General American

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General American (GA) is considered the “standard” pronunciation of American English and is the accent spoken throughout the USA except in the north-east (roughly the Boston and New England area) and the south-eastern states.[1] It is geographically (largely non-coastal) and socially based.[1]

It uses twenty-four consonant phonemes and sixteen vowel phonemes represented by the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.[2]

Vowel charts[edit]

The following table is used in Teflpedia. Note that in most of the United States /ɒ/ and /ɑː/ sound exactly the same.

Vowel chart for American English

Includes /eə, ɪə, ʊə/ and /ɒ/ for compatibility with Received Pronunciation

ɪ ʊ ɪə
fleece - happy kit foot goose near face
e ə ɜː ɔː ʊə ɔɪ əʊ
dress comma - letter nurse thought - cloth
north - force
cure choice goat
æ ʌ ɑː ɒ
trap - bath strut start - palm
(lot)
lot square price mouth

Some speakers merge /eə/ with /e/, /ɪə/ with /ɪ/, and /ʊə/ with /ʊ/, and others have the FORCE lexical set with an /əʊ/ phoneme, sounding [oʊ], [oə] or [oː]. The table below shows the most common phoneme inventory.

The vowel phonemes of American English.
Phoneme Examples Common sounds
/æ/ trap, bath [æ]
/ɑː/ palm, start, lot, sorry [ɑ]
/e/ dress, carry, cherry, square [ɛ], [eə]
/eɪ/ face [eɪ]
/ɪ/ kit, mirror, near [ɪ], [ɪə]
/iː/ fleece, happy [iː]
/ɔː/ thought, cloth, north, force, forest [ɔ], [o], [oə]
/əʊ/ goat [oʊ]
/ʊ/ foot, cure [ʊ], [ʊə]
/uː/ goose [uː]
/ʌ/ strut [ʌ]
/ɜː/ nurse, hurry, furry [ɜ]
/ə/ comma, letter [ə]
/aɪ/ price [aɪ]
/aʊ/ mouth [aʊ]
/ɔɪ/ choice [ɔɪ]
Vowel chart for General American (includes mergers)

It uses /oʊ/ instead of /əʊ/ and /ɛ/ instead of /e/, as is customary in American dictionaries

ɪ ʊ
fleece - happy kit - near foot - cure goose face
ɛ ə ɜː ɔː ɔɪ
dress - square comma - letter nurse thought - cloth
north - force
choice goat
æ ʌ ɑː
trap - bath strut start - palm - lot price mouth

Cot - caught merger[edit]

Around 40% of Americans have a different vowel inventory, in which /ɔː/ is merged with /ɑː/ (except before r). See Cot-caught merger. Another name for this merger (better for those who have it) is "LOT - THOUGHT merger".

Sound Examples
/æ/ trap, bath
/ɑː/ palm, start, lot, thought, cloth
/e/ dress, carry, cherry, square
/eɪ/ face
/ɪ/ kit, mirror, near
/iː/ fleece, happy
/ɔː/ north, force
/oʊ/ goat
/ʊ/ foot, cure
/uː/ goose
/ʌ/ strut
/ɜː/ nurse, hurry, furry
/ə/ comma, letter
/aɪ/ price
/aʊ/ mouth
/ɔɪ/ choice

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Roach, Peter. "English Phonetics and Phonology: Glossary" Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 6th October 2012.
  2. Crystal, D. Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling Profile Books ISBN 978-184668567 5

See also[edit]

External links[edit]