It is rather rare to hear a speaker pronounce vowels like this, so I would like to know where it comes from. I live in North America, so my only experience is with American English.

Most notably, I have heard /ɑ/ in "got" pronounced as /æ/. As well, "no" as "nɛ". And come to think of it, "actually" which should use /æ/ is being pronounced as /ɛ/.

A more common occurrence may be the /e/ in "okay" substituted for /ə/, /ɪ/, or /i/.

I have found a couple of examples from this video, such as "end" as [ɪ]nd. It's not necessary to watch but may help. It's not the prominent accent that I've heard, as in the first example.

But my question is where did this begin, and where in the US does it occur most?

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    They aren't 'mispronounced', they just use a different vowel in their variety of English from the one that you do in yours! Aug 10, 2016 at 12:18
  • Yes, but this is not a recognized variation, as in the differences between American and British English. It is regional, I presume, and I have heard it from only a small group of people. Aug 10, 2016 at 12:20
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    You mean it is not a prestige variety of English. That's true and it's probably true that it's regional too. However, what it is not is mispronounced. Aug 10, 2016 at 12:22
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    Is the person speaking in that video representative of the accent you're thinking of, or are you just thinking of very particular examples of alternate pronunciations for a couple of vowels?
    – Mitch
    Aug 10, 2016 at 13:08
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    The person in that video does not have a strong regional accent to me. I would never have caught ""end" as [ɪ]nd" but at a stretch that could be the pen/pin merger characteristic of the South (she had no other Southern attributes that I could tell. A shift from /ɑ/ to /æ/ could be northern Midwest (~Minnesota). No -> neh doesn't sound like anything to me, just a natural variation.
    – Mitch
    Aug 10, 2016 at 13:14

1 Answer 1


/a/ ⟹ /æ/ is part of the ongoing sound change now occurring in northern urban speech groups in American English called the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.

This is a big change in English vowels, as complex and thorough as the Great Vowel Shift that moved all the long vowels in English but left the short ones in the same place, thus producing Early Modern English from Middle English.

Diagrams and examples of both of these shifts are available here.

The Northern Cities Shift been a focus of study by sociolinguists for several decades. It also includes a number of other pronunciation variants that you may be familiar with, as shown on the charts.

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