See this picture enter image description here (Source)

See the vowel "o"? I couldn't find any word in the English dictionary that has the sound /o/ alone without being part of a diphthong.

For example, in /ɡoʊ/ (go), the /ʊ/ stands right after /o/.

Are there any words like /ɡo/, /ko/ where the /o/ stands alone?

I feel that in English we can only have /oʊ/ and /o/ cannot stand alone. That is why my English teacher only teaches us to pronounce the diphthong /oʊ/. She doesn't teach the pronunciation of /o/.

  • 5
    It depends on your dialect. There are lots and lots of Americans who use /or/ in words where your dictionary has /ɔr/, like sort, port, tore, war, form – I'm one. See Wikipedia. (And that vowel chart also says /o/ is used for law in Australia and New Zealand, and for goat in Scotland and some dialects of American, although I'm not so sure you can trust that chart completely.) But if you're talking about standard American English or British English pronunciation, no. Feb 3 '16 at 15:47
  • @PeterShor, why /**ʌ**/ in IPA chart en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel_diagram is in the "open-mid-back" position, but most English vowel chart the /**ʌ**/ is in "open-mid-central" position?
    – Tom
    Feb 3 '16 at 16:01
  • 1
    Because some RP speakers used to pronounce /ʌ/ in the open-mid-back position, but now that's very rare, and nowadays RP speakers pronounce it somewhere between the open-mid-central position and the position of /ɑ/. But nobody got around to changing the notation, the way they did for /əʊ/. Feb 3 '16 at 16:04
  • 1
    Let me clarify that; there's no standard chart showing the vowel positions for English (and this differs substantially depending on the dialect). There's a standard official vowel chart showing where the IPA symbols are and the relationship between them. For any actual language, the idea is that you choose the IPA symbols closest to the positions of the vowels in that language. Feb 3 '16 at 16:39
  • 2
    @HotLicks ō is not IPA. It's a symbol used to represent the so-called "long O" sound, which is diphthongized as indicated in the OP's diagram . May 4 '16 at 3:20

OED gives a list of English and American IPA symbols used in the dictionary.

/o/ does not appear as a standalone monophthong; it appears only as /oʊ/ and that is only in the "American" column (for goat). /o/ is not listed in British English at all.

The answer would appear to be No. In standard British and American English, there are no words like /ɡo/, /ko/ where the /o/ stands alone. It remains possible that certain dialects and regional accents in either variety could include /o/, but it would appear reasonable that there is no need to teach it.


Long 'O' (and long 'A') are not true diphthongs. They merely have allophones that stray into other vowels because it is difficult or impossible to abruptly start the following consonant (or silence). True diphthongs transition from vowel to vowel to convey a meaning separate from either vowel alone.

  • 5
    French and Spanish speakers seem to have no problem pronouncing /o/ and /e/ as monophthongs. See this question. Feb 4 '16 at 1:18

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