What are the differences in pronunciation of "borrow", "burrow" and "burro" in American English? To me they all sound quite the same, especially when spoken quickly.
I believe that in most North American speakers:
In other words, the words borrow, burrow, burro, and borrow are commonly pronounced as any of
I don’t know that any speaker ever makes all four of those homophones with just one single pronunciation covering all of them, but certainly several possible pairs from that list can be exact homophones in certain speakers and yet in other speakers not homophones at all.
This may be what you are hearing, or think you’re hearing. I say “think” because some of those can be close enough in rapid speech as to be hard to tell apart without contextual clues.
The somewhat similarly written barrow is never homophonous with any of the set listed above, but just which vowel it has again depends on the speaker. Any of
Here is an extensive list of words following a similar pattern to those you first asked about:
That is, they follow the pattern CVRO, which C is one or consonants, V is one more vowels, R is one or more r’s, O is one or more o’s or u’s, and silent bits don’t count.
If prefixes and combining forms count, you can add these to your list:
Be careful with these- they have very different meanings! They also have other words that sound similar but are not one your list, so let's reveiew the meanings first
Borrow- to use something for a time with the intent of returning to the owner.
burrow-when an animal or person digs under the ground until it is no longer visible, or the underground home of such an animal (e.g. a gopher's burrow.)
borough- a district of a city.
The first of these is easiest to hear if you listen close enough: it sounds closest to baaah-row, with a short ahh sound, the kind you hear in the word "all." The last three are homophones in American English, so you really have to pay very close attention to context, because you will not hear much of a difference in speech.
The pronunciations of burrow and burro are identical.
I don't know the international phonetic symbols, but I'll try to help anyway.
The first word, "Borrow" is pronounced more like "BAR O" where "Burrow" and "Burro" are pronounced the same, "BUR O". If the speaker has any Spanish influence, you might hear a slight difference as they might pronounce "Burro" a little differently, perhaps trilling the "rr" and/or changing the vowel like "BORE O".