Americans don't pronounce ''cot'' with an [O] sound/

Jordan   Thu Jul 07, 2005 3:58 am GMT
There is a severe misconception that Americans pronounce the "augh" in "caught" as /O:/. Think about it this way: if the word "bore" is pronounced /bO:r/ (and this is wrong too, it should actually be /bo:r/), and if "bought" is prnounced /bO:t/, then technically "bore" should be "bought" with an /r/ instead of a /t/ at the end, and "bought" should be "bore" with an /t/ at the end instead of an /r/. Are they? Not even close. The correct pnoetic transcription of "caught" should be /kQ_ct/ (with a low back rounded, less rounded) for modern American English, or /kQ@t/ for some northern American dialects (New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia).

From what I understand, the caught-cot merger describes that Americans use similar, but not equal, vowels in the words "cot" and "caught." In British English, these words are pronounced /kQt/ and /kOt/. In modern American English, these words are pronounced with much more similar sounds: /kAt/ and /kQt/. Listen as I pronounce "cot" and "caught" using the vowels [A] and [Q]:

http://www.geocities.com/jordanekay/cotcaught.wav

We do not pronounce "caught" with an [O]. Do we say this:

http://www.geocities.com/jordanekay/caught.wav

Absolutely not.

And about "bought" and "bore" having the same vowel sound, again, if you believe that to be true after hearing these words pronounced,

http://www.geocities.com/jordanekay/boughtbore.wav

you need to get your ears checked.
Brennus   Thu Jul 07, 2005 6:33 am GMT
Below is a Wikipedia article related to what you are talking about.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_commonly_confused_homonyms

I would say, however, that in most American pronunciations "caught" ("I CAUGHT the ball") and "cot' ("You don't have a bed but a COT") sound the same. If there is any difference at all it is very minute and you would have to carefully analyze an electronic recording to tell.

On the other hand, British speakers of English usually pronounce 'caught' as /kawt/ so here we have some difference.
Mxsmanic   Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:20 am GMT
The exact pronunciation of the vowel isn't that important. It should be a back open or mid-open vowel, usually rounded (like all back vowels in English), but exactly where you place it is up to you.

Most Americans make a distinction between cot and caught, but some don't, and it's not a very important distinction. Those who do usually give cot the more open vowel, sometimes unrounded as well; and caught gets the more close vowel, usually rounded.
Kirk   Thu Jul 07, 2005 8:29 pm GMT
About 1/2 of Americans clearly distinguish "cot-caught" while the rest either merge the two or have very close pronunciations, or are "transitional" (sometimes they merge, other times not). Most Canadians are "cot-caught" merged.
vw   Fri Jul 08, 2005 12:28 pm GMT
This American pronounces them differently, in fact it once became the topic of discussion among some other Americans from the west-coast (and I believe the western part of the country is where the merger is most common).
Travis   Fri Jul 08, 2005 8:34 pm GMT
"cought" and "cot" are distinctly different here, where "cought" is generally /kOt/ -> [k_hO?] and "cot" is generally /kAt/ -> [k_hA?]. I'm really not sure where some people get the idea that "most" Americans speak in a "cot"-"caught" merged fashion, as the western half of the US is but half of the US, and is not nearly as densely populated as the other half either.
Kirk   Sat Jul 09, 2005 1:08 am GMT
Travis and vw have a good point. Western US dialects are known for their almost exclusive "cot-caught" merging but about half the nation (no matter where) also does maintain the distinction. Also, "cot-caught" merging is by no means confined to the West, and is characteristic of various dialects in different patches of the midwest, Northeast/England, and the South as well.

I have to say that as a Californian who on a daily basis mostly only comes into contact with other Californians, I live in a "cot-caught"-centric world, and was not aware that some dialects made the distinction till several years ago when I first started becoming interested in phonetics/phonology. However, once I learned about it I realized that on things like the national news and other such national broadcasting if I listen closely there are plenty of Americans who clearly have different vowels for the "cot-caught" classes of words.
Kirk   Sat Jul 09, 2005 1:10 am GMT
Oops, I meant "New England" above.
Ryan   Sat Jul 09, 2005 1:40 am GMT
Yeah, you should live in a northern cities-centric world when it comes to cot-caught, Kirk. It is jarring to hear words like "cot" pronounced around me now after living in other parts of the country, even though I have that dialect myself to a limited extent. The vowel shifts here are pretty extreme.
Human   Sat Jul 09, 2005 2:25 am GMT
''Travis and vw have a good point. Western US dialects are known for their almost exclusive "cot-caught" merging but about half the nation (no matter where) also does maintain the distinction. Also, "cot-caught" merging is by no means confined to the West, and is characteristic of various dialects in different patches of the midwest, Northeast/England, and the South as well''

