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I often hear English people pronounce 'a' as 'u' when using words like 'rather' and 'bravo'. Why is this?

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I'm not entirely sure what you mean. Is there any chance of linking an audio example? – Pekka 웃 Jan 27 '12 at 23:46
Where are you from? Is it possible that you're using a dialect pronunciation of 'u' that is somehow close to the British broad 'a'? Normally, these two vowels are pretty far apart. – Peter Shor Jan 28 '12 at 0:47
perhaps you mean like IPA ʌ since "u" has at least 8 ways to be pronounced – Theta30 Jan 28 '12 at 3:50
I can't see how this is a very useful question to ask. Are you asking about the history of this particular nuance of pronunciation? Otherwise surely the answer is simply "they pronounce it that way because that happens to be their particular regional variant". – ianjs Jan 29 '12 at 5:06
@Cass73 Perhaps you can identify where those speakers are from? It appears that they may be from the north of England (like me!) so the following link which highlights vowel differences between 'standard' and northern English may be useful: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_English – nicholas ainsworth Jan 29 '12 at 5:27

After having read the comments above I'm going to take a shot in the dark and assume that @Cass73 is referring to the way that some British accents may pronounce an 'a' in a similar manner as the 'u' in crumb.

The short answer, as @Mitch said in the comments is that questions like these are difficult, if not impossible, to answer definitively. It's the way that people from a given region pronounce these words in this way. Whether they changed, or people outside that region changed, or everyone changed from the way the words were pronounced canonically 200 years ago is something you would need a linguistic historian to answer.

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