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In the word laugh, it is pronounced "aff".
In the word naught, it is pronounced "aw".

Are there any other ways to pronounce "augh"?
Bonus points for etymology explaining from where these pronunciations come.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The real bugger here is -ugh, plus a preceding vowel. The variants are:

  • [ɔf] - cough
  • [ӕf] - laugh
  • [ӕu] - bough
  • [u] - through
  • [o] - though
  • [ɔ] - bought, naught

The problem with all of these is the sound formerly pronounced as [x], which has disappeared in Modern English. The way that it disappeared, though, was variable. In most cases it simply vanished, mutating the vowel preceding it in various ways, with further vowel mutations influenced by a following consonant. This was what happened in through, though, bought, etc.

The unusual case is the words in which -ugh represents [f]. This is, alas, an irregular sound change. The ordinary outcome of the Old English form of laugh would be something pronounced like law, but for irregular and unpredictable reasons the [x] became [f] in this case.

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In the UK at least, slough does not rhyme with through (slough rhymes with fluff, or cow, depending on the meaning), and bough does not rhyme with though (bough rhymes with cow) - and according to Merriam-Webster bough rhymes with cow and not though even in the US. –  psmears Apr 6 '11 at 19:31
    
@psmears, you're right about bough, which I've corrected above. However, I believe that there are at least three different ways that Slough can be pronounced: [slu], [slʌf], and [slaʊ], depending on what you're referring to. To avoid that issue, I've removed it brough the list above. –  JSBձոգչ Apr 6 '11 at 19:44
    
Yep - again, this is a regional variation thing - in the UK slough has just the two pronunciations; in (most of) the US it has three (again, if M-W is to be believed :) –  psmears Apr 6 '11 at 21:10
    
In the US, depending on where you are, the word slough meaning "a muddy hollow, swamp, or inlet" is pronounced either [slu] or [slaʊ]. I would have thought that the meaning "a state of depression" would be pronounced the same way, being a metaphor of the first meaning. The American Heritage Dictionary agrees with this (or at least it says either pronunciation is valid for both of these meanings), unlike Merriam-Webster. If it means shedding a skin, slough is pronounced [slʌf], just as in the UK –  Peter Shor Apr 7 '11 at 1:56
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What about braugh in the phrase Erin go braugh, described by Wikipedia as an anglicisation of the Irish Éirinn go Brách? Does that work? It's pronounced as "bra", with a bit of a trill on the "r".

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From my dictionary (I also put the ones you mentioned):

  • caught |kôt| - ORIGIN: Middle English (also in the sense [chase]): from Anglo-Norman French and Old Northern French cachier, variant of Old French chacier, based on Latin captare ‘try to catch,’ from capere ‘take.’
  • naught |nôt| - ORIGIN: Old English nāwiht, -wuht, from nā [no] + wiht [thing] (see wight).
  • laugh |laf| - ORIGIN: Old English hlæhhan, hliehhan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch and German lachen, also to laughter.
  • aught |ôt| - ORIGIN: Old English āwiht (see aye, wight).
  • daughter |ˈdôtər; ˈdä-| - ORIGIN: Old English dohtor, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch dochter and German Tochter, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek thugatēr.
  • faugh |fô| (DATED) - ORIGIN: natural exclamation: first recorded in English in the mid 16th cent.

I found more but they are more or less the same pronunciation, so I decided not to add them.

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Er, maybe I'm missing something here, but it looks like you found the same two pronunciations that snumpy found. –  MrHen Apr 6 '11 at 19:39
    
I guess it's because there aren't other pronunciations existing for "AUGH". Plus he wasn't asking for that only and as you can see I didn't just write the pronunciations. –  Alenanno Apr 6 '11 at 19:48
    
@MrHen He found "faugh", which I have only heard pronounced /fɔː/. That is an additional pronunciation. –  Peter Olson Apr 6 '11 at 20:31
    
@Peter: I am not an expert on the word, but if that is the case than does the answer has the wrong pronunciation? –  MrHen Apr 6 '11 at 20:35
    
@MrHen It would seem so, unless "ô" is being used to represent more than one phoneme. –  Peter Olson Apr 6 '11 at 20:36
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