Kirk,

Doesn't the eastern New England accent have ''cot'' and ''caught'' merged as /kOt/ or /kQt/ and keep a distinct /A/ in words like ''father''.

I've also read that people with the Northern Cities vowel shift pronounce ''caught'' as /kAt/ and ''cot'' as /kat/.

I'm from Florida and I pronounce ''cot'' and ''caught'' the same as /kAt/, but ''card'' is /kArd/ and ''cord'' is /kOrd/, so [O] is not completely absent from my speech.
Kirk   Sat Jul 09, 2005 10:43 am GMT
<<Yeah, you should live in a northern cities-centric world when it comes to cot-caught, Kirk. It is jarring to hear words like "cot" pronounced around me now after living in other parts of the country, even though I have that dialect myself to a limited extent. The vowel shifts here are pretty extreme.>>

I have some friends from the Iron Range in Minnesota and their accents are very progressive in the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. I tend to be interested in all dialects and appreciate their unique features, so when I listen to them it's not so much "jarring" to me as much as a linguistic goldfield--I love listening to and analyzing the characteristics of their speech (I don't really let them know I'm doing this, as I don't wanna make them feel self-conscious). I also have had friends from other parts of Minnesota as well as Michigan and they all seem to have varying degrees of the NCVS--where are you from, Ryan? My friend from Michigan probably ties my Iron-Range friends or even surpasses them in her progressiveness in the NCVS--it's very noticeable, in nearly every word that comes out of her mouth. It's fascinating to listen to.

<<Kirk,

Doesn't the eastern New England accent have ''cot'' and ''caught'' merged as /kOt/ or /kQt/ and keep a distinct /A/ in words like ''father''.

I've also read that people with the Northern Cities vowel shift pronounce ''caught'' as /kAt/ and ''cot'' as /kat/.

I'm from Florida and I pronounce ''cot'' and ''caught'' the same as /kAt/, but ''card'' is /kArd/ and ''cord'' is /kOrd/, so [O] is not completely absent from my speech.>>

Is that you, Don? Your writing style is transparent even tho you use different names all the time.
Willy   Sat Jul 09, 2005 5:06 pm GMT
Cot and caught don't sound the same. Against me? Use a dictionary and search them.

In America
cot (kAt)
caught (kOt)
cat (kęt)
Rud   Sat Jul 09, 2005 5:30 pm GMT
now the difference bettwen the vowel sound in For and Far it's disappearing in usa,
i give it twenty years untill it sounds backward not to pronounce for and far the same.

If you don't live in usa ,want to make sure or just don't believe it just pay attention to the way actors pronounce words in the different american tv shows,

For Far
Sause Soss
George Jarj
call Coll
Saw So
Small smoll
Fall Foll
More Mar
Sore Sar
Dorm
Wall
Talk
Walk
Rud   Sat Jul 09, 2005 5:35 pm GMT
now the difference bettwen the vowel sound in For and Far it's disappearing in usa,
i give it twenty years untill it sounds backward not to pronounce for and far the same.

If you don't live in usa ,want to make sure or just don't believe it just pay attention to the way actors pronounce words in the different american tv shows,

For fA:r
Sause sA:s
George dZA:rdZ
call cA:l
Saw sA:
Small smA:l
Fall fA:l
More mA:r
Sore sA:r
Dorm dA:rm
Wall wA:l
Talk tA:k
Walk wA:k

Sorry ,
i messed up the message above
Willy   Sat Jul 09, 2005 6:38 pm GMT
That's true, Rud.

Americans say "talk" as if it were "tock" but English and say "talk" as if it were "tauk."

Cat is k-ę-t in America but k-ah-t in most territories and of British Isles.

But cot is and k-ah-t in America when cot sounds as c-aw:ah-t.