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I just listened to the closing arguments from the defense team in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. At one point, Mr. Rittenhouse’s lawyer pronounced the word “sorry” in a way that to my non-native ears strongly resembled the way many Canadians pronounce it (think of the “stereotypical Canadian” way).

Here you can hear the defence attorney twice pronouncing car source three.

According to The New York Times, Kyle Rittenhouse’s defense lawyer is Mark Richards, “a Wisconsin native,” who “has spent his career in Kenosha and Racine, Wis.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/02/us/rittenhouse-defense-lawyer-mark-richards.html).

Do some U.S. English speakers in the Midwest share this pronunciation feature with Canadian English? I was reminded that another well-known Canadianism, the use of “eh,” is actually also used in parts of the American Midwest. Maybe something similar is at play here.

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  • Wisconsin borders Manitoba and Ontario, so I wouldn't be surprised if they have like accents.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 22:30
  • Could you please provide a link to somewhere that would allow the rest of us to hear exactly what you're referencing here? I'm from there myself. For sorry we usually use the tense vowel from so except that it's a monophthong before R. It never sounds like sari, the garment from India that uses the unrounded FATHER vowel. These monophthong versions of tense O and E especially before R are quite common throughout the Upper Midwest, and reasonably well documented as such. You may also from time to time hear it said with the more lax vowel of saw; however it's still rounded either way.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 23:02
  • @tchrist I can't quite get myself to listen through a very long closing argument in order to find exactly that point (I think I heard it in a video excerpt in a NYT article). But in any case, it was meant more as an illustrative example to a general question, the question of whether speakers in Canada and the Midwest share this pronunciation feature, and was aimed at anyone who might have some knowledge of this; the question was not seeking commentary on this specific speaker's pronunciation or dialect.
    – user178452
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 23:14
  • Then you can't get an answer because you haven't been able to show us what it sounds like. Nobody knows your accent bias, and nobody knows what this "Canadian" thing is really talking about. That means your question is too unclear to be answered. Kindly edit it to make this possible. And no, @GEdgar, you aren't going to find that many Wisconsin accents sound like they're from Ontario or Manitoba.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 23:30
  • Here you can hear the defence attorney twice pronouncing car source three. So yes, that is the tense monophthong O before R similarly demonstrated here for sore as heard in such places as Canada, Ohio, Boston, Devon, and Scotland. This is merely one of the many Inland North accents, all of which do this. Please edit your question.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 23:50

1 Answer 1

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The following extract from Dialect Blog appears to agree with your impression:

In many American accents, ‘horrible,’ ‘Florida’ and ‘corridor’ are pronounced with the vowel in ‘flaw.’ But ‘sorry,’ ‘borrow’ and ‘tomorrow’ have the same vowel in ‘lot,’ as in British accents. In Canada, meanwhile, all such /or/ words have the ‘aw’ vowel, including ‘sorry.’

What makes this even more peculiar is in the case of accents out here in the Western US, where the cot-caught merger is typical. I can’t account for every regional accent, but my impression is that for most, sorry has the ‘short-o’ in ‘lot,’ while horrible has an entirely different ‘aw’ sound ([ɔ] or [o]).

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    I'm having trouble parsing the article's intent, but I think it's saying the opposite: that the "Canadian" pronunciation of "sorry" is mostly Canadian, and "for most" it gets the short "o". (I'm not sure what to make of the "the case of accents out here" sentence.) Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 22:41
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    Yeah, I also don't quite follow how this article "appears to agree with [my] impression."
    – user178452
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 23:04
  • Parts of the midwest have that pronunciation. Watch "Fargo" for the stereotypical accent.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 2:05
  • @Barmar I don't understand what the OP is expecting to hear or not hear, nor what they mean by “Canadian sounding”. I doubt I ever shall—until and unless they can be bothered to use real IPA. But native speakers from the Racine and Kenosha area do not have the cot–caught merger, and we have monophthong /o/ in north, sorry, source, sores, wars, horrible plus monophthong /e/ in Mary, Harry, berry, bury, carry, scary, bears. Accents closer to Fargo’s only occur farther north in Wisconsin, like in Oshkosh's older speakers and farther north like Eau Claire, Green Bay, and Superior.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 12:47
  • @tchrist I believe the pronunciation they're referring to sounds like "sawry" rather than "sahry".
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 15:30

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