I'm analyzing the /æ/ vowel sound (also known as 'short A') found in words like cat, dad, or man. I am particularly interested in how that sound is realized in different dialects of American English which has led me to browse YouTube videos of ESL teachers teaching this sound.

I found a video that I thought was very interesting since the speaker exhibits a noticeable tensing and lengthening of the /æ/ vowel. You can watch this video HERE. A very clear example of what I'm talking about can be heard around the 1:07 mark. Notice how the speaker produces almost two separate sounds: "ee-yah" with a gliding quality. I am, however, uncertain how to transcribe this tense vowel in the IPA. Wikipedia suggests either [eə] or [ɛə]. Would you agree? Neither /e/ or /ɛ/ (for the initial portion of the diphthong) sounds right to my ears, but the standard /æ/ is more open than the sound the speaker in the video produces.

I'd be very grateful for any suggestions!


1 Answer 1


The speaker in your video link is not a speaker of Southern American English, which is the accent most likely to split phonemic /æ/ into phonetic [æjə], which can be perceived by folks with other regional accents as realized in two syllables separated by a glide providing a sort of hiatus between the two halves, although the line between a disyllabic [æjə] and monosyllabic [æə̯] is not always clear to my casual ear.

Possibile phonetic realizations of phonemic /æ/ mentioned in the Wikipedia article on /æ/ or short-a raising and tensing include all of:

  1. [æ]
  2. [æː]
  3. [æ̝ˑ] <-- look at this one
  4. [æɛə]
  5. [æjə]
  6. [eː]
  7. [eə]
  8. [eɪ]
  9. [ej]
  10. [ɛː]
  11. [ɛə]
  12. [ɛj]
  13. [ɛjə]
  14. [ɛɔ]
  15. [ɪə]

Of those, number 3’s [æ̝ˑ] version has a particular diacritic ̝ written beneath the æ, which indicates a slightly raised version of that vowel. It also uses the ˑ modifier after it to mean that it’s a little longer than normal but not quite so long as a full ː modifier would mean.

So that might well be the first part of the sound you’re hearing at the point in the video that you’ve drawn attention to. Because she is saying the sound carefully in isolation, she may be accentuating those two effects.

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