cannot: OED pronunciation

Dale Coye Dalecoye at AOL.COM
Mon Jan 17 14:33:52 UTC 2005

Quite a discussion arose on the History of Eng. Lang. list over the
pronunciation of cannot.  A non-native speaker, a teacher, had been teaching the
pronunciation of the second syllable as schwa--because that's what the OED has.  UK
and US speakers responding agreed that that is incorrect--it's the same vowel
as "not."    That seems right to me. So where did the OED get schwa?
      On a related note, I'm wondering if the spelling "cannot" may be
fighting a losing battle against "can not" in the youngest generation, based on the
number of my students who seem never to have absorbed the single-word
convention in high school--maybe because their teachers didn't teach it.   I don't
know if "can not" has slipped past any editors yet, or made its way into
dictionaries, but maybe it won't be long.

Dale Coye
Wilton, NH

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