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scratch1300
09-03-2002, 10:06 AM
I was watching television last night where a father-to-be was talking about naming his child. He said that Erin -- or what sounded like Erin -- would be a good choice because it would work for either a boy or girl, you'd just change the spelling. I laughed derisively and said, "What spelling of 'Erin' is there for a boy's name?" My ex replied, "A-A-R-O-N". I said, "Nuh-uh!" and that Aaron should rhyme with baron, Erin with heron. Then, my ex said that all this time she had been pronouncing our friend Erin like she was Aaron and I hadn't noticed! Well, I think that's ridiculous. But then, it's not the first time I'd heard it. Someone else told me that his middle name, Aaron, was, to the ear, the same as that of this girl he knew, Erin. I chalked it up to him being a teenager and therefore not fully tutored in orthoepy.

People, help me. Don't you pronounce "Erin" and "Aaron" differently? Or am I the crazy one?

UDS
09-03-2002, 10:19 AM
I only know of one person named Aaron, and he pronounces it pretty much as Erin. He's an American jew.

Any time I've heard reference to the biblical Aaron, it's always been pronounced to rhym like Erin. I've never heard a pronunciation to rhyme with baron.

ultrafilter
09-03-2002, 10:40 AM
How are you pronouncing "baron"? In my speech, "Erin", "Aaron", "baron", and "heron" all rhyme. I'm an American, btw.

dantheman
09-03-2002, 10:44 AM
Merriam-Webster gives both pronunciations for Aaron, although "ar'-&n" is listed first. For Erin, it's "er'-&n".

Think of it this way. Have you ever heard of "Henry Erin"? Of course not. It's pronounced "Aaron" as in "baron."

Captain Amazing
09-03-2002, 10:47 AM
I also rhyme "Erin", "Aaron", "baron" and "heron"

Politzania
09-03-2002, 10:48 AM
Midwest US dialect/accent - all 4 words cited: ("Erin" "Aaron" "baron" and "heron") rhyme for me.

Air-uhn, bair-uhn and hair-uhn.

However, I differ from (some) other Midwesterners by insisting Dawn and Don ARE NOT homophones! "Don" has more of a nasal sound -- more of an "ah" vs an "aw"

And don't get me started on "pin" vs "pen....

Aro
09-03-2002, 10:48 AM
My name IRL is Aaron and it is pronounced to rhyme with Baron, as the OP states.

Although many people I meet do mis-pronounce it the other way.
I think it is down to the personal opinion of the parents who name the child how it will be pronounced.
It can be either / or.

CurtC
09-03-2002, 10:51 AM
I would pronounce "Erin" with a short-I sound in the second syllable, but I'd pronounce Aaron, baron, and heron with a schwa. However, it would be really hard for someone listening to me tell the difference unless I was being very careful and pointing it out. It's an unstressed syllable, and the sounds are too close. So you pronounce Aaron to rhyme with baron, but Erin to rhyme with heron? You're saying that baron and heron don't rhyme? Huh.

Vowel pronunciation varies considerably across the country. Some people would say that "bother" and "father" *don't* ryme, though I can't imagine it. They also say that "Mary," "merry," and "marry" are pronounced differently, though I can't imagine that either. On the other hand, it drives me nuts when someone says "caught" like "cot" or "hawk" like "hock." Didn't they attend school?

Aro
09-03-2002, 11:07 AM
Maybe they didn't attend school in your neighbourhood.

No point in being angry or dismissive of other people’s perfectly valid pronunciations, merely because they differ with yours.

And 'bother' and 'father' aren't even close in pronunciation in my area. As for "mary' and 'merry', they are *entirely* distinct.

Your accent is not the basis for the rest of the world. Get over it.

UDS
09-03-2002, 11:08 AM
Originally posted by CurtC
I . . . You're saying that baron and heron don't rhyme? Huh. . . . some people would say that "bother" and "father" *don't* ryme, though I can't imagine it. They also say that "Mary," "merry," and "marry" are pronounced differently, though I can't imagine that either.

Where I com from - Ireland - "baron" and "heron" don't even remotely rhyme. Nor do "bother" and "father", nor "Mary", "merry" and "marry".

All I can say is that some versions of English must be very short of vowel sounds.

Jman
09-03-2002, 11:09 AM
As another person who speaks in the Midwestern Standard, I too rhyme Aaron, Erin, baron, and heron.

Jman

CurtC
09-03-2002, 11:21 AM
Let me try to clear things up. I'm completely accepting of different accents and pronunciations. My question about whether they went to school was a joke.

About the Aaron, Erin, baron, and heron thing - I was assuming that the difference was in the pronunciation of the second syllable - a schwa sound versus a short i. But after reading some of the comments, I'm wondering whether you might pronounce the *first* syllable differently instead. Is this true?

everton
09-03-2002, 11:28 AM
Originally posted by ultrafilter
How are you pronouncing "baron"? In my speech, "Erin", "Aaron", "baron", and "heron" all rhyme. I'm an American, btw.
None of those words rhyme with any of the others where I come from. Nor do merry/marry/Mary, nor do bother/father. In fact I can't see any rhymes in this thread.

Of course it's only common courtesy to pronounce a person's name they way they do, so I wouldn't need correcting twice.

scratch1300: Care to guess how we pronounce Leominster in this country?

scratch1300
09-03-2002, 11:38 AM
Originally posted by CurtC
But after reading some of the comments, I'm wondering whether you might pronounce the *first* syllable differently instead. Is this true?

Yep, that's what I'd meant in the OP. I myself pronounce the second, unstressed syllable of both names as a schwa (I guess if I were saying "Erin" with some extra enunciation, the short "i" sound would be revealed, but ususally just a schwa). It's the first syllable that had me questioning.

Anyway, your reply grabbed my interest. Caught and cot, hawk and hock -- well, they sound the same to my (native New Englander) ears. But baron and heron rhyming? And father, bother? Merry, marry? What weird moon-man language do they speak down there in Plano? :)

KneadToKnow
09-03-2002, 11:50 AM
I have to know ... am I the only person who opened this thread having misread the title as "Are Aaron and Erin homophobic?" and wondering who Aaron and Erin were?

Jenner
09-03-2002, 11:55 AM
I've known an Aaron and an Erin and they both pronounced their names identically.

Alphagene
09-03-2002, 12:14 PM
In my experience, it because Midwesterners smile when they say that A. New Yorkers, on the other hand, don't.

I used to date a girl from Michigan and I used to always taunt her about her inability to pronounce a certain type of "a".

She would always alternate between "ahh" and a something that sounded like a very quick "yea". So the name Sarah came out like "seera". A lot of midwesterners can't say the short a without throwing an "ee" sound behind it.

So Aaron with an "e" behind it will sound just like Erin. Whereas East-Coasters have a short A sound devoid of that "e" thing. Aaron sounds very different from Erin.

Happy Lendervedder
09-03-2002, 12:15 PM
My girlfriend Erin ordered carry-out recently and gave the pick-up name as "Erin" (duh). When I went to pick it up, on the bag it said "Erin." The next week, I ordered carry-out from the same restaurant, and, knowing my GF was picking up the order, gave the pick-up name as "Erin." When she went to pick up the order, the bag said "Aaron."

Apparently, in my area, we pronounce Erin and Aaron the same, and people just differentiate based on context.

And, Knead, I thought the exact same thing.



Happy

robby
09-04-2002, 08:11 PM
I have a sister named "Erin" and a step-brother named "Aaron." (Our families merged upon my father's remarriage.) It was a real source of confusion while growing up.

We took to calling them "Erin [middle name]" and "Aaron [middle name]."

While I did distinguish between the names, most people pronounced them the same (all from Texas).

My grandmother, on the other hand, took to calling my sister "Erin" (rhymes with "heron"), and my step-brother "Aay-ron" (first syllable rhymes with "hay"; second syllable rhymes with "con.") :)

amarinth
09-04-2002, 11:41 PM
To me, "baron" and "heron" rhyme. "Aaron" is ridiculously close - "Erin" is slightly higher.

