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"law" is pronounced as /lɑ/ if you speak with the caught-cot merger, so, logic suggests "lawyer" should sound like /lɑjɚ/, as "lawyer" is basically "law" + "yer"

For me, the difference between /lɑjɚ/ and /ˈlaɪ.ɚ/ is just the backness of /ɑ/.

There are however, speakers that realize the American /ɑ/ as a central /ä/*, meaning that /lɑjɚ/ is realized as /läjɚ/ which sounds like /ˈlaɪ.ɚ/.

So, can "lawyer", for some speakers, can sound like "lier"?

(*I believe it's one of the northern cities vowel shifts?)

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    It’s probably not universal (nothing ever is), but lawyer is definitely not law + yer for me. As a word, law is /lɔː/ (with merger, /lɑː/), whereas lawyer /lɔɪ.ər/, not /lɔː.jər/ and thus not affected by the ᴄᴏᴛ–ᴄᴀᴜɢʜᴛ merger. Lawyer rhymes with coyer (i.e., first syllable rhymes with boy) and has an entirely different syllable structure from lier (or liar, which is probably the more common homophone). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 7 '18 at 13:59
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    @Janus: there are definitely Americans who pronounce lawyer as /lɔː.jɚ/ and not /lɔɪ.ɚ/. The question is whether any of these Americans have a COT-CAUGHT merger where /ɔ/ is realized as [ä], so their pronunciation is [läː.jər], which sounds a lot like /ˈlaɪ.ɚ/ – Peter Shor Apr 7 '18 at 14:11
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    It probably won't happen in the Northern Cities vowel shift. That doesn't have the COT-CAUGHT merger, so law is pronounced [lɒ] and not [lä] (which would be the first part of lot). – Peter Shor Apr 7 '18 at 14:19
  • @JanusBahsJacquet For folks who pronounce boy with a more closed /boɪ/ not /bɔɪ/, lawyer becomes /loɪər/ or /lojər/. By losing the connection with law /lɔː/ we think of a lawyer as someone who does something or other with “loys”, whatever those are. :) See also Tom Sawyer, where nobody now knows there were ever once any saws /sɔːz/ involved in that profession because of how the more open /ɔ/ has become a more closed /o/ in Tom’s surname. – tchrist Apr 7 '18 at 15:09
  • @tchrist Even for those of us who don’t have a closer /o/ vowel there, the disconnect is real—I didn’t connect lawyer with law until… well, until some age that I’m old enough to remember. I remember the ‘aha’ moment, so I almost certainly grasped the connection through spelling, not pronunciation. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 7 '18 at 15:12

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