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.

What is the standard US pronunciation for words such as the following:

  • Bank
  • Rank

At least in my dialect of US English (Inland Northern), the following seem like close transcriptions:

  • Bank: bay-nk /beingk/
  • Rank: ray-nk /reingk/

However, in dictionaries that I am referencing (Japanese dictionaries of English), the vowel is given as /ae/, as in the following:

  • Bat: /baet/
  • Rat: /raet/
share|improve this question
    
Listen to falconflings's pronunciation here: forvo.com/word/bank/#en This is very typical of a neutral American accent I think. –  Jim Nov 9 '12 at 7:23
    
It should just be /eɪ/. –  tchrist Nov 9 '12 at 13:34

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

All of the above answers are confusing phonemic with phonetic transcriptions. Transcriptions like /bæŋk/ are broad phonemic representations. A transcription like [bɛɪŋk] (which is pretty standard for the US and about how I actually say it) is a narrow phonetic transcription (notice the brackets, not slashes). The Japanese dictionary of English is using a broad representation for two reasons:

  1. Primarily, to avoid specifying excessive detail that is likely to confuse a learner -- they need to learn the phonemes first, and the allophonic rules later
  2. To avoid having to commit to one particular dialect

Basically, before /ŋ/, Americans diphthongize and often raise front vowels. The words "kit" and "king" are broadly /kɪt/ and /kɪŋ/, but narrowly something like [kʰɪ̞ʔt] and [kʰɪiŋ]. In terms of just the vowels, the vowel in "kit" (and nearly everywhere else that "short i" occurs) is significantly lower than the cardinal IPA /ɪ/ sound. The vowel in "king" is a diphthong that begins higher than the vowel in "kit" and moves higher still.

BTW, the "Inland Northern" dialect is nowhere near Montana. It stretches along the major Rust Belt cities from approximately the Chicago metro area to the Rochester, NY metro area, covering areas that border Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, as well as most of the state of Michigan.

share|improve this answer

AmE pronunciation of Bank:

Going by the above, the standard pronunciation appears to be closest to /bæŋk/. Wiktionary's is the only entry that notes something close to your provided pronunciation. I really can't hear anything similar on Forvo.

The pronunciation of bank is also discussed on phonetic-blog in great detail. One of the comments suggests that /æ/ raised to /eɪ/ before velars is an affectation peculiar to Montana, a location which fits in well with your "inland northern" geography.

share|improve this answer
3  
The comment is saying that the raised /æ/ for bag is peculiar to Montana. The raised /æ/ in bang and bank is much more widely spread in the U.S. than that. See also this dialect blog entry, which discusses why Westerners (I think mainly in the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest—including Montana) extend this raising from bang to bag, while in the East it's confined to bang and bank. –  Peter Shor Nov 9 '12 at 12:10
4  
I think you picked the wrong word, in that Forvo just happened not to have anybody record bank with this pronunciation. Listen to the third and fourth speakers on Forvo for bang. While /æ/ appears to be more common among Americans before 'ng' and 'nk', /eɪ/ isn't uncommon. –  Peter Shor Nov 9 '12 at 12:17
1  
I could not imagine it being anything but /eɪ/. –  tchrist Nov 9 '12 at 13:25

Your Answer

 
discard

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.