How do I get rid of my cot-caught distinction

New Yorker   Thu Nov 02, 2006 10:37 pm GMT
By using /A/ for both?
New Yorker   Thu Nov 02, 2006 10:41 pm GMT
The thread title should say "how can I?" not "how do I"?
Cow   Thu Nov 02, 2006 11:07 pm GMT
It depends on the environment of the surrounding sounds. Following a word ending with [r-], for example, it should be more like [O].
Cow   Thu Nov 02, 2006 11:10 pm GMT
What are you trying to do? Fake a Western or Canadian accent?
andre in usa   Fri Nov 03, 2006 2:15 am GMT
practice, I guess. I don't get the question.
Cow   Fri Nov 03, 2006 4:24 am GMT
>> practice, I guess. I don't get the question. <<

What New Yorker is trying to say, is that he wants to pronounce the vowels in words such as "cot" and "caught" the same, so as to neutralize his accent. Certain regions (such as the midwest or Northeast) have distinct vowels in "cot" and "caught" (ah and aw), but other regions like the Western US and Canada merge "ah" and "aw", and so use either one or something in between--they don't produce a difference in the vowels, so "cot" and "caught" sound exactly the same (tot/taught hottie/haughty also, etc), neither do they perceive a difference in the vowels--if someone makes a distinction between the vowels they don't notice, but may notice that the speaker that makes a distinction sounds a little off:for example when I hear northeasterners or midwesterners talk, and they say "cot", it sounds almost like "cat" to me. Others describe it as a very nasal sound. There is no lip rounding. On the other hand, when people that pronounce cot and caught differently say "caught", it sounds very peculiar to us Westerners, because it is usually rounded just a little bit too much: so it sounds like "coeawt". But we don't use the same vowel all the time, so it's hard to say just merge "cot" and "caught" to "cot", for example. The vowel we use--the amount of lip rounding we use to produce the ah/aw sound has to do with the preceding sound, because that determines how are lips are positioned to say the vowel. So for example if I were to say "Brother Bob", "Bob" would have a more rounded vowel, more like [O] (Bawb) than [A]; because of the "er" sound in brother changes the position of the lips; but if I said "why don't you ask Bob", then Bob would probably have a vowel more like [A] (Bahb). Same for names like Don/Dawn, etc.
Cow   Fri Nov 03, 2006 4:28 am GMT
One other thing for Northeasterners trying a Western accent: make sure you speak with a fairly General American accent: don't be non-rhotic, don't tense [æ] before nasals, definitely don't say "ahrange" for "orange", etc.
The Western accent is practically identical to General American except for the cot-caught merger, and the people who have things like the California vowel shift (e.g. test->tast bag->bahg).
mate 167   Mon Nov 06, 2006 2:53 pm GMT
Hi New Yorker,
Just curious, I would like to learn about the difference between "how can I.....?" and "how do I..........".

Your guidance would be much appreciated!!
Uriel   Tue Nov 07, 2006 10:18 am GMT
I think "How do I ..." sounds perfectly fine, myself.

I have the caught-cot merger, and I pronounce both as "caht". Never "cawt".
andre in usa   Wed Nov 08, 2006 10:55 pm GMT
Cow, I know about the merger, I don't have it. I was a bit confused about New Yorker's question because of the grammar used.

I haven't noticed it sounding more like /O/ for words following /r/. Maybe ever so slightly, now that I think about it, but it's not really noticeable. I know what you mean about "cot" sounding like "cat," for people from the great lakes region, but not the northeast.
Jay   Mon Nov 27, 2006 2:51 am GMT
Keep the merger, man!
Jay   Mon Nov 27, 2006 2:53 am GMT
Nvm, I meant "keep the distiction". :/
Guest   Mon Nov 27, 2006 3:57 am GMT
>> Nvm, I meant "keep the distiction". :/ <<

Why? The merger's cooler. One less sound to worry about.

Next on the agenda:
the pin-pen merger
the bag-beg-vague merger
the pool-pull merger
the fill-feel merger
Jay   Mon Nov 27, 2006 12:22 pm GMT
Why merge Pin-pen, bag-beg, pool-pull, and fill-feel?
Guest   Mon Nov 27, 2006 3:16 pm GMT
>> Why merge Pin-pen, bag-beg, pool-pull, and fill-feel? <<

Less sounds to have to worry about. Some people merge those.