I would like to know why the [ɒ] in not often sounds different (more rounded) than the [ɒ] in hot, father, or car in American English.

I know that in British English the vowel in not is an [ɔ], but I've been taught that in American English it is an [ɒ], as in hot. However, I've noticed that the majority of Americans do not pronounce the vowel in not exactly the same as the vowel in hot; most of them produce a more rounded (and sometimes shorter) sound, similar to an [ɔ], as in dog.

For example, in the phrase It's not like that the [ɒ] in not is usually pronounced quickly and more rounded, as if it were almost a British [ɔ].

Why is this so?

  • 1
    I (in the US) don't pronounce the vowel sounds of the two identically, but it's very close, probably not enough difference to be noticed unless you're specifically listening. I detect more of an "ah" sound in "hot". I kind of sense that this difference occurs because the mouth was previously configured to make the "h" sound and doesn't quite return to "neutral" before the vowel -- not really intentional, but simply due to speech mechanics. It's harder to say about "father" and "car".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 1:21
  • 2
    I pronounce not the same as hot, knot, cot, bot, and got. Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 2:40
  • 3
    You seem to think that all Americans talk alike. We don't. I don't pronounce not differently from hot. But it's quite possible that some American use the vowel of caught and dog for not. Where are the Americans you're hearing this from? Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 2:54
  • 1
    What region of the US are you referring to? I pronounce them the same in the midwest. There are some regional accents that elongate the sound - like "nawt" - but they would do the same with both words.
    – TomMcW
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 3:12
  • I pronounce the vowels in hot, father, and car all slightly differently, but hot is the same as not, and I'm from New Jersey. Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 3:50

3 Answers 3


In my experience (SE US), I don't hear this. The [ɒ] in not is pronounced the same as in hot. In the word "naughty", I do sometime here the British pronunciation, I suspect because of the "augh". This happens even more with "haughty", again, I suspect because of the "augh" and possibly avoid confusion with obscure (in the US) slang word "hotty".


In a sentence the O would definitely sound shorter (American English). It's still subtle to my ear, though. You can still hear the "aw" sound.


Have you been listening to a lot of British English? In British English, one of the major differences between /ɒ/ (not, hot) on the one hand and /ɔː/ (caught) and /ɑː/ (path) on the other, is that /ɒ/ is shorter. Most Americans don't pronounce the vowel in not any differently than the vowel in hot, but we often shorten the vowel in not, because it's a function word. So maybe you're hearing this length difference and assigning the vowel to /ɒ/.

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