If I were to say "I saw Aaron give Erin a watch." someone would be able to hear the difference and would know who had the new watch, but if I said "I just talked to Erin." the same person wouldn't be able to tell whether I meant "Erin" or "Aaron." West coast, btw.

ultrafilter
09-04-2002, 11:50 PM
I take back my earlier comment. I do hear a slight difference in the vowels of Aaron and Erin, as well as baron and heron (heron and Erin rhyme for me).

Third me on Knead's misconception.

ultrafilter
09-04-2002, 11:56 PM
I take back my earlier comment. I do hear a slight difference in the vowels of Aaron and Erin, as well as baron and heron (heron and Erin rhyme for me).

Third me on Knead's misconception.

Karellen
09-05-2002, 01:22 AM
Re: Are Aaron and Erin homophonic?

Not at all--some of Erin and Aaron's best finds are gay.


(ducks)

Richard
09-05-2002, 11:32 AM
I'm from Missouri, and my son (raised in Ohio) constantly teases me about my pronunciation of vowels before "r". "Cord" sounds exactly like "card", and "fork" comes out as "fark". I've lived in Ohio for a long time, and I have learned to hear, and usually pronounce, the difference, but sometimes I fall back to my Missouri accent (and prepare for my son's teasing). But I still don't hear or pronounce any difference in Aaron, Erin, baron, and heron.

Off-topic: This is my second attempt to post this. Usually when I open the message board, it automatically logs me on. (I have cookies enabled.) But sometimes it doesn't. This time, I noticed that it didn't have my user id in the proper place, so I entered by id and password, but then it came back and said I was not properly logged on, and it lost my reply, so I had to do it again. Anybody have any idea why it logs me on automatically sometimes, and not other times?

dantheman
09-05-2002, 11:36 AM
PLEASE READ - for those who are being logged out unexpectedly (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=105272)

Green Bean
09-05-2002, 11:48 AM
I live in Jersey, but grew up on Long Island.

To me, Aaron and Erin are totally different, as are baron & heron, marry & merry, hawk & hock, Don & Dawn. But father and bother rhyme. Could somebody explain how father and bother wouldn't rhyme? I'm confoozled.

breaknrun
09-05-2002, 01:11 PM
East coaster here (MA, NJ, GA) and none of the aforementioned words rhyme to my half-deaf ears.
Green Bean, father has an "ah" sound and bother has a "cot" (short o) sound. To me anyway. I'm not a linguist so I'm wouldn't know how better to describe it.
Again, I don't hear normally so I'm not sure how representative my sounds are compared to normal folks.

AHunter3
09-05-2002, 01:12 PM
Not even close. I grew up in the South, and "Aaron" rhymes with "hey run", not "baron", and definitely not "Erin" or "heron". ("Erin" should rhyme with "heron").

AHunter3
09-05-2002, 01:23 PM
breaknrun
Green Bean, father has an "ah" sound and bother has a "cot" (short o) sound.
[/quote]

I think Green Bean is considered correct. The IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) uses a single symbol, considering it to be the same sound. (looks like a child's sans serif "a", without the riser that goes over the closed part). "Father", "cot", the German word for cat "kat", all same vowel sound. Of course technically words don't have sounds, speakers of words have sounds. I'd have to hear you speak.

CurtC
09-05-2002, 01:44 PM
breaknrun wrote:
father has an "ah" sound and bother has a "cot" (short o) sound.This doesn't help. For those of us who think "bother" and "father" rhyme, "cot" has the exact same vowel sound as both of them.

zweisamkeit
09-05-2002, 02:19 PM
I just wanted to say that reading this thread (especially the OP) as a Detroiter for whom Aaron, Erin, baron and heron rhyme was really amusing.

I mean, I read:

I said, "Nuh-uh!" and that Aaron should rhyme with baron, Erin with heron.

and I see four words which ALL RHYME WITH EACH OTHER (in my accent). It felt like I was reading a comedy. :)

So, 'round Metro Detroit, all of those rhyme.

Flymaster
09-05-2002, 04:40 PM
None of the aforementioned words, with the exception of Don and Dawn, rhyme to me, a Boston native. However, I can see how Don and Dawn wouldn't sound the same.

How the other words could sound the same is a complete mystery to me.

AHunter3
09-05-2002, 04:51 PM
Don and Dawn? Wow...

Do "tot" and "taught" rhyme for you too?

Here in New York, "Dawn" and "taught" would (most often) be pronounced almost as if they had an "r" in them, i.e., "Dorn" and "tort". Not quite, but almost.

In Georgia, where I grew up, "Dawn" and "taught" are both heavy-diphthong material. The southern "aw" sound starts off like the "a" in father and then closes down to a sound akin to the sound of the "o" in border or moist (except without the "r" or the "i" following).

In neither locale would you mistake Don for Dawn.

Shiva
09-05-2002, 07:50 PM
I think many folks involved in this thread are misusing the term 'rhyme'.

From Merriam Webster (http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary)
Main Entry: 2rhyme
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): rhymed; rhym·ing
Date: 14th century
transitive senses
1 : to relate or praise in rhyming verse
2 a : to put into rhyme b : to compose (verse) in rhyme c : to cause to rhyme : use as rhyme
intransitive senses
1 : to make rhymes; also : to compose rhyming verse
2 of a word or verse : to end in syllables that are rhymes
3 : to be in accord : HARMONIZE
(emphasis mine)


The point being that it's the last syllables that must sound alike to make a rhyme. The first or preceeding syllables have nothing to do with it. Zanzibar and and car are examples of rhymes.

As for the OP, Erin and Aaron wouldn't rhyme if you pronounce Erin's last syllable as "in" and Aaron's last syllable as "un" or "on".

I don't think that most North Americans are that stringent in their pronunciation though. I'm not.

Johanna
09-05-2002, 11:39 PM
This thread demonstrates:

Everyone from either New England or Ireland pronounces three separate vowels in marry, Mary, merry. (This is already very well known to dialectologists. This three-way distinction is one of the most useful isogloss delineators. An isogloss is, sort of like like an isotherm, a line on the map that bounds areas where a single dialectal feature prevails. When you get a lot of isoglosses converging, they enclose a recognizable dialect area. But more often they cross each other.)

I'm from Ohio and pronounce all three vowels exactly the same, thanks to the General American retroflex r-coloring. The isogloss dividing 3-way marry/Mary/merry from the single vowel area is the Allegheny Mountain ridge in central Pennsylvania.

Not only that, I have an Irish-American friend, also from Ohio, named Arin. Guess what— he pronounces his name exactly the same as both Aaron and Erin. As for the last syllable, it's always a schwa in any case.

FYI, this question has already been throughly thrashed out in at least one other recent thread.
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=99323&highlight=marry+Mary+merry
This thread also includes my explanation of the difference for Britons between the a of father and the o of bother, and why they're the same vowel in America. This is where British English holds one more vowel phoneme than does American English.

Johanna
09-05-2002, 11:41 PM
Oh yeah, and this thread has explanations of marry/Mary/merry:
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=114360&highlight=mary+merry+Mary

susan
09-06-2002, 05:33 AM
Raised in DC and Maryland, I say that Aaron and Erin aren't homophones, but that Mary and merry (but not marry) are. However, my parents were New Yorkers, so I get teased for pronouncing Laura as Lawra (rather than Lahra) (viz chawklit, kawfee).

(hijack)
Speaking of isoglosses, has there been any change in the greasy/greazy distribution since last I thought about it in 1983? How about bag/sack/poke?

Algernon
09-06-2002, 08:33 AM
I know this has been beat to death already, but I thought I'd chime in anyway.

I'm born and raised upper midwest, USA (Wisconsin for those who care).

