"bull" and "dull"

Rick Johnson   Fri Mar 09, 2007 9:38 pm GMT
Unsurprisingly, as I'm from Northern England they are rhyming pairs for me.
Rick Johnson   Fri Mar 09, 2007 9:40 pm GMT
Where abouts in the US are you from Al Z?
Becky   Sat Mar 10, 2007 3:50 pm GMT
I'm from Liverpool, UK and both Dull and Bull rhyme for me. I'm surprised that they don't rhyme for so many people in this thread. I can't imagine how they don't rhyme...
zzz   Sat Mar 10, 2007 6:08 pm GMT
>> I'm from Liverpool, UK and both Dull and Bull rhyme for me. I'm surprised that they don't rhyme for so many people in this thread. I can't imagine how they don't rhyme... <<

"Dull" has the sound of "a" as in: "a piece of toast"
"Bull" has the sound of "put"

Surely those are different for you? In fact that's the standard American pronunciation.
Lazar   Sat Mar 10, 2007 6:23 pm GMT
<<Surely those are different for you?>>

Surely not, in fact, because in Northern England, the FOOT and STRUT word classes use the same vowel.

In answer to Becky: in Southern England, North America (or at least my part of North America), and Australia, words like "dull", "cup", and "butter" use an more open unrounded central or near-back vowel - X-SAMPA [6] or [V]; words like "bull", "put", and "foot" use a more close rounded near-back vowel - X-SAMPA [U].

The difference between these two vowels is too hard to explain in layman's terms, unfortunately. If you'd like to hear them, just go to this helpful website: http://hctv.humnet.ucla.edu/departments/linguistics/VowelsandConsonants/course/chapter1/vowels.html . Basically, in Southern England and so forth, "dull" has the vowels marked ɐ or ʌ, while "bull" has the vowel marked ʊ. In Northern England, these vowel sounds all merge, generally to ʊ.

As for the distribution of the two vowels, I'm afraid that the spelling-to-sound relation is just too capricious for me to give you a simple explanation. You'd have to use a dictionary: any British or American dictionary (for example http://dictionary.cambridge.org/ or http://dictionary.reference.com/ ) will indicate this distinction.
Lazar   Sat Mar 10, 2007 6:27 pm GMT
Typo: "...an more..." should be "....a more..." in my previous post.
Becky   Sun Mar 11, 2007 4:42 pm GMT

Both dull and bull sound the same. I pronounce them both with a hard U, if that make sense. I know some folks who pronounce these words with a slight "e" sound, but I've never heard anyone pronounce these words with an "a" sound before.

And I'm in the UK (born and raised), so standard American pronunciations won't apply to me.

To Lazar;

Thank you. I understand now how they are different. Thanks for explaining it.
Josh Lalonde   Sun Mar 11, 2007 7:50 pm GMT
Becky, how do you pronounce 'look'? Does it rhyme with 'book' or is it closer to 'Luke'?
Rick Johnson   Sun Mar 11, 2007 8:10 pm GMT
>>I've never heard anyone pronounce these words with an "a" sound before.<<

In the South East the majority of "U"sounds are more like an "A" to my ears. I have to say that I too found it hard to believe that the words didn't rhyme in some accents.
Becky   Tue Mar 13, 2007 1:18 pm GMT

When I say "look" it rhymes with "book".
student   Tue Mar 13, 2007 2:51 pm GMT
In the south of England "bull" and "dull" do not rhyme, however, "look" and "book" do.
Kendra   Tue Mar 13, 2007 5:23 pm GMT
I've heard (many times) sports newscasters pronouncing ''Chicago Bulls'' as ''Chicago Balls''

many people pronounce [Vl] and [Al] as [Ql]

for example many Canadians and Californians have [A] in thought, caught, off, lost, but [Q] in doll, dollar, all, lawyer

the sound of the vowel is changed because of the dark L:

culture changes from [V] to [Q]
pulse changes from [V] to [Q]
dull changes from [V] to [Q]
bull changes from [V] to [Q] (so bull can be close to ball: Chicago bulls/balls)
Lazar   Tue Mar 13, 2007 8:22 pm GMT
While there is and can be no single formal definition of General American, various features are considered to be part of it, including rhotic pronunciation, which maintains the coda [r] in words like pearl, car, and court. Unlike RP, General American is characterized by the merger of the vowels of words like father and bother, flapping, and the reduction of vowel contrasts before [ɹ]. General American also generally has yod-dropping after alveolar consonants. Other phonemic mergers, including the cot-caught merger, the pin-pen merger, the Mary-marry-merry merger and the wine-whine merger, may be found optionally at least in informal and semiformal varieties; however, the most formal varieties tend to be more conservative in preserving these phonemic distinctions.
Josh Lalonde   Tue Mar 13, 2007 9:50 pm GMT
I've never noticed it before, but I think you're right, Kendra. My /V/ before /l/ sounds more like [O] or [Q]. It is certainly backer than normal but I'm not entirely sure how open it is. I think this only occurs before consonants though, because 'dull' has my normal, central-to-near-back allophone of /V/. 'Bull' however, has /U/ as in General American (but it may sound like [u] because of l-vocalisation).
culture [kQo.t_S@`]
pulse [pQos]
dull [dVl] or [d6_rl]
bull [bUu]

I think my /A/ may also be rounded with following (historic) /l/ (note however that l is fairly dark for me in all positions, and that it is usually vocalized in post-vocalic positions), so I have something like:
doll [dQo] or [dQ:]
dollar [dQl@`]
all [Qo] or [Q:]

The word 'lawyer' doesn't fall into this category for me, because it has a diphthong in the first syllable: [lOI.j@`], rather than a monophthong like for some Americans.
While we're on the subject of /l/, I've noticed that my realization is quite different than RP 'dark l'. Is it possible that I have [L\] as Travis does, or could I just have a different degree of velarisation than RP?
Finally, in response to Lazar's quote from Wikipedia, I would disagree on a few details. I don't think that unmerged Mary-marry-merry is part of GAm, no matter how formal, nor do I think that cot-caught or pin-pen merging are, no matter how informal. The wine-whine merger could go either way. (Not to say that there is anything wrong with these pronunciations; I just don't think they're GAm.)
Josh Lalonde   Tue Mar 13, 2007 9:53 pm GMT
Sorry, I made a mistake with my transcription of 'dull'. While it is phonemically /dVl/, phonetically, I have [dV_+o] or [d6_-o] (ie. somewhere between central and near-back).