2

This YouTube channel asserts that the /æ/ sound has four variants depending on the consonant that follows it; /æ/ in apple and /æ/ in mango should sound a bit different, for instance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqGr8er0VEk&t=84s

Is this an accepted theory? Does it apply to at least a fraction of native speakers of American English? How about British English?

If it is, I would like to see some references. Thank you!

3
  • 3
    Since users of english.stackexchange.com don't necessarily speak any language other than English, it will help if you can add any further information summarizing what the video says about four variants of /æ/.
    – herisson
    Jul 4 at 9:48
  • 1
    It's correct for some American dialects, but unless you want to have an accent indistinguishable from Americans, don't worry about this. You will be understood perfectly even if you pronounce all these variants of /æ/ the same. Jul 4 at 12:25
  • 1
    It's normal for English speakers to nasalize any vowel preceding a nasal consonant phoneme (/m n ŋ/). This is automatic and barely noticeable, but it's one more allophone for every vowel phoneme, including /æ/. And there are other contexts as well. However, @PeterShor's right that those distinctions don't matter unless you're impersonating someone. Jul 4 at 15:15

1 Answer 1

6

Many American English speakers use multiple allophones for the phoneme /æ/, but the number of allophones, the sounds used, and the distribution of the sounds can all differ between accents. In some cases, it isn't even simple to count the number of allophones because the sound might fall anywhere in a certain range.

You can refer to the Wikipedia article "/æ/ raising" for an overview of one of the most significant ways the /æ/ phoneme can vary.

Some previous questions on this site about allophones of /æ/:

British English doesn't have quite the same type of allophony. Some British English accents are reported to have developed a marginally contrastive phonemic distinction in length (duration) for certain words with /æ/: this is called the "bad-lad split".1


  1. Kettig, Thomas Hoskins. “The BAD-LAD split: Secondary /æ/-lengthening in Southern Standard British English.” (2016).
1
  • About the BAD-LAD split; maybe we should have expected something like this to happen, since /æ/ is the only vowel in British English that doesn't have significant overlap in vowel space with a vowel of contrasting length. Jul 4 at 18:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.