Erin, Aaron, heron, baron are all sound identical to me. As do Mary, marry, and merry. And father and bother.

However, Dawn and Don are completely different.

I only first became aware of the fact that people from other parts of the country pronounced all these slightly differently when I went off to college and dated a girl from Philadelphia. We had long and amusing discussions about Mary, merry, and marry. For the life of me I could not duplicate her pronunciations, which I could hear but not speak.

In spite of that experience, Everton's statement that "None of those words rhyme with any of the others where I come from. Nor do merry/marry/Mary, nor do bother/father. In fact I can't see any rhymes in this thread" still is astonishing to me.

Richard
09-06-2002, 11:44 AM
Originally posted by Shiva
I think many folks involved in this thread are misusing the term 'rhyme'.

From Merriam Webster (http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary)
Main Entry: 2rhyme
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): rhymed; rhym·ing
Date: 14th century
transitive senses
1 : to relate or praise in rhyming verse
2 a : to put into rhyme b : to compose (verse) in rhyme c : to cause to rhyme : use as rhyme
intransitive senses
1 : to make rhymes; also : to compose rhyming verse
2 of a word or verse : to end in syllables that are rhymes
3 : to be in accord : HARMONIZE
(emphasis mine)


The point being that it's the last syllables that must sound alike to make a rhyme. The first or preceeding syllables have nothing to do with it. Zanzibar and and car are examples of rhymes.

Zanzibar and car are not rhymes. The precise definition of a rhyme is two words that have the same sound from the vowel of the last accented syllable to the end of the word. Since Zanzibar is accented on the first syllable, it doesn't rhyme with car.

In my dialect, heron and baron rhyme, but neither rhymes with run, even though the last syllable is pronounced the same, because the accent is in a different place.

MsRobyn
09-06-2002, 12:12 PM
Mom of an Aaron here.

When I was pregnant, we'd had the baby sexed at the ultrasound, and when we found out he was a boy, we chose to name him Aaron. When I told a friend about my pregnancy, and told her the name we'd picked, she said, "So, you're having a girl?"

OTOH, Airman's grandfather (from PA) pronounces it Ahron (with the broad "A").

Robin

epolo
09-06-2002, 01:50 PM
The easy answer is that Aaron is meant to be pronounced:

ah'ha'RONE

dantheman
09-06-2002, 01:55 PM
Three syllables?? No way! Can't make me pronounce it that way!

Hari Seldon
09-06-2002, 07:36 PM
I'm from Philly (originally) and to me Aaron, Erin, and baron all have distinct first syllables and heron is the same as Erin. Baron is pronounced with a short vowel that is similar to the vowel of back (but colored by the following "r"), while Erin is pronounced like error and Aaron with a long vowel like that of air.

My wife pronounces all of Mary, marry, merry, and Murray distinctly. I pronounce the first three distinctly, but merry and Murray the same. So it goes.

As for some dialects being vowel deprived, I read in some phonetic book once that various dialects of English have between 22 and 24 vowels and, while I have never counted, that doesn't sound like vowel-deprived to me. Especially given that many languages have only 5 vowels and there are few with only 3.

One other thing. In my dialect, sad and bad do not rhyme. Bad, mad, and glad are given tense vowels and all other -ad words are lax. On the other hand, man and ran don't rhyme either. But in this case, there are three, ran, can (modal only), and began that are lax and all others including the noun and verb can are tense.

everton
09-06-2002, 07:40 PM
originally posted by Algernon
In spite of that experience, Everton's statement that "None of those words rhyme with any of the others where I come from. Nor do merry/marry/Mary, nor do bother/father. In fact I can't see any rhymes in this thread" still is astonishing to me.
There’s a certain amount of hair-splitting going on here about what truly qualifies as a rhyme – last syllable, all syllables, stressed syllable. I’m pretty sure the OP meant that the words sound similar throughout, to the point of being indistinguishable to the ear, so that’s how I’ve interpreted it.

If I was attempting to pronounce someone’s name from a written text I’d say it the way I was used to saying it, and then if the person said “actually it’s pronounced …” I’d be happy to change (if only for their case), so the correct pronunciation is their pronunciation, not mine.

Having said that, maybe I should try to clarify my previous comment? It’s not easy to show pronunciation here, and comparisons with other words assume that you’d recognise my pronunciation of those other words too right? By the way, I come from Liverpool in the north of England originally, so pay no heed to the London location.

To me the words sound like this:

Erin – first syllable is stressed and sounds like the first syllable of “error”, second syllable is weaker but sounds like “opposite of out”.

heron – first syllable sounds the same as Erin, second syllable is a schwa quite like “un”.

Aaron – first syllable sounds like “air” (!), second syllable like heron.

baron – first syllable is difficult to explain. It’s like “cat”, but a northern English pronunciation of cat, with less of an “e” component than a southern English one such as Hugh Grant’s. Second syllable sounds like Aaron and heron.

Mary – first syllable contains the “air” sound and is stressed, second syllable is a weak “ee”.

marry – first syllable is like baron, second like Mary.

merry – first syllable like Erin, second like Mary and marry.

father – first syllable is a long “aah”, as in the sheep’s noise others have mentioned, second is a schwa (I don’t pronounce the “r” at all).

bother – first syllable is much shorter and doesn’t include any “a” component (like a cork coming out of a bottle), second syllable like father.

Dawn – difficult again, but it’s long (a bit like “door” or “broad”).

Don – short, like the first syllable of bother.

I hope this helps, Algernon.

Johanna
09-06-2002, 09:59 PM
The only way I would pronounce the last syllable of Erin as /in/ rather than with schwa is if I were singing "Come Back to Erin, Mavourneen, Mavourneen." Because in song you're supposed to articulate syllables more clearly than in speech. At least they taught that in chorus when I was growing up. Kurt Cobain must have skipped class that day. Song can do funny things to syllables, sometimes. I remember being taught to sing "O Come O Come, Emmanuel," in which we had to pronounce "Israel" as iz-rye-elle. The name never had any "rye" or any other grain in it otherwise, only in that song.

elfkin477
09-06-2002, 10:49 PM
Originally posted by everton
To me the words sound like this:

Erin – first syllable is stressed and sounds like the first syllable of “error”, second syllable is weaker but sounds like “opposite of out”.

heron – first syllable sounds the same as Erin, second syllable is a schwa quite like “un”.

Aaron – first syllable sounds like “air” (!), second syllable like heron.

baron – first syllable is difficult to explain. It’s like “cat”, but a northern English pronunciation of cat, with less of an “e” component than a southern English one such as Hugh Grant’s. Second syllable sounds like Aaron and heron.

Mary – first syllable contains the “air” sound and is stressed, second syllable is a weak “ee”.

marry – first syllable is like baron, second like Mary.

merry – first syllable like Erin, second like Mary and marry.

father – first syllable is a long “aah”, as in the sheep’s noise others have mentioned, second is a schwa (I don’t pronounce the “r” at all).

bother – first syllable is much shorter and doesn’t include any “a” component (like a cork coming out of a bottle), second syllable like father.

Dawn – difficult again, but it’s long (a bit like “door” or “broad”).

Don – short, like the first syllable of bother.

I hope this helps, Algernon.

I agree with you on all of them...right up until the last pair. Don and Dawn sound alike here, so much so that everyone was in shock when my last hall director was talking about her SO the day we met her...we thought she meant she was living with a D-o-n, but then we realized she said "she" so she was living with a D-a-w-n :) For the record, AHunter3's tot and taught sound the same to me as well. But then, many of us up here don't fully pronounce the last syllable in words like drawer and borrower so I'm not claiming that how I say things is the correct way.

However, when my friend Aarin(her parents' creative spelling of "Erin") was dating Aaron, we could almost always tell who was being spoken about- as long as the speaker realized how Aarin's name was pronounced.

