Ambiguous AHD/AmE pronunciation guides

Tom Zurinskas truespel at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 18 03:07:00 UTC 2007

Pick a dictionary and you get a different pronunciation guide.  So which is best for Americans.  I maintain that the truespel pronunciation guide method is best (see the converter at  It does not use schwa, so it is clearer because it spells all schwas out.  It shows glottal stops (see truespel book 3).  It allows capitalization and punctuation to be used as normal.  It does not use special symbols, allowing normal use in docs and spreadsheets.  It is simple enough for kids and can be used for teaching phonemic awareness (the key to learning how to read).

The biggest unaddressed pattern of pronunciation in the dictionaries is the lack of recognition of the glottal stop especially for ending "t" and the ~d for ~t substitution.

Regarding "caught, paw, for, horrid" that would be ~kaut ~pau ~for ~horid in truespel notation for USA English.  The tilde indicates truespel.  ("for" is often pronounced ~fer in USA and ~fau in UK).

Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL5+
See - and the 4 truespel books plus "Occasional Poems" at

> Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2007 16:03:55 -0800
> From: gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
> Subject: Ambiguous AHD/AmE pronunciation guides
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Benjamin Barrett
> Subject: Ambiguous AHD/AmE pronunciation guides
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I remember as a child being confused by the pronunciation guide in
> dictionaries. To this day (I'm now 41), they are confusing.
> A few weeks ago, I finally got my copy of the AHD 4, and remain confused.
> For backwards "c" (circumflex o), the words "caught, paw, for, horrid,
> hoarse" are provided in the pronunciation key. Since I pronounce the
> first two as /a/ and the last three as /o/, I have no leg to stand on
> when this symbol is used. My general rule in this case has always been
> to guess from the spelling. I guess that's generally all right since if
> I don't know the pronunciation already, the word probably isn't
> conversational enough to use, anyway. Nevertheless...
> AFAIK, at least half of Californians speak like I do (I'm a native
> Seattleite), so at least 5% of the US population should have this problem.
> Careful notes in the endpapers provide an explanation for people who
> split "horse, hoarse" and also special notation for words like "forest".
> Both of these careful notation patterns are useless to me, though I'm
> sure they are critical for a significant percentage of English speakers.
> At least five percent of the population seems sizable enough that this
> pronunciation pattern should be addressed. Is this split so intractable
> it's ignored, or is there a reason why this pronunciation pattern is
> left ambiguous?
> Ever-curious about thisly yours
> Benjamin Barrett
> a cyberbreath for language life
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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