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The one thing that confuses me the most are the AIR and EAR sounds as in AmERica and ExpERiment.

What exactly is the AIR/EAR sound? The AIR sound is basically a short E or a long A sound controlled by an R, correct? And the EAR sound is just a long E controlled by an R, right?

What is the official name of these sounds? How would I explain them to other learners? When do we use them?

More examples:
AIR: ERic, SquARE, bARE, mARried, mERry
EAR: bEER, mERE, fEAR, hERo

  • While using the EAR sound in "experiment" is not unknown, the AIR sound is more common and considered more standard. There is an earlier question about the prounciation of this word: What’s the geographic distribution of different pronunciations of the word “experiment”? For a number of American English speakers, the EAR sound is identified with the short I sound controlled by an R. See the following post on the English Language Learners Stack Exchange site: -eer vowel (accent/dialect variation?) – sumelic Mar 23 '18 at 3:32
  • @Bread: Hmm, that's not a standard use of the term "controlled", although it's true that the way a vowel is pronounced phonetically is affected by the preceding sound. The /p/ in "experiment" is aspirated, which causes the start of the following vowel to be devoiced. Maybe that is what you are referring to. – sumelic Mar 23 '18 at 4:05
  • What I mean is the short e sound is controlled by both consonants within the syllables: the p in addition to the r in experiment; and the m in addition to the r in American. So both consonants within each syllable has some effect on the sound of the vowel. Different consonants result in slightly different pronunciations. But that's really difficult (I should say virtually impossible) for a standard dictionary to express perfectly, for people who are not native English speakers. – Bread Mar 23 '18 at 4:05
  • @sumelic Yes, that's probably what I meant, thank you very much. – Bread Mar 23 '18 at 4:14
  • See also: Linguistics, Language Learning – Kris Mar 23 '18 at 6:16

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