Pronunciation exercises: /ɒrV/ vs /ɔːrV/

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choral /ˈkɔːrəl/


coral /ˈkɒrəl/

This page sets out some common words teachers can use to help their students become more aware of how they can improve their pronunciation of the sequences /ɒr/ and /ɔːr/ when they are followed by a vowel.

In General American /ɒr/BrE sounds /ɑːr/ in only 5 words (labeled with *) and it sounds /ɔːr/ or /ər/ in the rest.[1] In this page we are not concerned with /ər/.

In regional Atlantic American English /ɒr/BrE sounds /ɑːr/, as in orange pronounced /ˈɑːrɪndʒ/.[1]

Distinctions by dialect[edit | edit source]

Dialect sorry forest glory
Received Pronunciation [ɒ] [ɒ] [ɔː]
Atlantic American English [ɑː] [ɑː] [ɔː]
General American [ɑː] [ɔː] [ɔː]
Canada [ɔː] [ɔː] [ɔː]

Common words[edit | edit source]

  • /ɒr/:
  • as "or": foreign - forest - historical - majority - moral - orange - origin - priority
  • as "orr": borrow* - correspond - sorry* - tomorrow*
  • /ɔːr/:
  • as "or": boring - explorer - moreover - story
  • /ɔːr/AmE or /ər/BrE: category

Less common words[edit | edit source]

  • /ɒr/:
  • as "or": coral - historic - laboratory /ləˈbɒrətriː,BrE ˈlæbrətɔːriːAmE/ - minority - seniority
  • as "orr": abhorrent - horrible - morrow* (shortening of "tomorrow") - sorrow*
  • as "arr": quarrel - warrant - warranty - warrior
  • as "ar": quarantine
  • /ɔːr/:
  • as "or": chlorine - choral - chorus - glory - historian - laboratory /ləˈbɒrətriː,BrE ˈlæbrətɔːriAmE/ - memorial - notorious - storage
  • as "aur": laurel - thesaurus
  • as "orr": abhorring
  • as "or": mandatory - territory /ˈterɪtəriː,BrE ˈterɪtriː,BrE ˈterətɔːriːAmE/

Proper nouns[edit | edit source]

  • /ɒ/: Dorothy - Florence - Florida - Oregon
  • /ɔː/: Dora

Spelling rule[edit | edit source]

The sequence "orr" is pronounced /ɔː/ in Received Pronunciation only in verbs ending in "or". There is only one such a verb that appears in normal dictionaries:

  • from abhor: abhorred, abhorring

Note that "abhorrent" /əbˈhɒrənt/ is an adjective, not a verb.

Variant pronunciations /ɒr/ vs /ɔːr/[edit | edit source]

In addition to the distinctions by dialect there are some specific words.

  • oral: most dictionaries have /ɔːr/ but Collins Dictionary gives the additional variant /ɒr/ for British English.[2]

Difference between "oral" and "aural"[edit | edit source]

Dialect oral aural
Most dialects /ˈɔːrəl/ /ˈɔːrəl/
Unmerged "horse" and "hoarse" /ˈoərəl/ /ˈɔːrəl/
Variant pronunciation of "oral" /ˈɒrəl/ /ˈɔːrəl/

In a few regions of the United States "horse" and "hoarse" are pronounced differently /hɔːrs, hoərs/. These accents are said to have "horse" and "hoarse" unmerged.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Wikipedia, English-language vowel changes before historic /r/ § Mergers of /ɒr-/ and /ɔːr-/. Retreived 13 December 2016.
  2. Collins English Dictionary, oral, section "oral in British".

See also[edit | edit source]