Alan Smithee
09-06-2002, 11:27 PM
Just wanted to mention that I went to college in Arkansas with a girl named Dawn Johnson. Pronounced exactly like the name of the actor.

epolo
09-09-2002, 02:29 PM
Originally posted by epolo
The easy answer is that Aaron is meant to be pronounced:

ah'ha'RONE

Upon reopening this thread, I realize that my last post made me sound like a complete jerk.

What I meant, of course, is that given the original Hebrew spelling of Aaron (aleph-heh-resh-nun if I remeber correctly), one might be disposed to pronounce it as ah'hah'RONE or even ah'RONE.

But clearly there is no one correct way and if you tell me that your name is spelled Aaron but pronounced RAY'mund'LUX'you'ree'YACH'it, then that's how I'll pronounce it.

jane_says
09-09-2002, 04:47 PM
I'm an Erin IRL. I pronounce Aaron slightly different than my own name.As long as you don't call me Erwin, which happens more than you might think, or Urine, as an old lady who used to work for my dad did, I don't care.

Foggy
09-10-2002, 05:50 AM
Originally posted by KneadToKnow
I have to know ... am I the only person who opened this thread having misread the title as "Are Aaron and Erin homophobic?" and wondering who Aaron and Erin were?


No that's what I thought too,:smack: and I assumed that Aaron & Erin were morning DJs somewhere. :D

Acsenray
02-23-2011, 03:30 PM
This thread has recently been linked to by the radio show A Way With Words, so I am performing voodoo in anticipation of a raising.

Peremensoe
02-23-2011, 04:01 PM
Aaron should rhyme with baron, Erin with heron.

Aaron and Erin are certainly different, and Erin doesn't sound like heron either. I'm not sure how you're saying those last two.

Qadgop the Mercotan
02-23-2011, 04:36 PM
For me, I pronounce them differently.

Aaron: Air-uhn

Erin: Air-ihn

Zombie: zahm-bee

Sumbee: suhm-bee

Johanna
02-23-2011, 05:32 PM
I share the marry-Mary-merry merger, so all three words, and the two names you asked about, are exactly identical homophones. I'm a native of northeast Ohio and speak central Inland Northern American. In this case, the isogloss separating the merged from unmerged areas follows the Allegheny Front in western Pennsylvania.

TravisFromOR
02-23-2011, 05:35 PM
I have to know ... am I the only person who opened this thread having misread the title as "Are Aaron and Erin homophobic?" and wondering who Aaron and Erin were?

No, you are not... :)

pancakes3
02-23-2011, 05:54 PM
i have a question for those who claim they're homophones. i understanding pronouncing it the same, but deep down, in the back of your head, don't you have an inkling that "properly" they're not supposed to sound the same?

like if you were to imagine a news anchor say those words, do you hear them say it as you do, or are you aware that there is a different way of pronouncing those words?

for example, i grew up in the south and have a bit of a drawl to my speech - so that drawer is pronounced like door with an 'r' after that d. however, i do KNOW that it's supposed to sound liker draw-er, but i just can't bring myself to say it as such. wondering if you midwesterners "know" just like i do but just aren't bothering, or you really can't hear the difference between aaron and erin, and mary/merry.

Exapno Mapcase
02-23-2011, 07:11 PM
i have a question for those who claim they're homophones. i understanding pronouncing it the same, but deep down, in the back of your head, don't you have an inkling that "properly" they're not supposed to sound the same?

like if you were to imagine a news anchor say those words, do you hear them say it as you do, or are you aware that there is a different way of pronouncing those words?

for example, i grew up in the south and have a bit of a drawl to my speech - so that drawer is pronounced like door with an 'r' after that d. however, i do KNOW that it's supposed to sound liker draw-er, but i just can't bring myself to say it as such. wondering if you midwesterners "know" just like i do but just aren't bothering, or you really can't hear the difference between aaron and erin, and mary/merry.

Mary, marry, and merry are homophones to me and I've never understood how anyone could even attempt to pronounce them differently. Until reading this thread, and noticing the slightest difference in the vowel sound in Aaron and Erin, I thought the OP was bizarre. But in everyday life I wouldn't distinguish them and I wouldn't expect anyone else to do so. And baron and heron absolutely rhyme and I still can't figure out what the difference is even theoretically.

Fretful Porpentine
02-23-2011, 07:11 PM
In my native accent, they could be pronounced differently, but normally aren't. In other words, I'd say "Aaa-ron," with the same "a" as in "cat," if I really wanted to emphasize the difference between the two names, but in everyday speech it would normally get slurred to "Er-on," with the same "er" as in "merry." (Which isn't exactly homophonic with "marry" if you really enunciate, but it is in everyday speech. "Mary," on the other hand, is quite different; it has the same vowel sound as "air.")

Similarly, I would pronounce "Don" as "Dahn" if I were really trying to emphasize that he's a different person from "Dawn," but most of the time I wouldn't bother.

pravnik
02-23-2011, 07:18 PM
Never mind, joke already made repeatedly. :)

ZipperJJ
02-23-2011, 07:31 PM
I have friends named Aaron and Erin and they dated for a while. I never heard the slightest difference in the pronunciation of their names. We're all from Ohio.

Since he was our friend first we called him Aaron and her 'not you' :)

Baron and heron sound the same too.

When looking at the named I do think they should be pronounced differently but I can't even imagine how everyone else is saying them.

Dravin
02-23-2011, 07:33 PM
Erin – first syllable is stressed and sounds like the first syllable of “error”, second syllable is weaker but sounds like “opposite of out”.

Aaron – first syllable sounds like “air” (!), second syllable like heron.



See "err" (as in error) and "air" are homophones to me.

I would pronounce the following sentences the same:

To err is human.
To air is human.

The endings of all four words (baron, heron, Aaron, and Erin) are schwa + "n". Not sure how consistently "in" endings converts to schwa + "n" though.

And the following words are homophones:

tot/taught
Mary/merry/marry
Don/dawn (though I can make a distinction if I want to)

And bother and father rhyme.

Peremensoe
02-23-2011, 07:35 PM
In my native accent, they could be pronounced differently, but normally aren't. In other words, I'd say "Aaa-ron," with the same "a" as in "cat," if I really wanted to emphasize the difference between the two names, but in everyday speech it would normally get slurred to "Er-on," with the same "er" as in "merry."

How about the second syllable?

carnut
02-23-2011, 08:20 PM
Ear - in

Air - on (as in heron)

Yookeroo
02-23-2011, 08:43 PM
i have a question for those who claim they're homophones. i understanding pronouncing it the same, but deep down, in the back of your head, don't you have an inkling that "properly" they're not supposed to sound the same?

No. But then I think Don & Dawn are homophones.

Fretful Porpentine
02-23-2011, 09:09 PM
How about the second syllable?

Pretty standard schwa sound, like most vowels in unstressed syllables.

Zsofia
02-23-2011, 09:23 PM
Sorry, southern US and all those words sound alike to me - Aaron, Erin, heron, baron, etc. My boyfriend is an Aaron and half the time people write down "Erin". Andi t's not that they think he's a girl - he has a luxurious handlebar mustache.

Chronos
02-23-2011, 09:40 PM
A couple of the grad students now have these names, and I tried at first to overenunciate the difference in pronunciation, but it just confused everyone. So now I do what everyone else does, and refer to them as "Boy Aaron" and "Girl Erin".

Jragon
02-23-2011, 10:20 PM
Let me try to clear things up. I'm completely accepting of different accents and pronunciations. My question about whether they went to school was a joke.

About the Aaron, Erin, baron, and heron thing - I was assuming that the difference was in the pronunciation of the second syllable - a schwa sound versus a short i. But after reading some of the comments, I'm wondering whether you might pronounce the *first* syllable differently instead. Is this true?

I pronounce the first syllable of Aaron and Erin differently, but it's so minorly different you almost might not count it. I can't even articulate it, I think the difference is /a/r-un vs /e/r-un, but I'm not entirely sure.

