English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Words comforted and healed my discontent when I discovered that Brendan, my beautiful first-born son was severely autistic with limited speech. (Benita Porter, The Power of Words) - audio link

Which way does the essay writer pronounce: /ɑːˈtɪstɪk/ (1) or /ɔˈtɪstɪk/ (2):

  • If she did (2) as is in dictionaries, what’s the difference between (1) and (2)?
    (I hear (1) instead of (2), so I’m wondering what it is. Though I’ve already put the likewise question once on ELL, after getting right answer here from a specific case, I would like to improve my pronunciation understanding better.)
  • If she did (1), isn’t there no difference between the two, /ɑ/ and /ɔ/, for some Americans?
share|improve this question
Sounds more like an [ɒ] to me, which is not a phoneme in American English, just an allophone of [ɔ]. – tchrist Sep 24 '13 at 1:24
In American English, there is a distinction between /ɔ/ and /a/ for many speakers, but on the West coast, especially, they are merged, to the point where the man's name Don and the woman's name Dawn are both pronounced the same. Since there's no phonemic difference, the actual phonetics varies all over the place from person to person. – John Lawler Sep 24 '13 at 1:43
In OP's context it's unambiguous, but I can easily imagine not being able to tell if an American was saying their son was autistic or artistic. – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '13 at 2:38
@FumbleFingers: The East Coast accents which pronounce "ar" like "ah" all pronounce "autistic" with /ɔ/. So if you know which variety of American they're speaking, there shouldn't be any ambiguity. It's like complaining that you can't distinguish between an Englishman saying "clerk" and an American saying "clock" ... once they've said a few other words, it should be easy to tell which it is. – Peter Shor Sep 24 '13 at 3:05
...mind you, I probably would think he was a pretty sad sack if he was telling me about his dead ant! – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '13 at 3:27
up vote 1 down vote accepted

In American accent, the pronunciation of the word autistic is as mentioned below :

autistic [aw-tis´tik]

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.