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Where in the USA do people pronounce 'fall' as /fɑːl/ as this version of CD recommends (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/fall)?

Nota bene: CD gives /ɑː/ for 'star', 'calm' and 'father'. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/star)

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    You need to look at a linguistic geography. Back vowels are all over the map. Oct 9, 2023 at 16:39
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    That's how I've always pronounced it (I grew up in New York) and how I've always heard it on American TV and movies. What makes you think this is regional?
    – Barmar
    Oct 9, 2023 at 17:04
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    The difference between /fɑːl/ and /fɒl/ is very subtle, so I'm not sure which is actually what I say/hear. But since the dictionary says /fɑːl/ that's probably it. /fɔːl/ definitely sounds more British.
    – Barmar
    Oct 9, 2023 at 17:10
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    If you're American and you pronounce column and call 'em the same, you're probably pronouncing call as /kɑːl/. If not, you're probably pronouncing it /kɔːl/ or /kɒl/ (these are allophones in the U.S., so there's no semantic difference between them). Oct 9, 2023 at 18:55
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    If you are Romanian, then your mental ears are deaf to our common /ɔ/ phoneme because you lack that phoneme in your native tongue. That's why you have such trouble with it.
    – tchrist
    Oct 10, 2023 at 14:47

1 Answer 1

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In its pronunciations, the Cambridge dictionary does not distinguish between /ɑː/ and /ɔː/ in American English (except before /r/); for example, it says that Americans pronounce Don and Dawn the same.

This is only true of some Americans, in particular, those with the COT-CAUGHT merger. This merger is widespread in Canada and the Western U.S., but is also present in scattered regions in the rest of the U.S.

The case of the word fall is more complicated, because the vowel precedes an /l/, so some people with the merger in most words may pronounce the word /fɔːl/ and some people who generally don't have the merger may pronounce the word /fɑːl/.

Also, note that the Cambridge dictionary's pronunciations don't always agree with its IPA notation. They pronounce the word cross as /krɔːs/, even though their IPA says /krɑːs/. This is because they don't screen the Americans pronouncing the words to see whether they have this merger.

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  • Very 'scientific'... Oct 9, 2023 at 19:42
  • Their pronunciation of Don sounds wrong to my Long Island ears, I think it should be pronounced like "Dahn" (sorry, don't know the IPA). Think of "Oh, Donald!" in "That Girl". I'm sure there are places that pronounce it like Dawn, but I don't consider it the mainstream.
    – Barmar
    Oct 9, 2023 at 19:43
  • This is what I suspected a long time ago. Namely that no cot-caught mergers that use the "Dahn". However, this is what most foreigners think, that the Brits use a kind of /o/ and the Americans use a kind of /a/. The second difference being the American rhotacity. Oct 9, 2023 at 19:53
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    The problem with all the texts about the merger is that they write generally about it and not the exact quality of the old and new vowels. Oct 10, 2023 at 15:35
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    @CălinCucuietuKə'lin: The exact quality of the new vowel varies. Since the vowels are merged, you can use either one, and people won't even notice the difference. In the DEW-DO merger, widespread in North America, the general wisdom is that the merged vowel is /duː/, but I would swear I've heard people pronouncing do like /djuː/. For the COT-CAUGHT merger, in Boston, the merged vowel generally sounds to me like /ɒː/, butI believe some people use /ɑː/. And in California, people generally use /ɑː/, but I suspect that some people use /ɔː/ before a few consonants, like /l/. Oct 10, 2023 at 17:49

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