Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I was curious about the different pronunciations of the word catch; more specifically, the difference between /kætʃ/ and /kɛtʃ/.

The Oxford dictionary lists both pronunciations as correct; is this difference regional? How did it come about?

share
2  
Yes, it's regional. This same difference applies to how one pronounces cat (some pronounce it ket). I'm sure someone will come along with good citations momentarily. Consider changing your title, though, since the heart of your question is the pronunciation of short 'a' (/æ/) as short 'e' (/ɛ/) – catch is just one example. –  Zairja Oct 17 '12 at 20:34
    
There are also accents where bag and beg seem much alike to those not used to that accent. Plus everybody says that vowel of any like the one in get. –  tchrist Oct 17 '12 at 20:55
2  
@Zairja: this isn't what Oxford dictionary is saying. New Zealanders pronounce all instances of /æ/ like /ɛ/, but they pronounce all instances of /ɛ/ like /ɪ/, and all instances of /ɪ/ ... This is called a chain shift, and it's not what the dictionary is talking about. What the Cambridge, Merriam-Webster, and Oxford dictionaries all say is that for some Americans, catch is pronounced with a short e, and so is a homophone for ketch. These same Americans pronounce batch normally. I've heard this pronunciation, but I don't know what region it belongs to. –  Peter Shor Oct 17 '12 at 20:56
2  
I've removed the comment. I wasn't aware of that fact when it comes to dictionaries' offered pronunciations. As far as the short e for catch in the US, I've heard it in several parts of Texas, up into the Midwest (Southern Great Lakes) and in Southern states before reaching Florida. –  Zairja Oct 17 '12 at 21:02

2 Answers 2

I currently live in Pittsburgh and grew up in Southwestern PA, I can attest that /kɛtʃ/ is becoming somewhat common in the Western PA region (Kinda-Midland region). I also have a friend from Erie and a friend from New Jersey who both say /kɛtʃ/ instead of /kætʃ/. It's not the norm (and I hope it never becomes so), but it does seem more popular now than I ever remember.

share

Yes, it's regional. This same difference applies to how one pronounces cat (some pronounce it ket). New Zealanders pronounce all instances of /æ/ like /ɛ/, but they pronounce all instances of /ɛ/ like /ɪ/, and all instances of /ɪ/ ... This is called a chain shift. What the Cambridge, Merriam-Webster, and Oxford dictionaries all say is that for some Americans, catch is pronounced with a short e, and so is a homophone for ketch. These same Americans pronounce batch normally.

In the US, I've heard it in several parts of Texas, up into the Midwest (Southern Great Lakes) and in Southern states before reaching Florida.

share

This site is currently not accepting new answers.