BigT
02-24-2011, 12:59 AM
I think many folks involved in this thread are misusing the term 'rhyme'.

From Merriam Webster (http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary)
Main Entry: 2rhyme
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): rhymed; rhym·ing
Date: 14th century
transitive senses
1 : to relate or praise in rhyming verse
2 a : to put into rhyme b : to compose (verse) in rhyme c : to cause to rhyme : use as rhyme
intransitive senses
1 : to make rhymes; also : to compose rhyming verse
2 of a word or verse : to end in syllables that are rhymes
3 : to be in accord : HARMONIZE
(emphasis mine)


The point being that it's the last syllables that must sound alike to make a rhyme. The first or preceeding syllables have nothing to do with it. Zanzibar and and car are examples of rhymes.

As for the OP, Erin and Aaron wouldn't rhyme if you pronounce Erin's last syllable as "in" and Aaron's last syllable as "un" or "on".

I don't think that most North Americans are that stringent in their pronunciation though. I'm not.

That dictionary is wrong. It's the last STRESSED syllable (plus any unstressed syllables that follow it). Amazing and grazing rhyme. Amazing and buzzing do not. (At least, in any dialect in which I am familiar).

As for the OP: I may pronounce -in and -on differently, but I've never thought of it as being phonemic. It may be a different sound, but I never noticed anyone actually treating them as different.

If I had to differentiate betwee Erin and Aaron, I would pronounce the first syllables differently. The first would be \er\ (\e\ as in air) and the second \ɛr\ (\ɛ\ as in egg). But even then it wouldn't surprise me if people expected it to be the other way.

Kyla
02-24-2011, 01:03 AM
i have a question for those who claim they're homophones. i understanding pronouncing it the same, but deep down, in the back of your head, don't you have an inkling that "properly" they're not supposed to sound the same?

No. My accent is just as proper as any other accent.

Savannah
02-24-2011, 01:12 AM
I also rhyme "Erin", "Aaron", "baron" and "heron"

Came here to type the same thing. Also, sitting at one's computer, saying the above aloud for a few repetitions has garnered a suspicious look from my husband.

SanVito
02-24-2011, 02:39 AM
Erin, Aaron, heron, baron are all sound identical to me. As do Mary, marry, and merry. And father and bother.
n spite of that experience, Everton's statement that "None of those words rhyme with any of the others where I come from. Nor do merry/marry/Mary, nor do bother/father. In fact I can't see any rhymes in this thread" still is astonishing to me.

I presume Everton is British, as I agree with him. None of the examples sound alike to me.

Father/bother
Aaron/Erin/Baron/Heron
Marry/Mary/Merry
Dawn/Don
tot/taught

All different. Honestly people, Professor Higgins would be spinning in his grave!

SanVito
02-24-2011, 02:45 AM
I pronounce the first syllable of Aaron and Erin differently, but it's so minorly different you almost might not count it. I can't even articulate it, I think the difference is /a/r-un vs /e/r-un, but I'm not entirely sure.

I pronounce both the first and second syllables of those two words differently. I could never confuse the two in speech.

This probably isn't goig to translate in type, but I pronounce them as follows:
Aa (ron) = like 'air' (drawn out)
E(rin) = like 'Eh" (shorter)

(Aar)on = like 'stand on the step'
(Er) in = like 'get in the house'
(please tell me those examples sound different to you)

Johanna
02-24-2011, 06:02 AM
i have a question for those who claim they're homophones. i understanding pronouncing it the same, but deep down, in the back of your head, don't you have an inkling that "properly" they're not supposed to sound the same?
Nope. Not a trace. Welcome to the Great Lakes. By the shores of Gitchee Gumee, by the shining big sea water.

Maybe all the water in those parts dissolved the distinctions between the 3 phonemes /æ/, /e/, /ɛ/. All are collapsed into just /ɛ/ before /r/. We are very rhotic up there too.

EvilTOJ
02-24-2011, 06:09 AM
I have to know ... am I the only person who opened this thread having misread the title as "Are Aaron and Erin homophobic?" and wondering who Aaron and Erin were?

I thought the same thing. And you 'have' to know, or 'need' to know? :p

I never knew there was a difference in pronunciation. I've never heard the two names pronounced differently, or any of the other homophone examples given in the thread.

MsRobyn
02-24-2011, 06:44 AM
Mom of an Aaron here.

When I was pregnant, we'd had the baby sexed at the ultrasound, and when we found out he was a boy, we chose to name him Aaron. When I told a friend about my pregnancy, and told her the name we'd picked, she said, "So, you're having a girl?"

OTOH, Airman's grandfather (from PA) pronounces it Ahron (with the broad "A").

Robin

When I have to call Aaron's pediatrician or insurance company, the people on the phone assume that I'm talking about a girl named Erin, and it's been a challenge to prove that not only is he not an Erin, but he's not an Eric. I guess people assume that boys can't be named Aaron.

At least he's aware of this confusion enough that he thinks his aunt and uncle should name their baby daughter Erin so they're a matched set. He also thinks this is uproariously funny.

Johanna
02-24-2011, 06:53 AM
for example, i grew up in the south and have a bit of a drawl to my speech - so that drawer is pronounced like door with an 'r' after that d. however, i do KNOW that it's supposed to sound liker draw-er, but i just can't bring myself to say it as such. wondering if you midwesterners "know" just like i do but just aren't bothering, or you really can't hear the difference between aaron and erin, and mary/merry.

Likewise, I grew up saying drawer as [drɔːr]. A simple vowel with no diphthongization. When I learned to read, I read books so much that I became susceptible to spelling pronunciations. That's when I could see the etymology of the word from the verb "to draw" meaning pull out. From this I was conscious the word ought to have a diphthong: /drɔər/. (Using the word "ought" ironically, because in reality there is no "ought.") Like you, I felt that diphthong felt awkward to pronounce, so I've stuck with my native [drɔːr].

But as for the /ær/ ~ /er/ ~ /ɛr/ distinction, honestly I was surprised when I first learned of it. Nothing in my native accent could lead me to think they had ever been anything but total homophones. After all, in English orthography, one and the same phoneme may be written with any of a number of different spellings. Like bread, said, led. In the case of drawer, the transparent etymology clued me into the underlying pronunciation. But there are no such clues with unrelated words like marry, Mary, and merry. It's something you either learn from hearing others doing it growing up, or else you don't.

I'm a linguist; of course I can hear the three distinct vowels in Bostonian speech, perfectly well. I just don't say them, even though I can mimic them perfectly well. Because it would feel odd and forced for me to talk that way. My native accent befits me comfortably in a way that other accents don't.

robby
02-24-2011, 08:11 AM
I have a sister named "Erin" and a step-brother named "Aaron." (Our families merged upon my father's remarriage.) It was a real source of confusion while growing up.

We took to calling them "Erin [middle name]" and "Aaron [middle name]."

While I did distinguish between the names, most people pronounced them the same (all from Texas).

My grandmother, on the other hand, took to calling my sister "Erin" (rhymes with "heron"), and my step-brother "Aay-ron" (first syllable rhymes with "hay"; second syllable rhymes with "con.") :)I started to reply to this thread, before noticing that I already had, nearly a decade ago. ;)

I will add that that if I pronounce "Erin" very slowly with careful enunciation, the last syllable sounds like "in" (opposite of out). If I pronounce "Aaron" slowly, the last syllable rhymes with "run." So in this case, there is a clear distinction between the two names, and I would say that "Aaron" rhymes with "heron," and "Erin" does not.

However, at normal speaking speed, both names sound virtually identical, because the second syllable is "clipped."

