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paranoid /ˈperəˌnoɪd/

Is there a trend that /æ/ makes a transition to /e/ in America?

When I first came across the pronunciation in Merriam-Webster’s Advanced Learner’s (2008 version), I thought there might be a typo. But merriam-webster.com has /e/ sound followed by /a/-- \ˈper-ə-ˌnoid, ˌpa-rə-\

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1986 version) has /a/ followed by /e/. So I guess /e/ is a new trend. Is it really a new trend? On what cases does the sound be used? - none has /ket/ for cat.

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    In General American, /ær/ turns into /ɛr/. This is not a new trend; I believe it's been around for over a hundred years, but it's steadily becoming more prevalent. However, this happens only to /æ/ immediately before /r/. See marry-merry merger in Wikipedia – Peter Shor Jan 26 '14 at 1:29
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    By the way, don't trust Merriam-Webster on pronunciation. Unless it's Kenyon and Knott. – John Lawler Jan 26 '14 at 1:35
  • @PeterShor As a young speaker of American English, this is one of the ways I feel out how old a speaker might be, where they learned to speak, or how diligent their pronunciation is. I must admit, if I’m trying to elevate my speech, I’ll maintain the /æ/ sound. Also, if I’m speaking slowly because I’m still thinking out what I’m going to say, I’ll preserve the /æ/ sound. – gen-z ready to perish Nov 6 '17 at 13:54
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It's not an American thing. It's a Greek thing. For the most part, /æ/ isn't used in Greek. See non-Greek vowel sounds (http://www.webtopos.gr/eng/languages/greek/gre_ipa_3.htm). Wiki says that it's used in some dialects, but I'm not familiar with them. In my Medical English courses, we were taught the Greek vowel sounds, and they didn't mention /æ/.

Also, Peter Shor shared a link in comment that I agree with. Accents do vary slightly from place to place and person to person in the US. Here's an excerpt:

  1. All three are kept distinct. This occurs primarily in the Northeast, e.g. in the accents of Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, and Providence, Rhode Island.[7][sample 2] In the Philadelphia accent the three-way contrast is preserved, but merry tends to be merged with Murray; likewise ferry can be a homophone of furry. (See furry–ferry merger below.)
  2. All three are merged. This is found throughout the United States and Canada, and is almost universal in the West.
  3. "Mary" and "marry" are merged, while "merry" is distinct. This is also found widely, but in only about 15% of speakers in the United States overall.[1]
  4. "Mary" and "merry" are merged, while "marry" is distinct. This is found in the South of the United States and as far north as Baltimore, Maryland, and Wilmington, Delaware; it is also found among Anglophones in Montreal.[8]

Again, person to person, things change. For example, a woman named Marry/Mary/Merry/Merri may pronounce her name differently than others in the region, as well.

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    While the information about the marry-merry-Mary merger is good, I think the remark about Greek is off the mark, as a Greek wouldn’t pronounce ar like any of those words. – Bradd Szonye Mar 11 '14 at 0:11
  • @BraddSzonye The vowel sounds are the same in Greek in the case of paranoid. Medical English is pretty fussy about vowel sounds. This may not be the reason Americans pronounce r-controlled vowel sounds differently, sometimes. But regardless of where you're from, paranoid should be pronounced minus the æ. – Wolfpack'08 Mar 11 '14 at 0:15
  • @BraddSzonye It may say that in some dictionaries, but do you pronounce it that way? Perhaps it's a machine error or whatever, and if you think it sounds quaint (although it's less euphonic) that way, that's cool. But don't you pronounce 'Turkey' as 'Turkei', at least around the Turkish. It's more accurate but certainly less euphonic. And would you rather hear "boato" or "boat", from an early Japanese speaker of English, for example? I try to stick to what's easiest to pronounce, myself, unless there's a good reason not to. English isn't a vowel-emphasis language, anyway. – Wolfpack'08 Mar 11 '14 at 2:03
  • @BraddSzonye I think the confusion is: | ˈfɑːðə |.... See english.stackexchange.com/questions/103414/…. – Wolfpack'08 Mar 11 '14 at 3:11
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    @BraddSzonye Chat summary: basically air is /er/, so we essentially agree, but our notation probably didn't agree. – Wolfpack'08 Mar 11 '14 at 3:26

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