What do /a/ and /O/ merge to?

Gordon, Matthew J. GordonMJ at MISSOURI.EDU
Tue Mar 4 20:23:23 UTC 2003

Erik Thomas, in his PADS book, describes the merged vowel as something back of /A/ (=script a) based on acoustic (F1 X F2) data. In my experience as a merged speaker, I have been misheard by unmerged speakers in both directions. That is, when I said Dawn it was heard as Don and when I said copy it was heard as coffee. So, the merged vowel is something in between the historical sources.
I think there's regional variation involved. In Western PA and maybe down the Ohio the vowel is said to be more rounded, though I don't think it's really an open-o. In the West, it tends to be more unrounded or maybe less rounded. I'm from eastern Nebraska.

-----Original Message-----
From:   Herbert Stahlke [mailto:hstahlke at WORLDNET.ATT.NET]
Sent:   Tue 3/4/2003 2:07 PM
Subject:             What do /a/ and /O/ merge to?

When I talk about the /a/~/O/ merger in various of my classes I fairly
regularly find that among students who merge them, some merge to /a/ and
others to /O/.  Based just on observing my students, it appears that
students from southern Indiana, south of Indianapolis, who merge are like to
merge to /O/.  Students from north of Indy merge to /a/.  But I haven't
collected specific data on this.  I've looked through the discussion on the
Phonological Atlas of North America site, although I haven't read closely
the newly revised Chapter 11 that has to be the most extensive treatment of
the merger anywhere.  However, I haven't come across the question of what
they merge to.  Has anyone investigated this?


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