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I speak Australian English, but I seem to pronounce the words many and anything differently from how the vast majority of people here do so.

I pronounce it using an a sound rather than an e sound like they do. Nobody has been able to tell me an existent rule that deems my pronunciation incorrect.

Why would I be pronouncing this differently and thinking meny and enything sounds wrong? Please help!

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    I think what you are actually asking here is the situation of your fellow Australians pronouncing any as [ɪnɪ] instead of as [ɛnɪ] or [ɛni] like the rest of us do. You seem to be using a normal [ɛ], unlike your countrymen. – tchrist May 1 '13 at 14:40
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    I speak British English, but it's not clear to me what the OP means by "a sound" and "e sound". I wouldn't be surprised to hear an Australian pronounce "anvil" as /ɛnvil/ or even something closer to /invil/. – alephzero May 10 '15 at 0:40
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    A lot of Irish people pronounce "any" as "Annie". You even hear it on the radio and television a lot. I don't know where in the country this practice is most prevalent but I would like to know. Has "Annie" one done "ehny" research on this? – Fergal Gallagher Dec 21 '19 at 9:51
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This shows the typical pronunciation of any to be /ˈɛni/. The /ɛ/ is the same sound as at the beginning of end, not the sound at the beginning of anvil (/æ/).

Spelling and pronunciation are not strictly related. If you want to pronounce any as /ˈæni/ you're welcome to, it doesn't sound so different that you'll be misunderstood, it's just not the typical pronunciation.

As to why you pronounce it like that. Either you do it deliberately, or it's how you were raised.

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    In American English, anvil is pronounced with initial /æ/. And I would say that English spelling is related only distantly to English pronunciation, and can't be relied on. So the question presupposes that printed letters are pronounced, and if the author can dispense with that, there will be no need for questions like this. – John Lawler May 1 '13 at 13:42
  • I've updated to use IPA, not whatever the site I've lunk to uses. – Matt E. Эллен May 1 '13 at 14:03
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    @JohnLawler I wonder if some sort of bag–beg merger might be at work here. Certainly in some parts of Anglophonia those two words are confusable, so perhaps it happens in other phonetic situations as well. Maybe for the speaker Danny’s and Denny’s are homophones — which would be a bit like pin–pen but going the other way, like some sort of pin–pen–pan continuum. – tchrist May 1 '13 at 14:06
  • It's sporadic; before nasals it's particularly hard to distinguish /æ/ from /ɛ/, but the distinction's been mutated. For instance, in my speech the affirmative modal can is /kɛn/ when stressed, but the negative modal can't is /kænt/, and the final /t/ is usually lost, so the vowel distinguishes for me. – John Lawler May 1 '13 at 14:19
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    I have heard a few people pronouce "any" with the same initial sound as "anvil", but it seems forced. We have that group of sounds in our vocabulary, but it is a lady's name, "Annie". I hear a lot of people pronounce "any" and "end" with the same initial sounds as "inside". I like "the question presupposes that printed letters are pronounced" Obviously, too often, they are not. – TecBrat May 1 '13 at 15:23
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According to Wikipedia (which cites Bergs, A., English Historical Linguistics, de Gruyter 2012, p. 495.), the spelling of "many" and "any" are anomalous - for some reason the pronunciation /ˈɛni/ comes from the version of Middle English spoken in southern England, while the spelling is from the English Midlands at the same time, where the words were pronounced differently and spelt with an "a" to match. There doesn't seem to be a particular reason for this. In northern England and Scotland the pronunciation was different again, with the spelling "ony" to match.

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Nobody can tell you or any British- American- Canadian- or New Zealand-English speaking person that your pronunciation of any word is incorrect. That goes for all dialects contained within these countries as well.

The reason? English has never been "officially" standardized. Yes, you will find dictionaries and many other books in each country which lay out "accepted" or recommended pronunciation for that region, but none of this guidance is a definitive "rule."

In German, by contrast, there is a prescribed value and linguistic rule for how each vowel, consonant, and thereby, word, is to be produced and pronounced. In truth, no one in Germany should really speak dialect - that's never happened, thank goodness.

This delineation never happened in English, which keeps it something of a happy mess - which it's always been.

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  • "Nobody can tell you... that your pronunciation of any word is incorrect." sure, but they can certainly tell you that your pronunciation is or is not like the majority of people around you. This may have many causes/labels, if it sounds like a particular dialect, a one-off learned from spelling, a foreign accent, or vocal anatomy or hearing anomaly. – Mitch May 26 at 15:37

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