BwanaBob
02-24-2011, 08:51 AM
Mary, marry, and merry are homophones to me and I've never understood how anyone could even attempt to pronounce them differently. Until reading this thread, and noticing the slightest difference in the vowel sound in Aaron and Erin, I thought the OP was bizarre. But in everyday life I wouldn't distinguish them and I wouldn't expect anyone else to do so. And baron and heron absolutely rhyme and I still can't figure out what the difference is even theoretically.

Do you people live in fish bowls?

Seriously, I've heard these words (Mary, merry, marry) used numerous times on television over the years, with the distinct pronuciations you claim to find impossible to fathom. Do you not hear the difference when those who do speak these words? Or is it that you cannot bring yourself to use those pronunciations?

My daughter and nephew have the aforementioned names; the nephew's family moved to Tennessee, and when we visit we go through this nonsense everytime.


My pronunciations:

Mary (mair-ee)
merry (meh-ree)
marry (mah-ree)

Aaron (ah-rin - like baron without the b - not air-in)
Erin (eh-rin; again the vowel in air is not to be heard in any of these names)

It seems that our midwestern countrymen cannot distinguish between eh and ah.
They are different. But this is as pointless as trying to explain the l-r difference to a Japanese person. If you grew up with this - without willful listening, you won't get it.)

Shadowfyre
02-24-2011, 09:08 AM
Chicagoan here. Maybe it's because we like to draw our a's out in Chicahhhhgo, but Arron and Erin are not homophones to me.

At least I don't pronounce them the same. Like a bunch of you up thread, it is Air-on and Err-in. To me, it feels different in my mouth. Whether it sounds different to a listener, I don't know.

As for Mary/marry/merry, Mary and marry are homophones to me but merry is slightly different.

Acsenray
02-24-2011, 09:28 AM
Do you people live in fish bowls?

Seriously, I've heard these words (Mary, merry, marry) used numerous times on television over the years, with the distinct pronuciations you claim to find impossible to fathom. Do you not hear the difference when those who do speak these words? Or is it that you cannot bring yourself to use those pronunciations?

...

It seems that our midwestern countrymen cannot distinguish between eh and ah.
They are different. But this is as pointless as trying to explain the l-r difference to a Japanese person. If you grew up with this - without willful listening, you won't get it.)

It's not willful and it's not just people being obstreperous. Phoneme development takes place at an early age. Much of language development in infancy is learning not to distinguish sounds that are not distinguished by the people around you.

If you haven't learned to distinguish two phonemes at a very early age, it's very unlikely that anyone will be able to teach you to hear the difference once you're grown. People aren't doing it to annoy you.

Acsenray
02-24-2011, 09:33 AM
Mary, marry, and merry are homophones to me and I've never understood how anyone could even attempt to pronounce them differently.

...

And baron and heron absolutely rhyme and I still can't figure out what the difference is even theoretically.

Well, can you theoretically distinguish the vowels in Kate, cat, and kept? For me, that's the Mary/marry/merry distinction.

In my speech, baron has the cat vowel and heron has the pet vowel.

bordelond
02-24-2011, 10:04 AM
Mary, marry, and merry are homophones to me and I've never understood how anyone could even attempt to pronounce them differently ... And baron and heron absolutely rhyme and I still can't figure out what the difference is even theoretically.
In my SE Louisiana dialect, in which the Mary/marry/merry is incomplete (only the latter two rhyme) and the caught/cot merger has not taken place.

I pronounce "baron" and "heron" so that they do not rhyme. In person, it would be a cinch to explain this, and even to teach you to make the same exact distinction. Over the Internet, I will have to resort to a small bit of phonetic trickery to make the point. Herewith:

- the "a" in my "baron" is EXACTLY the same as your "a" in "bat"

- the "e" in my "heron" is EXACTLY the same as your "e" in "bet"

Now then. With that explanation, I'm gambling a little that you pronounce "bat" and "bet" the way an overwhelming percentage of Americans do. I think there are a few American dialects that merge "bet" and "bit" ... but I believe the so-called "short a" of "bat" holds up from sea to shining sea.

bordelond
02-24-2011, 10:14 AM
Maybe all the water in those parts dissolved the distinctions between the 3 phonemes /æ/, /e/, /ɛ/. All are collapsed into just /ɛ/ before /r/. We are very rhotic up there too.
It's really the affect of the medial "r" in these words that seems to cause all the trouble :D If Midwestern American speakers take "Aaron/Erin/baron/heron" and re-imagine them as nonce words with different medial consonants, they can derive how other speakers distinguish these words.

But to use real-word examples, from my dialect:

"Aaron" is to "Erin" as "packer" is to "pecker"

"baron" is to "heron" as "Massey" is to "messy"

Sailboat
02-24-2011, 10:39 AM
My wife knows two people, Aaron and Erin. Among our social set, the names are unfailingly pronounced "Boy Aaron" and "Girl Erin."

Exapno Mapcase
02-24-2011, 10:41 AM
Do you people live in fish bowls?

Seriously, I've heard these words (Mary, merry, marry) used numerous times on television over the years, with the distinct pronuciations you claim to find impossible to fathom. Do you not hear the difference when those who do speak these words? Or is it that you cannot bring yourself to use those pronunciations?

My daughter and nephew have the aforementioned names; the nephew's family moved to Tennessee, and when we visit we go through this nonsense everytime.


My pronunciations:

Mary (mair-ee)
merry (meh-ree)
marry (mah-ree)


Well, can you theoretically distinguish the vowels in Kate, cat, and kept? For me, that's the Mary/marry/merry distinction.


The vast majority of people in the various media pronounce Mary, merry, and marry as homophones. There may be a few who do not. It is simply not the case that ordinary pronunciation of the words are (mair-ee), (meh-ree). and (mah-ree). That would cause uncontrollable giggling across the great American heartland. Only someone who lives in a fishbowl would think otherwise.

Acsenray
02-24-2011, 10:53 AM
The vast majority of people in the various media pronounce Mary, merry, and marry as homophones. There may be a few who do not. It is simply not the case that ordinary pronunciation of the words are (mair-ee), (meh-ree). and (mah-ree). That would cause uncontrollable giggling across the great American heartland. Only someone who lives in a fishbowl would think otherwise.

I don't know why you've lumped me with Mr. Fish Bowl, because I agree with you. I was just trying to address your theoretical understanding of a possible distinction.

bordelond
02-24-2011, 11:10 AM
The vast majority of people in the various media pronounce Mary, merry, and marry as homophones.
Anecdotally: I don't think this is quite true -- I perceive that "Mary" and "merry" get merged in Newscaster Speech, but that "marry" gets distinguished from the other two. Folks from many linguistic backgrounds speak on-air idiolects that all approach "perfect Newscaster Speech", but I'd think it would be common for aspects of these speakers' native dialects to slip in.

I concede that my own pronunciations are probably affecting what I'm perceiving.

gurujulp
02-24-2011, 11:14 AM
I'm from Missouri, and my son (raised in Ohio) constantly teases me about my pronunciation of vowels before "r". "Cord" sounds exactly like "card", and "fork" comes out as "fark". I've lived in Ohio for a long time, and I have learned to hear, and usually pronounce, the difference, but sometimes I fall back to my Missouri accent (and prepare for my son's teasing). But I still don't hear or pronounce any difference in Aaron, Erin, baron, and heron.

Off-topic: This is my second attempt to post this. Usually when I open the message board, it automatically logs me on. (I have cookies enabled.) But sometimes it doesn't. This time, I noticed that it didn't have my user id in the proper place, so I entered by id and password, but then it came back and said I was not properly logged on, and it lost my reply, so I had to do it again. Anybody have any idea why it logs me on automatically sometimes, and not other times?

My mom, from Iowa, has always 'warshed' the clothes when doing laundry- and to me, heron, Erin, Aaron, and baron all sound the same.

Is it like ah-ron as opposed to erin? "Erin" from Erin go Bragh would be how I would rhyme them all...

bordelond
02-24-2011, 11:16 AM
In my SE Louisiana dialect, in which the Mary/marry/merry is incomplete (only the latter two rhyme) and the caught/cot merger has not taken place.

