty much indistinguishable from each other; both would be learning standard American English.

Indeed, the variations from region to region in American English are often smaller than the variations from one individual to another, which effectively makes them nonexistent for most practical purposes.

Even RP and GAE are far more similar than different, especially from the standpoint of a foreign student of English. A student can learn a hodgepodge of these two major standards and still sound fine when speaking English, although both Americans and British speakers will tend to think that he is from "somewhere else" (i.e., some other English-speaking place).
no tengo nada que hacer   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 21:15 GMT
>> "...But outside of these exceptions, ESL students can use almost any American model and develop pronunciation that sounds completely neutral to virtually any American. In other words, one ESL student could use an educated Californian as a model and another could use an educated Minnesotan as a model, and they would still be pretty much indistinguishable from each other..."

I've been looking for something like this in the last few weeks.... A MODEL!

Could you possible suggest some examples? (maybe an actor in a movie, or a politician).
Mxsmanic   Thursday, October 14, 2004, 19:55 GMT
Experience radio and television announcers usually speak an extremely standard American English, particularly those who have been trained to suppress any trace of regional accent. Look for voiceover artists on the Web, too: many of them have Web sites with samples of their speech. They typically have very neutral American accents.

Ironically, British actors who are skilled at speaking with an American accent may be good models (verify first that they have no accent by asking Americans what they think). These actors speak an "impossibly neutral" American that has often has no identifiable trace of regional accent at all. If Americans notice anything odd about it, it's not that they hear a regional accent, it's the total absence of any eccentricity that makes it sound a bit unusual. Like replicants in _Blade Runner_, it's an accent that's "more American than American."

It's a bit like my own accent when I speak French: remove the American portion of my accent, and the rest is such an extremely neutral French that it sounds like I was born in the Radio France building. Of course, that comes from years of formal study. (Some say I've developed a slight Parisian accent, though, at least in the provinces.)
no tengo nada que hacer   Friday, October 15, 2004, 00:12 GMT
I searched in this forum, and...

Harrison Ford
Julia Roberts
Bruce Willis
Arnold Schwarzenegger (yeah, right)

>> "Bruce Willis has about the most standard American accent as you can get."