Most sources on the Internet seem to indicate that English "v" in words like "vodka" or "raven" is /v/, identical to Polish "w" or Russian "в".

However, my pronunciation seems to differentiate between the two - I pronounce the Polish "w" as /v/ with a strong labiodental component, but English "v" is more of a /β/ sound, with lips puckered rather than touching the lower teeth. Trying to pronounce "vodka" with a Polish "w" feels unnatural and reminiscent of a sort of fake Russian accent.

Is it common for native English speakers to approximate "v" to some extent, or am I the one that's in the wrong here?

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    Unless there's some kind of physical impediment involved, all native Anglophones easily distinguish /v/ from /w/ (vine and wine may be logically connected, but we never confuse the actual words). Just as we all distinguish /v/ from /b/ (something which probably seems really weird to Spanish speakers, who don't (can't?) distinguish between /v/ and /b/). – FumbleFingers Jul 23 '20 at 11:50
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    There are a dozen different ways "v" might be pronounced, depending on speaker and the particular word. As FF suggests, the Spanish influence, particularly in the US, causes some of this. English has been quite promiscuous in its adaptation of words and sounds from other languages and cultures. – Hot Licks Jul 23 '20 at 12:13
  • @FumbleFingers Polish distinguishes easily between /v/ and /w/, or "w" and "ł", so I think that's not the issue here. The closest approximation to my pronunciation I could find is the Spanish "v", but slightly wider so that it's distinct from /b/. – Maciej Stachowski Jul 23 '20 at 12:30
  • When you say Polish distinguishes easily between /v/ and /w/, or "w" and "ł", I think that implies you're assuming that those are 4 "distinct" phonemes - specifically, the same four phonemes in English and in Polish. But frankly I think that's highly unlikely. Some / all of them are probably just "close approximations" of counterparts between languages. – FumbleFingers Jul 23 '20 at 12:51
  • @FumbleFingers sorry if it wasn't clear - I use /_/ for IPA and "_" for letters those phonemes are spelled with. – Maciej Stachowski Jul 23 '20 at 12:52

“Labiodental” refers to a consonant made with contact between the lower lip and the upper teeth. This is the case for me in “raven”. [v] therefore seems like a good transcription for English /v/.

“Bilabial” refers to a consonant made with contact between the lower lip and the upper lip. Spanish uses a bilabial fricative or approximant [β] for v and b (which are both pronounced the same) between vowels, and a bilabial plosive [b] for v and b after a nasal (as in -nv- or -mb-). I’m wondering whether you may have flipped around the meaning of [v] and [β].

I certainly don’t use anything closer to [β] in “raven”.

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