The above is an error I caught too late for the edit window. It should be:

... in which the marry/Mary/merry merger is incomplete (only the latter two rhyme) ...

bordelond
02-24-2011, 11:18 AM
Is it like ah-ron as opposed to erin? "Erin" from Erin go Bragh would be how I would rhyme them all...
Not like that -- see my post #83 for an explanation of how "Aaron/Erin" are distinguished by the Americans who do.

BwanaBob
02-24-2011, 11:24 AM
It's not willful and it's not just people being obstreperous. Phoneme development takes place at an early age. Much of language development in infancy is learning not to distinguish sounds that are not distinguished by the people around you.

If you haven't learned to distinguish two phonemes at a very early age, it's very unlikely that anyone will be able to teach you to hear the difference once you're grown. People aren't doing it to annoy you.

You misread my post. I was not annoyed. It was sounding as if some people never heard anyone pronouncing the three words differently. I have difficulty believing this. I believe people are raised to not make the different vowel sounds; but that is light years from "I don't hear the difference". If "not hearing the difference" is the case, then I'm truly amazed; I can't fathom any phonemes that I can't distinguish. Maybe I can't pronounce them, but certainly I could hear the difference.

You're hinting that some people have an aural version of color blindness.

Update: further posts indicate that the merry/marry/Mary mergers can indeed hear the difference when spoken by easterners, but they do not say it that way themselves. This I can understand.

bordelond
02-24-2011, 11:37 AM
If you haven't learned to distinguish two phonemes at a very early age, it's very unlikely that anyone will be able to teach you to hear the difference once you're grown.
I disagree -- adults can indeed learn to distinguish by ear phonemes that are not native to their dialects. There is a learning curve, yes, but it's not particularly steep.

Now then ... accurately producing these unfamiliar phonemes in fluent, conversational speech is a whole 'nother ball of wax. However, even this difficulty can be largely overcome--Hollywood voice coaches make their living guiding their students to do exactly that. And while the results aren't usually 100% on the nose, it's normally close enough.

Sigmagirl
02-24-2011, 11:37 AM
Chicagoan here. Maybe it's because we like to draw our a's out in Chicahhhhgo, but Arron and Erin are not homophones to me.

At least I don't pronounce them the same. Like a bunch of you up thread, it is Air-on and Err-in. To me, it feels different in my mouth. Whether it sounds different to a listener, I don't know.
Same here, Cleveland area. As someone upthread said, If I were to say "I know Aaron and Erin," you would be able to tell the difference.

gurujulp
02-24-2011, 11:39 AM
Not like that -- see my post #83 for an explanation of how "Aaron/Erin" are distinguished by the Americans who do.

Sitting here talking to my computer is allowing for such a minor distinction in pronunciation that I wouldn't notice it in normal conversation. Plus it is hard to figure out how baron can have a "b'a't" sound... That to me would be the bah-ron and ah-ron I referred to...

And I have known many an Err-in spelled Erin (dated a Scottish girl and asked her why she was named after Ireland, actually) if female and Aaron or Aron if male, but never an Ah-ron or Air-ron...

bordelond
02-24-2011, 11:44 AM
It was sounding as if some people never heard anyone pronouncing the three words differently. I have difficulty believing this. I believe people are raised to not make the different vowel sounds; but that is light years from "I don't hear the difference". If "not hearing the difference" is the case, then I'm truly amazed; I can't fathom any phonemes that I can't distinguish. Maybe I can't pronounce them, but certainly I could hear the difference.

You're hinting that some people have an aural version of color blindness.

Most people have to be taught to perceive the difference. But even if a phonetics student doesn't perceive the differences at first, the teacher can introduce fundamentals that will help the student get there from here.

Some people are kind of like phonetic prodigies, and all this stuff comes more or less naturally to them. They are kind of like human tape recorders ... in casual speech they will use their native dialect, but they are also uncannily skilled at adopting other dialects if it suits them. I would bet Gary Oldman and Hugh Laurie are like that.

bordelond
02-24-2011, 11:52 AM
Plus it is hard to figure out how baron can have a "b'a't" sound ...
Oh, but it can. :D If it helps, try pronouncing the "r" as the onset of the second syllable. Do your best to wrest the "r" away from the "a" that precedes it.

Take your own pronunciation of "bat". Can you lop off the "t" and extend the "short a" sound? Can you say "baaaaaaaaaaaaaa" with that same "short a" in "bat" stretched out long? If you can say that, you can work towards something like "baaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ... (pause) ... run". After that, you work on pronouncing the same utterance with the pause reduced, and then with the pause eliminated. Finally, you'd work on shortening the "aaaaaaa".

That to me would be the bah-ron and ah-ron I referred to...
Quasi-phonetic spellings are admittedly tricky. The spelling "ah" makes me think of the so-called "short o" of "cod", "rock", etc. That particular vowel is not relevant to this immediate discussion, I don't think.

Acsenray
02-24-2011, 11:55 AM
You misread my post. I was not annoyed. It was sounding as if some people never heard anyone pronouncing the three words differently. I have difficulty believing this. I believe people are raised to not make the different vowel sounds; but that is light years from "I don't hear the difference". If "not hearing the difference" is the case, then I'm truly amazed; I can't fathom any phonemes that I can't distinguish. Maybe I can't pronounce them, but certainly I could hear the difference.

You're hinting that some people have an aural version of color blindness.

I very much doubt that there are no phonemes that you fail to hear. But, maybe you're just really skilled in that area. For the vast majority of people, there are a lot of phonemes that they can't distinguish by ear, and, despite what Bordelond says, I believe the majority of people are extremely resistant to being taught to distinguish them.

For example, most Americans I talk to can't hear the difference between some combination of [a], [ä], [ɑ], [ɒ], and [ɔ], sometimes all of them. One of my friends can't hear the difference between the low vowels and [ʌ] (making homophones of golf and gulf).

Almost all English speakers have trouble distinguishing by ear the non-aspirated and aspirated consonants in Indian languages -- k/kʰ, g/ɡʱ, tɕ/tɕʰ, dʑ/dʑʱ, ʈ/ʈʰ, ɖ/ɖʱ, t̪/t̪ʰ, d̪/d̪ʱ p/pʰ, b/bʱ -- as well as the dental and retroflex plosives -- ʈ/t̪, ʈʰ/t̪ʰ, ɖ/d̪, ɖʱ/d̪ʱ.

No American news reader, no one, pronounces "Beijing" correctly or distinguishes any of the Chinese sibilants and affricates (which is one of the reasons I think we should have just stuck to Peking).

gurujulp
02-24-2011, 12:03 PM
I very much doubt that there are no phonemes that you fail to hear. But, maybe you're just really skilled in that area. For the vast majority of people, there are a lot of phonemes that they can't distinguish by ear, and, despite what Bordelond says, I believe the majority of people are extremely resistant to being taught to distinguish them.

For example, most Americans I talk to can't hear the difference between some combination of [a], [ä], [ɑ], [ɒ], and [ɔ], sometimes all of them. One of my friends can't hear the difference between the low vowels and [ʌ] (making homophones of golf and gulf).

Almost all English speakers have trouble distinguishing by ear the non-aspirated and aspirated consonants in Indian languages -- k/kʰ, g/ɡʱ, tɕ/tɕʰ, dʑ/dʑʱ, ʈ/ʈʰ, ɖ/ɖʱ, t̪/t̪ʰ, d̪/d̪ʱ p/pʰ, b/bʱ -- as well as the dental and retroflex plosives -- ʈ/t̪, ʈʰ/t̪ʰ, ɖ/d̪, ɖʱ/d̪ʱ.

No American news reader, no one, pronounces "Beijing" correctly or distinguishes any of the Chinese sibilants and affricates (which is one of the reasons I think we should have just stuck to Peking).

