cot/caught on the street

LanDi Liu strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 1 14:51:24 UTC 2008

Oh, good, caught/cot again!  I missed it last time, but had some
observations that might be worth noting.

I would say I'm basically a victim of the merger, but it doesn't feel
absolutely complete, and it depends mostly on speed.  For me (and I
wouldn't be surprised if this were true for many of you as well if you
think about it), in normal speed speech the merger is complete.  But
when isolating the words and saying them in a "strong form", there is
a fairly clear division for most words.  A few words, like "on" go
either way.  Both AHN and AWN are acceptable.  But other words
definitely go to one side or the other.  "Rock" is definitely RAHK.
"Long" is definitely LAWNG.  I couldn't accept RAWK or LAHNG.

Do others have similar feelings?

Another problem is whether your "short o" sound tends more toward [a]
or [ɑ], and whether the "aw" sound tends more toward [ɒ] or [ɔ] (or
somewhere in between).



On Tue, Jul 1, 2008 at 10:30 PM, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: cot/caught on the street
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Tue, Jul 1, 2008 at 10:03 AM, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at>
> wrote:
>> vanity license plate on a car parked in downtown palo alto yesterday:
>> presumably, the cot/caught merger, in favor of open-o.  for me, it'd
>> be RAHK AWN.  but maybe the open-o appears only in this expression,
>> under the influence of the vowel of "on".
> We had some extensive discussion of the "rawk" phenomenon in Feb. '05, starting
> here:
> As I wrote at the time, "For speakers who haven't merged 'cot' and 'caught',
> 'rawk' suggests an exaggerated pronunciation that might be associated with
> young male fans of hard rock (possibly also evoking 'raw' or 'raucous')."
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

Randy Alexander
Jilin City, China
My Manchu studies blog:

The American Dialect Society -

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