1

Here is the pronunciation guide from Oxford American English dictionary:

Some speakers only use the sound /ɔ/ when it is followed by /r/ (as in horse /hɔrs/) and use /ɑ/ in all other words that are shown with /ɔ/ in this dictionary, so that they pronounce both caught and cot as /kɑt/.

It means that ɔɪ will become ɑɪ . Boy will be pronounced /bɑɪ/, choice will be pronounced /tʃɑɪs/.

Could anyone confirm this is the actual pronunciation of the people with cot/caught merger? Or do they just keep /bɔɪ/ and /tʃɔɪs/?

If /bɑɪ/ is used, will it be easy to distinguish with buy /baɪ/ ?

PS: I am interested in American English by Oxford dictionary. But I get confused with their guide as mentioned in my question. Will boy be pronounced /bɑɪ/ according to their guide ? If a particular region must be specified, please take a US region with cot caught merger to see how they pronounce boy, choice... I want to make sure that /bɑɪ/ pronunciation is practical and recognized by most of listeners

2
  • 2
    "the people with cot/caught merger" aren't a homogenous group: it's found in Scotland and other parts of the British Isles, parts of the US and Canada, and elsewhere. Are you interested in a particular dialect/region? You could start with the chart here.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 17, 2023 at 10:57
  • I am interested in American English by Oxford dictionary. But I get confused with their guide as mentioned in my question. Will boy be pronounced /bɑɪ/ according to their guide ? If a particular region must be specified, let's take a US region with cot caught merger to see how they pronounce boy, choice... I want to make sure that /bɑɪ/ pronunciation is practical and recognized by most of listeners
    – Nam N
    Jan 17, 2023 at 11:28

1 Answer 1

3

Oxford Dictionary is only talking about the phoneme /ɔ/, and not the phoneme /ɔɪ/. These are two different phonemes, and they probably didn't realize they were being ambiguous when they wrote their pronunciation guide. To American English ears, /bɑɪ/ sounds like buy and not /bɔɪ/. If you pronounce boy as /bɑɪ/, you will probably be misunderstood.

I can't say for sure that there isn't some region of the United States where they pronounce boy as /bɑɪ/, but certainly in nearly all the accents with the COT-CAUGHT merger that I've run into, boy pronounced something like /bɔɪ/.

The Wikipedia International Phonetic Alphabet Chart gives /ɔɪ/ or /oɪ/ for the pronunciation of the phoneme /ɔɪ/ in nearly all the American dialects they list, and don't list any dialects where it's pronounced /ɑɪ/. So if you want to avoid the phone [ɔ] altogether, you could pronounce horse as /hors/ and boy as /boɪ/.

3
  • It's confusing, they say "Some speakers only use the sound /ɔ/ when it is followed by /r/ (as in horse /hɔrs/)". It means that they understand ɔr as 2 different phonemes, not a phoneme. So, the same for ɔɪ - they are 2 different phonemes, not a phoneme. Anyways, thanks for your clarification, boy should be pronounced /bɔɪ/, not /bɑɪ/
    – Nam N
    Jan 17, 2023 at 12:31
  • @NamN Probably boy, bore, and boat have the same syllabic nucleus: /o/.
    – tchrist
    Jan 17, 2023 at 13:50
  • 3
    @Nam N: In the standard analysis of American English, /ɔɪ/ is considered a single phoneme, which is a diphthong (so there are two symbols), while /ɔr/ is often considered as two phonemes. (Not that you could tell this from their guide to pronunciation.) Jan 17, 2023 at 13:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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