My dialect/idiolect



I speak something that I think is close to General American. Some fairly standard/common features that are in my dialect:


A thing I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere: I'm pretty sure that I don't distinguish voiced and unvoiced 〈th〉 at the beginnings of words (i.e., thy and thigh are homophones to me), I think using /ð/ (voiced) for both; at the very least, I've had trouble in the past determining which words use which sound. I do distinguish them at the ends of words (so teeth and teethe are distinct), and in the middles of words I think it depends on whether it's at the beginning or end of a syllable (either and ether are distinct).

In the name of the letter thorn (þ) I sometimes make an extra effort to use /θ/ (unvoiced), making it not a homophone with thorn (prickly thing).

To pronounce the 〈th〉 sounds, I put my tongue where my top teeth meet my gums, rather than between my teeth (i.e., they're not interdental for me), and I think they're affricates rather than fricatives, at least sometimes. The sounds are definitely distinct from /f/, /v/, /t/, and /d/, and since I started noticing mergers with those sounds in other dialects, they kind of distract me a bit. (My natural inclination, before learning that there are actual dialects that have this merger, would be to see use of /f/ for 〈th〉 as childish, since I'd mostly heard it from young children that hadn't yet learned to say /θ/.)

If I try, I can produce the voiced/voiceless distinction, use true fricatives, and hear the difference between /θ/ and /ð/, without too much difficulty; it's just that in normal speech, I don't.

Vowels before /ɡ/ and /ŋ/

Before /ɡ/ and /ŋ/ (〈ng〉 and 〈nk〉), there are some differences in vowels between my dialect and standard dialects:

There seem to be some exceptions to these, at least in how I think about the pronunciation, where the underlying form of the word seems to have /n/ followed by /ɡ/ or /k/; for example, income is /ˈɪŋ.kʌm/, rather than /ˈïŋ.kʌm/, because it's /ɪn/ + /kʌm/. For some reason, penguin is /ˈpɛŋ.ɡwɪn/ (or /ˈpen.ɡwɪn/), rather than /ˈpeɪŋ.ɡwɪn/, but English is /ˈïŋ.ɡlɪʃ/, not /ˈɪŋ.ɡliʃ/.

Vowels before 〈l〉 and 〈r〉

Silent 〈l〉

In words like palm and calm, I fully pronounce the 〈l〉 (/kɑlm/, like call with an m). This is how I learned to pronounce those words when learning to talk; if it originated as a spelling pronunciation (as I've heard claimed), then it came from an earlier generation. This page explains this more generally; I pronounce the 〈l〉 in all of the 〈alm〉 words listed there, but not most of the other red words or any of the blue words. Talk and tock are exact homophones in my dialect. I also pronounce the 〈l〉 in all of the green words; almond is /ˈɑl.mənd/, falcon is /ˈfæl.kən/, talc is /tælk/ (possibly spelling pronunciation?), Ralph is /ɹælf/.

(from this post)


Certain vowels, particularly diphthongs, can't be followed by /ɹ/ or /l/ in the same syllable in my idiolect; words that would have such combinations instead have the /ɹ/ or /l/ in a separate syllable.

VowelBefore /ɹ/Before /l/Notes
/æ/N/Aone syllable (pal /pæl/)/æɹ/ doesn't occur due to Mary-merry-marry merger
/ɛ/N/Aone syllable (sell /sɛl/)/ɛɹ/ doesn't occur due to Mary-merry-marry merger, and I think of the SQUARE vowel as /eɪ/ + /ɹ/
/ɪ/N/Aone syllable (hill /hɪl/)I think of the NEAR vowel as /i/ + /ɹ/
/ɑ/one syllable (car /cɑɹ/)one syllable (hall /hɑl/)
/eɪ/one syllable (air /eɹ/)two syllables (mail /ˈmeɪ.l̩/)but payer has two syllables
/i/one syllable (fear /fɪɹ/)two syllables (peel /ˈpi.l̩/)but seer has two syllables
/aɪ/two syllables (fire /ˈfaɪ.ɚ/)two syllables (file /ˈfaɪ.l̩/)
/oʊ/one syllable (more /moɹ/)one syllable (bowl /boʊl/)
/u/two syllables (tour /ˈtu.ɚ/)two syllables (tool /ˈtu.l̩/)see "CURE split", below
/oɪ/two syllables (foyer /ˈfoɪ.ɚ/)two syllables (boil /ˈboɪ.l̩/)
/æʊ/two syllables (hour /ˈæʊ.ɚ/)two syllables (owl /ˈæʊ.l̩/)

Also, anything with 〈rl〉 has breaking (world, squirrelled, Carl all have two syllables).

