/or/ distinctions and more

D. Ezra Johnson ezra_50 at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 15 02:06:52 UTC 2000

Larry writes:

>If a northeasterner's perspective is of interest, HORSE and HOARSE
>are homophones for me (and for most northeastern students in our
>dialects class) but COT and CAUGHT are sharply distinguished.

But in northeastern New England, it's the other way around:
COT and CAUGHT are merged, and HORSE and HOARSE sharply distinguished.

To be honest, the specific pair "horse" and "hoarse" isn't a great example
of that vowel contrast. "For" and "four" are much more consistently
distinguished (as well as being such common words).

I believe that the FOR/HORSE/NORTH class words are /or/ -- that is, the
vowel of COT + r -- and the FOUR/HOARSE/FORCE class words are /owr/ -- that
is, the vowel of BOAT + r. The CAUGHT vowel isn't involved.

Are there any words that historically "would have" /ohr/ -- the vowel of
CAUGHT + r? If so, do they group with /or/ or with /owr/?

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