(I mean phonological lexical sets, if that wasn't clear.)

How do you look up what lexical set a word is in? Is there any sort of open database anywhere?

Like, say I have the LOT/CLOTH merger, and I want to know group the word "long" is in.

Apparently it's "CLOTH" according to that wikipedia page, but they have only three words listed for every group, with no mention of how to verify the information if you don't happen to have a speaker of that dialect handy.

  • 1
    Please see also Linguistics
    – Kris
    Jun 22 '15 at 6:09
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    @rogermue What do you mean, "unclear"? It's directed at readers who are already familiar with Wells' lexical sets. (And shouldn't that be common knowledge in this sub-stackexchange?) Are you speaking from that position, and still believe it's unclear?
    – Owen_AR
    Jun 22 '15 at 6:38
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    @rogermue I'm confused now. What is the subject material of the "English" stackexchange, if not linguistics specifically focused on English? >:?
    – Owen_AR
    Jun 22 '15 at 6:53
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's either a request for resources or unclear. Jun 22 '15 at 8:52
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    Right. When a phonological merger has progressed far enough, those it's affected rarely can tell which words used to have which vowel. This is true with USAns trying to pronounce words with /ɑː/ and /ɒ/ in RP , and it's true with those Americans (nearly a majority, most W of the Mississippi) who merge /ɔ/ and /a/ (Dawn = Don ). When you can't hear it, you can't remember, identify, or reproduce it. Jun 22 '15 at 17:14

According to the Wikipedia entry on lexical sets (specifically, Wells's), "long" is in the CLOTH lexical set, but not the LOT lexical set -- as you say.

The way you would find out if some other word was in this or that lexical set would be to look up its US and UK pronunciations. Cambridge Dictionaries Online will give you US and UK pronunciations both as audio and in phonetic symbols. For example, if you look up "dog," you'll find by its phonetic representation that "dog" is in the LOT group. There will no doubt be slight variations in the phonetic representation (Cambridge puts a : after the a in US "da:g"), and of course not everyone in a country pronounces all words the same way. It's not an exact science -- but this looks good enough to me.

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    You should add that you may need to use two dictionaries to determine which lexical set it's in. LOT is /ɑ/ in AmE and /ɒ/ in BrE. CLOTH is /ɔ/ in AmE and /ɒ/ in BrE. THOUGHT is /ɔ/ in AmE and /ɔː/ in BrE. So one dictionary is not enough to tell you that long is in the CLOTH lexical set. Jul 11 '15 at 4:37
  • There is if the dictionary gives you both US & UK pronunciations; see above. (But, yes, you need both.)
    – Maverick
    Jul 11 '15 at 4:39

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