----- Original Message -----From: Mark OdegardSent: Thursday, April 13, 2000 9:28 PMSubject: [phoNet] O
Yes. The merger of [ɑ] and [ɔ]. Everything I've read says many Americans have merged these two -- into what, I'm not sure. For the most part, this indeed describes my own speech patterns. I suspect, however, that the merger is not 100%. It's probably because my mother and father have somewhat different vowel inventories. I think my dad has [a], and discriminates between [ɔ] and [ɑ], at least when he's in public-speaking mode (as a quick and dirty shorthand, he has a "Minnesota accent", even tho' he was born and raised in northern California).
Hardly an unusual situation. This merger is an ongoing change in American English, subject to much lexical, idiolectal and realisational variation. It will probably be complete before long, with some residual pockets of cot ≠ caught (in Minnesota? why not? but what do you mean when you say your father "has [a]"?). The surviving rounded vowel in fork or north will no doubt be analysed as a monophthongal pre-r allophone of the vowel of goat in all accents.
When I say my full name as a single unit, [oʊ] seems to reduce to a 'pure' [o], with very little lip rounding (is such a thing possible? What am I misunderstanding, mismapping?).
It's not uncommon in American English to unround the starting point of [oʊ] (the most accurate transcription would be [ɤʊ]). In RP it is ALWAYS unrounded -- a central, schwa-like vowel. The weakening of the glide is a natural consequence of diphthong shortening in fast speech, when a completely unstressed syllable and another low-prominence one follow. Non-final syllable are shorter than final ones, other things being equal.