Talk:General American English

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Classification of /oʊ/ as a monophthong according to Wells (and this article)[edit]

I'm not familiar with Wells' classification of vowels in American English, but I'm quite confused why the "goat", "home", "toe" vowel is listed as a monophthong. Has there been some sound change in American English in this vowel, or was Wells just wrong? The article does also gives the vowel's IPA diphthong transcription, but doesn't mention why it's considered a monophthong according to Wells (or indeed why it's categorised under the "pure" vowels in this article, despite the article giving its IPA transcription as /oʊ/)

Can anyone shed any light on this? Or perhaps add a note to the article explaining the reason for the conflict (both internally to the article, and with the reality of General American English, at least in the present day)

--Tomatoswoop (talk) 05:19, 4 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Tomatoswoop: Search for /i, u, eɪ, oʊ, ɑ/ are considered to compose a natural class of tense monophthongs in General American, especially for speakers with the cot–caught merger. in the article. There's your explanation. I agree that using a monophthongal long back [] is probably not a part of General American. It's more Canadian, Scottish or Northern English. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 09:29, 4 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
(edit conflict) See Accents of English, vol. 1, pp. 120–1. Wells analyzes FLEECE, FACE, GOOSE, and GOAT in GA as underlyingly tense monophthongs, but transcribes FACE as /eɪ/ to avoid confusion with RP /e/, which represents DRESS, not FACE. Nardog (talk) 09:34, 4 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Very interesting, thank you both for drawing my attention to that. Whether that analysis should be considered the "consensus" and therefore reflected in the categorisation system of this article, I absolutely couldn't comment, but assuming that this categorisation is the right way to go about this article, maybe it would be prudent to move that clarification to a more prominent place. Perhaps just before the categorisation into "pure vowels" and dipthongs. Or if not to move the whole bullet point, perhaps add a small note just before the pure vowels table to point out that /oʊ/ and /eɪ/, while written in the table as diphthongs are instead here considered part of the group of "sometimes diphthongised tense vowels" as per Wells. --Tomatoswoop (talk) 03:26, 7 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Also, Kbb2, if you disagree that putting /oʊ/ into the the monophthongal category is the right choice, perhaps you have another reference about general American that is better? I'm no expert, but it does seem to me that the American /oʊ/ is clearly a diphthong, not just a tense vowel, isn't the monophthongal /o/ exactly what Americans mock when parodying a Canadian accent? I won't change it because I'm talking about my own impression here, not some peer reviewed reference, and I'm no expert.--Tomatoswoop (talk) 03:37, 7 April 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No. Even though the monophthongal /o:/ IS a feature of Canadian accents, it is not what Americans mock when they parody Canadian accents. In America, the monophthongal /o:/ is mostly associated with North Dakota and Minnesota (both of which border Canada - go figure). The quirky horror film Fargo for example. Americans mock the Canadian dipthongs such as in "out and about" (but they typically misrepresent how they're pronounced by Canadians, too). Firejuggler86 (talk) 13:44, 18 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Are there major sources beyond Wells's 1982 one that regard /oʊ/ and /eɪ/ as monophthongs "underlyingly" or of a "natural class" (what does this mean?)? In other words, is this widely agreed upon and practiced in the American phonological community (of which I'm not even sure we can say the British phonetician Wells is a part) or just one phonetician's view? Labov, for example, seems to avoid speaking of monophthongs vs. diphthongs at the phonemic level in favor of a distinction between "long vs. short vowels" or "checked vs. free vowels" (which Wells uses too). Wolfdog (talk) 23:38, 5 August 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

/i, u/ etc. before dark /l/[edit]

We currently have a passage that reads as follows: Before the dark l, /i, u/ and sometimes also /eɪ, oʊ/ are realized as centering diphthongs [iə, uə, eə, oə] or even as disyllabic sequences [i.jə, u.wə, e.jə, o.wə]. Therefore, words such as peel and fool and sometimes also rail and role are pronounced [ˈpʰiəɫ ~ ˈpʰi.jəɫ], [ˈfuəɫ ~ ˈfu.wəɫ], [ˈɹeəɫ ~ ˈɹe.jəɫ], [ˈɹoəɫ ~ ˈɹo.wəɫ]. This can even happen word-internally before another morpheme, as in peeling [ˈpʰiəɫɪŋ ~ ˈpʰi.jəɫɪŋ] and fooling [ˈfuəɫɪŋ ~ ˈfu.wəɫɪŋ]. The source given is Wells's esteemed Accents of English; however, it is 38 years old now, and I find the disyllabic sequences suggestion to be strange and highly unlikely, at least in modern-day GenAm. If an American says [ˈfu.wəɫɪŋ] with three syllables, I certainly raise an eyebrow; this sounds somewhat drawl-ish or "country" to my ears. Does anyone know of any more recent sources on this? Do my gut feelings ring true to others? Wolfdog (talk) 21:48, 20 December 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I would agree that that would/does sound drawlish/countryish. Firejuggler86 (talk) 23:33, 21 September 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]


According to the article "History of the International Phonetic Alphabet" (Summary section), ö was replaced by ɵ in 1932. So in the vowels section, /ö̞/ is outdated and we should replace it with ɵ with a half-plus underneath?Serios3723 (talk) 11:11, 1 January 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It doesn't quite work that way. Before 1932, there was no symbol that represented the vowel position that ⟨ɵ⟩ now represents. So diacritics were necessary. Thus we have pre-1932 works that use ⟨ö⟩ to represent sounds that post-1932 works would use ⟨ɵ⟩ for. Now that we have ⟨ɵ⟩, greater precision in phonetic transcription is possible and ⟨ö⟩ can be used to indicate a vowel position that is somewhere between cardinal [o] and [ɵ]. There's even a vowel chart that shows the exact position for the diphthong in words like row, showing that transcribing this vowel as [ö̞ʊ] is accurate. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 17:29, 1 January 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Understood, it's not outdated, thanks! Serios3723 (talk) 11:55, 2 January 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Centralisation of /ɛ/[edit]

A lot of Americans pronounce /ɛ/ something between [ɛ] and [ɜ], such that dress sounds a bit like druss. I think this tendency is strongest in female speakers, but not necessarily restricted to them. Is this a regional thing or is it part of General American? (talk) 17:31, 18 March 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This tends to be regional at this point, associated with the South, the Midland, and the emerging accent of California. Wolfdog (talk) 11:52, 19 March 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]