Words comforted and healed my discontent when I discovered that Brendan, my beautiful first-born son was severely autistic with limited speech. (Benita Porter, The Power of Words) - audio link

Which way does the essay writer pronounce: /ɑːˈtɪstɪk/ (1) or /ɔˈtɪstɪk/ (2):

  • If she did (2) as is in dictionaries, what’s the difference between (1) and (2)?
    (I hear (1) instead of (2), so I’m wondering what it is. Though I’ve already put the likewise question once on ELL, after getting right answer here from a specific case, I would like to improve my pronunciation understanding better.)
  • If she did (1), isn’t there no difference between the two, /ɑ/ and /ɔ/, for some Americans?
  • 3
    Sounds more like an [ɒ] to me, which is not a phoneme in American English, just an allophone of [ɔ].
    – tchrist
    Sep 24, 2013 at 1:24
  • 5
    In American English, there is a distinction between /ɔ/ and /a/ for many speakers, but on the West coast, especially, they are merged, to the point where the man's name Don and the woman's name Dawn are both pronounced the same. Since there's no phonemic difference, the actual phonetics varies all over the place from person to person. Sep 24, 2013 at 1:43
  • 1
    In OP's context it's unambiguous, but I can easily imagine not being able to tell if an American was saying their son was autistic or artistic. Sep 24, 2013 at 2:38
  • 3
    @FumbleFingers: The East Coast accents which pronounce "ar" like "ah" all pronounce "autistic" with /ɔ/. So if you know which variety of American they're speaking, there shouldn't be any ambiguity. It's like complaining that you can't distinguish between an Englishman saying "clerk" and an American saying "clock" ... once they've said a few other words, it should be easy to tell which it is. Sep 24, 2013 at 3:05
  • 2
    ...mind you, I probably would think he was a pretty sad sack if he was telling me about his dead ant! Sep 24, 2013 at 3:27

1 Answer 1


In American accent, the pronunciation of the word autistic is as mentioned below :

autistic [aw-tis´tik]

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