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Let's use "bank" as an example. Some Americans pronounce it /bæŋk/, using the vowel of TRAP. Others pronounce it /beŋk/, using the vowel of FACE.

Where are these two pronunciations found?

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    Well, it's a feature of what's called the Northern Cities Vowel Shift in the United States. In dialects undergoing this shift (still going on in the inner cities of the N.E. USA), the woman's name Ann(e) is often confused with non-dialectal pronunciation of the man's name Ia(i)n, both as /'iyən/ ['ʔijɨn]. – John Lawler Sep 8 '14 at 21:29
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    Before nasals, especially, the distinction between lax front vowels is very weak. Americans often can't distinguish pin from pen. – John Lawler Sep 9 '14 at 0:50
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    I rather wish you would not phrase it in terms of “long a” versus “short a”; I find those terms extremely confusing. Those are Hooked-On-Fonix™ terms used to teach six-year-olds, not something internationally understandable like IPA. Even lexical sets would be better. But I have never heard anyone say bank the same way as Ban Ki-moon starts, as you apparently do (and as the OED also reports). It is strange. Maybe we are only thinking we hear things. – tchrist Sep 9 '14 at 0:59
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    I strongly suspect your answer is to be found here, starting from where they talk about /æ/ tensing in environments that vary widely from accent to accent. It specifically says, in bold: Nearly all American English speakers pronounce /æŋ/ somewhere between [æŋ] and [eɪŋ], though Western speakers specifically favor [eɪŋ]. Where are you from that this should surprise you? – tchrist Sep 9 '14 at 1:12
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    If you are talking about American accents, could you edit in the [american-english] tag? Because in British English, bank is pronounced as in "Ban Ki-Moon" /bæŋk/, and a real clipped British RP can make bank into /beŋk/ which can sound a bit like /beiŋk/ (although I've never heard it go that far). – Andrew Leach Sep 9 '14 at 6:18
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I think the pronunciation /beŋk/ is found all over the U.S. (although certainly lots of Americans say /bænk/). We have comments saying that it occurs in the Northeast, the South, the Upper Midwest, and the West. I know it's also found in the Midland accent (the lower Midwest). What proportion of speakers use it probably varies regionally, but I don't know if any studies have been done on this.

I also don't know how old this feature of the American accent is, but judging from how widespread it is, it must be fairly old.

See also this blog entry.

Wikipedia says it happens in California English, but I believe it's much more widespread in the U.S. than that.

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    I don’t usually do this, but Peter, that’s a really fascinating blog entry, so thanks very much for sharing. – tchrist Sep 17 '14 at 0:02
  • When you say "this pronunciation", do you mean /eŋk/ or /æŋk/? – Joe Sep 17 '14 at 0:21
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I often heard the pronunciation /æŋk/ growing up in Connecticut. I hear it less often now, though in fairness I no longer live there... Still, I do hear it once in a while when I'm in town.

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    When you say "this pronunciation", do you mean /eŋk/ or /æŋk/? – Joe Sep 17 '14 at 0:22
  • Apologies. I mean /æŋk/. – Audra Sep 18 '14 at 1:03

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