Function words that would have breaking have alternative stressed versions that have a different vowel that doesn't require breaking: /eɪl/ → /ɛl/ (they'll /ðɛl/), /il/ → /ɪl/ (he'll and hill are homophones, as are we'll and will), /aɪl/ → /ɑl/ (I'll and all are homophones, as are while and wall), /ul/ → /l̩/ (you'll /jl̩/), /æʊɹ/ → /ɑɹ/ (our and are are homophones). The two-syllable versions are also possible in my idiolect, but I wouldn't use them as much.

When a suffix starting with a vowel is added to a word with /l/ breaking, the /l/ goes into the same syllable as the suffix (so filing has two syllables, /ˈfaɪ.lïŋ/); whereas, after /ɹ/ breaking, the /ɹ/ remains a separate syllable (tourist has three syllables, /ˈtu.ɚ.ɪst/, as does hiring /ˈhaɪ.ɚ.ïŋ/).

Syllabic 〈l〉

You may have noticed that /ʌl/ (e.g., hull) and /ʊl/ (e.g., pull) are missing from the above table; that's because I pronounce both of those as syllabic /l̩/ (that is, no vowel). (Or maybe I pronounce them as something like [ɤɫ], with a vowel influenced by the darkness of the /l/.) /ʌl/ and /ʊl/ are fully merged in my idiolect; I had to look up those words to make sure my examples were correct. This sounds very similar to, but not exactly the same as, /ol/, so pull and pole are nearly homophones.

There are a few exceptions to this, namely 〈color〉 /ˈkʌ.lɚ/ and 〈lullaby〉 /ˈlʌ.lə.baɪ/; I think in those cases the /l/ is part of the next syllable.

Similarly, /ʌɹ/ doesn't occur in my idiolect; hurry is /hɚ.i/ (that's the NURSE vowel), and I have the hurryfurry merger.

CURE split

Words in the CURE lexical set (i.e., those that have the same vowel as "cure" in most dialects), in my idiolect can be pronounced one of four ways, depending on the word:

That is, for me, none of the words poor, tour, cure, sure have the same vowel.

Words in the same column in the following table have the same vowel in my dialect (the last column is something like /uɹ/, and has words I use very infrequently or not at all—if I actually said them, I might use one of the other vowels):


The names of the Greek letters "psi" and "xi" have clearly-pronounced /ps/ and /ks/ clusters, even though I don't usually use those clusters at the beginning of words otherwise.

I'm not sure whether I keep two different weak vowels distinct normally, but I do distinguish them at the ends of words before the plural or past tense suffix, so Rosa's /ˈɹoʊ.zəz/, roses /ˈɹoʊ.zɪz/, and Rosie's /ˈɹoʊ.ziz/ are all distinct. Schwa at the ends of words sounds like /ʌ/ (STRUT vowel). (I sort of wonder if the -a in Rosa, comma, etc., isn't actually a weak vowel in my idiolect...)

I definitely can pronounce /x/ in loch and Bach, but I don't think I would be inclined to do so in normal speech (not sure about that though).

I think in some contexts (including in isolation) I pronounce /ʊ/ as a centering diphthong, something like /ʊə/; not sure which contexts though.

After a consonant, I pronounce /ju/ as something like /iʊ/ (and was surprised when my dictionary listed view as /vju/ rather than with a separate diphthong). I distinguish /ju/ and /iʊ/ only in the words you/yew vs. ew; I know that ewe is supposed to be pronounced like you, but my natural inclination when seeing it written is to pronounce it like ew.

Specific words

from, what, was, of, because (but not the noun or verb cause), -body, want have /ʌ/ (STRUT vowel) in my idiolect. Got has /ɑ/. I'd probably pronounce wont as /wɑnt/, but I never use that word and it might be a spelling pronunciation.

Schwa deletion before r


I generally use American spellings; however, I have some inclination to use British-style double l's (e.g. travelling), and I'm not particularly consistent.

I tend to put punctuation outside quotation marks, unless it's part of the quoted sentence.

Specific words: