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I've always transcribed "pink" and "ring" with the vowel /I/ (lax) vs. the tense /i/, and my students have never argued with me about it, but suddenly I've been getting a good number of students arguing for the /i/. They seem to have a vowel somewhere in between perhaps--sometimes it sounds like straight /i/. Just wondering if you've heard about this happening in certain parts of the country or if this has always been a sort of variant. Most of my student are from the midwest (Michigan)

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    I've never heard of a 'lax I': do you have IPA available? Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 19:29
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    Before nasals the tense/lax distinction often neutralizes, just as it does before /r/. Since the syllables /ɪŋ/ and /iŋ/ don't contrast in any English words, it doesn't matter how you transcribe them, as long as you're consistent. Similarly, Kenyon and Knott made the decision around 1950 to transcribe the final vowel in all American words like heavy, Mary, easy, notary as /ɪ/ instead of /i/, and that's the way it's always transcribed in Kenyon & Knott. I've never heard anybody pronounce it any other way than /i/, however, and it doesn't matter because it doesn't contrast with anything. Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 19:30
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    I definitely pronounce the end of Mary, easy, and notary with the same vowel sound as in the word feet which I assume is /ɪ/ in IPA. Using the vowel in fig, pick, did, which I assume is /i/ doesn't sound right even in fast speech (I have heard some songs where they've pronounced it that way, though)
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 1:16
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    @Jim /I/ is the 'bit' vowel, /i/ is the 'beet' vowel, which makes the Kenyon and Knot transcription John Lawler noted strange indeed.
    – danch
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 16:57

1 Answer 1

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In a comment, John Lawler wrote:

Before nasals the tense/lax distinction often neutralizes, just as it does before /r/. Since the syllables /ɪŋ/ and /iŋ/ don't contrast in any English words, it doesn't matter how you transcribe them, as long as you're consistent. Similarly, Kenyon and Knott made the decision around 1950 to transcribe the final vowel in all American words like heavy, Mary, easy, notary as /ɪ/ instead of /i/, and that's the way it's always transcribed in Kenyon & Knott. I've never heard anybody pronounce it any other way than /i/, however, and it doesn't matter because it doesn't contrast with anything.

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