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I can hear a difference between the pronunciation of the /ɔ/ sound in words like "audio" and "law." In the former, the vowel in question sounds more like the /ä/ in "car" (other words containing this same sound are "automobile" and "audience"), while in the latter, it sounds more like /ɵ/ (more like the vowel sound in "dog" or "raw").

My understanding is—and I might be wrong—that there are two different sounds involved in the pronunciation of the two aforementioned words, and that they are allophones of the phoneme /ɔ/ (at least in American English).

Could you please explain to me the difference between the /ɔ/ sound in words like "audio" and "law," and how to pronounce these two different sounds correctly in American English?

  • Interesting. Do you have any links to people pronouncing these words in the way you describe (for example, on Forvo)? – sumelic Oct 21 '15 at 7:14
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    Also, /ä/ for "car" and /ɵ/ for "dog" is not standard either notationally or phonetically in my experience. The usual transcriptions for "General American" are /kɑr/ and /dɔg/ respectively. – sumelic Oct 21 '15 at 7:17
  • @sumelic I agree. Then I would say that the /ɔ/ in "audio" sounds more like an /ɑ/ in "car," but it also sounds like a more rounded vowel, as in British English pronunciation, in both "dog" and "law." – Luke Oct 21 '15 at 7:35
  • To me, the sounds in "audio" and "law" are the same, but they differ a lot from the one in "car". – Andreas Blass Oct 21 '15 at 12:18
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I sort of agree with you, in that in my (American) speech there is a substantial difference in the pronunciation of /ɔ/ in different words. But I definitely disagree on the details; for me, audio, raw, and law are the same, but moth and dog are much closer to the vowel in north and store. (And caught is somewhere in-between.)

I think the details of the pronunciation of /ɔ/ vary substantially depending on the dialect and speaker in AmE, and you're not going to get a definite answer to this question unless you specify a specific regional American dialect, and maybe not even then. We don't all speak the same. And because they're allophones, we don't even notice the difference between various pronunciations of /ɔ/ (unless we're listening for it).

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