Do you pronounce ''cot'' and ''caught'' the same?

Tom K.   Monday, March 14, 2005, 14:53 GMT
I forgot to include something in that last message. That Harvard survey isn't very useful, since different parts of the same state often pronounce things differently. For example, it says that Pennsylvania is 63.28% distinct. But that's for the entire state, it doesn't tell you that Pittsburghers pronounce cot and caught the same, while Philadelphians say them differently.
Tom K.   Monday, March 14, 2005, 14:56 GMT
And while we're at it let's make the survey more interesting. If you think "cot" and "caught" are different:

Look at these words: cloth, cross, long, off, wrong. Do those have the vowel of "cot" or "caught"? (my answer: caught)

If you answered "caught" for the last question, what does "on" sound like? Does it rhyme with "don" or "dawn"? (my answer: don)
Ben   Monday, March 14, 2005, 15:16 GMT
Part of my problem with the "cot-caught" merger (what by now has to be the most talked-about topic on this site) is that I find it to be too much of a broad distinction between two sounds. First of all, HOW are the two words merging? With a rounded vowel [o] (as in Northeastern New England, much of Canada and California)? Or with a broad vowel [a:] (as in Western New England and the upper midwest).

Furthermore, the words that use the the same vowel as "cot" and "caught" vary from place to place. In my hometown in rural Connecticut, people pronounce the individual words "cot" and "caught" the same (as [ka:t]). But considering my town part of the "cot/caught" merger would be misleading, because words like "dog" and "long" are pronounced with a rounded vowel [o], as well as a few other individual words.
Tom K.   Monday, March 14, 2005, 15:18 GMT
You're right, it is probably the most talked-about topic on the site. That's why I tried to spice things up a bit with those two questions above.
Adam L.   Monday, March 14, 2005, 17:34 GMT
I'm originally from New York and I pronounce the two words differently.
Tom K.   Monday, March 14, 2005, 17:40 GMT
What about the two additional questions I put at the top of the page? I already know how you would answer them, but others here might not.
Travis   Monday, March 14, 2005, 22:12 GMT
Ben, when you say [a:], do you really mean [a] (a low center unrounded vowel), or do you mean [A] (a low back unrounded vowel) here, as IIRC in most North American dialects, [A] is used rather than [a], and [a] is only found as the nucleus of the diphthongs [aI] and [aU]? Note that I'm omitting vowel length here, as vowel length in (at least most) North American English dialects is not phonemic at all, but is rather determined by consonant environment (usually short when preceding a voiced consonant that is in the same syllable, and long otherwise).
Travis   Monday, March 14, 2005, 22:13 GMT
Ack, I mean "short when preceding an UNVOICED consonant".
Jim   Monday, March 14, 2005, 23:45 GMT
I don't think that Ben means IPA/SAMPA/X-SAMPA [a] but the /a:/ of Tom's alphabet. Tom's /a:/ is equivalent to SAMPA/X-SAMPA /A/ in North American accents.

Tom K., here's my answer. In my accent "cloth", "cross", "long", "off", "wrong", "cot" and "on" all have the same vowel for me: X-SAMPA [O] or /o/ in Tom's alphabet. The words "caught", "dawn", "bore", etc. have a different vowel: X-SAMPA [o:] or /o:/ in Tom's alphabet.
Kirk   Tuesday, March 15, 2005, 03:06 GMT
I've been wondering if antimoon could switch over its transcription system to XSAMPA, considering its widespread use. It would also help create less confusion, as [a:] in Tom's system is the same as [A] in XSAMPA, which is more widely recognized and also doesn't imply any difference in vowel length (same with [i] and [i:] on Tom's system compared to XSAMPA [i] and [I]).
Lotus   Tuesday, March 15, 2005, 03:33 GMT
I always pronounce its as the same . I come from Vietnam.
american nic   Tuesday, March 15, 2005, 04:09 GMT
They're the same. I'm from Minnesota. And Jim - you pronounce caught and bore the same? To me, bore rhymes with door.
Travis   Tuesday, March 15, 2005, 04:38 GMT
Here, "bore" (/bor/) rhymes with "door" (/dor/), even though "cot" and "caught" differ for me, but I don't see any reason why "bore" *wouldn't* rhyme with "door" for most North American English dialects.
rich7   Tuesday, March 15, 2005, 05:22 GMT
hey you, what about if somebody gives me the clue on the real sound of each word, I mean avoiding using any transcription which by the way I'm just learning to decipher.

Some link with the pronounciations would be most appreciated?
Kirk   Tuesday, March 15, 2005, 06:11 GMT
rich7, wikipedia has an excellent page on IPA and its XSAMPA equivalents. If you go to this page you can see and listen to the different sounds of IPA (the chart shows the XSAMPA equivalents).

While XSAMPA may not always be as esthetically pleasing as standard IPA, it really does a pretty good job of making the best of standard ASCII characters. Like a lot of people, when I have to use XSAMPA I generally follow XSAMPA convention except I use normal IPA [æ] instead of XSAMPA [{], because [æ] isn't that hard for me to make (alt 145 on Windows, at least) and shows up on most (if not all) computers. Unlike antimoon's system, XSAMPA allows for pretty narrow transcription if necessary (more specific details), such as this sentence as I would pronounce it:

---using broader transcription (closer to representing the underlying, contrastive phonemes in my idiolect):

[hæv fVn fIgj@rIN aUt Al DIs trænskrIpS@n stVf]

---using somewhat narrower transcription (closer to how I actually pronounce it...altho I'm not including all details, as that could get tedious):

[hæv fVn fIgj@`iN æU4 A5 DIs trænskrIpSn= stVf]

"have fun figuring out all this transcription stuff"