My gf tells me that half the time I get them right, and half the time I don't- and I can't hear the difference all the time (but am learning to) between the double letter transliteration and the back of the throat h's...

BwanaBob
02-24-2011, 12:11 PM
I very much doubt that there are no phonemes that you fail to hear. But, maybe you're just really skilled in that area. For the vast majority of people, there are a lot of phonemes that they can't distinguish by ear, and, despite what Bordelond says, I believe the majority of people are extremely resistant to being taught to distinguish them.

For example, most Americans I talk to can't hear the difference between some combination of [a], [ä], [ɑ], [ɒ], and [ɔ], sometimes all of them. One of my friends can't hear the difference between the low vowels and [ʌ] (making homophones of golf and gulf).

Almost all English speakers have trouble distinguishing by ear the non-aspirated and aspirated consonants in Indian languages -- k/kʰ, g/ɡʱ, tɕ/tɕʰ, dʑ/dʑʱ, ʈ/ʈʰ, ɖ/ɖʱ, t̪/t̪ʰ, d̪/d̪ʱ p/pʰ, b/bʱ -- as well as the dental and retroflex plosives -- ʈ/t̪, ʈʰ/t̪ʰ, ɖ/d̪, ɖʱ/d̪ʱ.

No American news reader, no one, pronounces "Beijing" correctly or distinguishes any of the Chinese sibilants and affricates (which is one of the reasons I think we should have just stuck to Peking).

Now you're making me go back to my fishbowl comment. Those are foreign phonemes you've indicated. Still they can be learned. But the distinctions of Mary/merry/marry are heard over and over on television and in movies. For an American to claim nonexposure to these phonemes and then claim one cannot distinguish them is disingenuous, unless one lives in a fishbowl. :)

BwanaBob
02-24-2011, 12:16 PM
Continuation due to edit time out:

Now you're making me go back to my fishbowl comment. Those are foreign phonemes you've indicated, and still, they can be learned. But the distinctions of Mary/merry/marry are heard over and over on television and in movies. For an American to claim nonexposure to these phonemes and then claim one cannot distinguish them is disingenuous, unless one lives in a media-free environment. Again, not pronouncing them differently, I can see this being the result of growing up in an area where that's the norm; but claiming you can't hear the distinction, I'm not buying it unless you're an immigrant from a non-English speaking nation.

Acsenray
02-24-2011, 12:21 PM
But the distinctions of Mary/merry/marry are heard over and over on television and in movies. For an American to claim nonexposure to these phonemes and then claim one cannot distinguish them is disingenuous, unless one lives in a media-free environment.

If you haven't been taught to distinguish them by ear, you won't distinguish them when you hear them, no matter how many times someone on TV says them.

And there's not necessarily a whole lot of difference between a "foreign" phoneme and one that's just not in your particular dialect.

TruCelt
02-24-2011, 12:26 PM
Northern Virginian here:

Aaron = baron

Erin = *Terren* in Terrence

Heron = Somewhere in between: HAiRon

bordelond
02-24-2011, 12:33 PM
Almost all English speakers have trouble distinguishing by ear the non-aspirated and aspirated consonants in Indian languages -- k/kʰ, g/ɡʱ, tɕ/tɕʰ, dʑ/dʑʱ, ʈ/ʈʰ, ɖ/ɖʱ, t̪/t̪ʰ, d̪/d̪ʱ p/pʰ, b/bʱ -- as well as the dental and retroflex plosives -- ʈ/t̪, ʈʰ/t̪ʰ, ɖ/d̪, ɖʱ/d̪ʱ.
The difference between the dental/alveolar** and the retroflex plosives are salient to me -- in fact, the use of retroflex plosives lends much to a stereotypical "Indian" accent. Retroflex plosives, IME, are easier to learn to perceive after you've learned to produce them.

As for the aspirated consonants ... I've been meaning to start a GQ thread asking how the aspirated voiced consonants are supposed to be distinguished from the non-aspirated voiced consonants in Indian languages. The aspirated/non-aspirated voiceless consonants are easy to tell apart because there are English-language analogs. But whenever I try to apply voicing to, say, the aspirated "k" in "kit", the voicing kind of makes the aspiration sound vocalic ... then, to my ear, it just sounds like "git" ("hard" g).

If the typical Indian-language aspiration is stronger than that of the aspirated "k" in English "kit", that would help my understanding of how the voiced versions cold be pronounced and how they remain salient at conversational speeds.

No American news reader, no one, pronounces "Beijing" correctly or distinguishes any of the Chinese sibilants and affricates (which is one of the reasons I think we should have just stuck to Peking).
... The Anglo-American pronunciations of "Beijing" are different from the Chinese ones, but I don't think the differences are that egregious. A lot closer than "Peking", anyway :D Linguistic communities can cut each other some slack.


** I am aware that, strictly, "dental" and "alveolar" are two different points of articulation.

.

Acsenray
02-24-2011, 12:49 PM
The difference between the dental/alveolar** and the retroflex plosives are salient to me -- in fact, the use of retroflex plosives lends much to a stereotypical "Indian" accent. Retroflex plosives, IME, are easier to learn to perceive after you've learned to produce them.
** I am aware that, strictly, "dental" and "alveolar" are two different points of articulation.


See you've done something interesting here. You've grouped them as (1) dental/alveolar, and (2) retroflex. A speaker of Hindi-Urdu or Bengali would group them differently: (1) dental, and (2) retroflex/alveolar. In fact, such speakers hear no difference between retroflex and alveolar. Indians think that Westerners can't say the dental plosives correctly and when they make fun of Anglos speaking Hindi, they replace all the dentals with retroflexes.

As for the aspirated consonants ... I've been meaning to start a GQ thread asking how the aspirated voiced consonants are supposed to be distinguished from the non-aspirated voiced consonants in Indian languages. The aspirated/non-aspirated voiceless consonants are easy to tell apart because there are English-language analogs. But whenever I try to apply voicing to, say, the aspirated "k" in "kit", the voicing kind of makes the aspiration sound vocalic ... then, to my ear, it just sounds like "git" ("hard" g).

Well, there you go. I'm not sure how I can explain how they are "supposed" to be distinguished. They just are different. Aspiration and voicing are two different things in Indian languages and the one doesn't affect the other.

If the typical Indian-language aspiration is stronger than that of the aspirated "k" in English "kit", that would help my understanding of how the voiced versions cold be pronounced and how they remain salient at conversational speeds.

Both aspiration and non-aspiration are stronger in Indian languages than they are in any version of English. However, even if they weren't, an Indian wouldn't be confused on the voicing parameter. It's either voiced or not. The aspiration doesn't enter into it.

Indians do notice that Anglos can't seem to tell the difference, say, between unaspirated [p] and [b].

njtt
02-24-2011, 12:55 PM
Quite so. Japanese people, I have been reliably told, lose the ability to distinguish the R and the L sounds from one another in early childhood, as part of the process of learning their native language (which has no use for the distinction) from the speakers around them. Later in life, they can only learn to hear the distinction with great difficulty, if at all. I one heard a Japanese lecturer, with otherwise excellent and barely accented English, completely bollix up the punchline a joke because of this, because he (to our English ears) distinctly said "lice" instead of "rice." It was not only that he could not say it right, he had no idea that he was getting it wrong. [Japanese CD case (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_xnBKPY_t0YM/SGPFWTOFPTI/AAAAAAAAA98/3-3m5m4jjhc/s400/eric-crapton-2.jpg)]

Quite generally, although infants are born with the ability to distinguish all phonemes that occur in any human language, they quite rapidly lose the ability to distinguish ones that their native dialect does not distinguish as part of the process of first language learning it (the Japanese failure to make the L/R distinction just happens to be a good example because it is particularly striking to English speakers, for whom the distinction is very important, and thus clearly heard).

That said, may I add that, for me (who learned English in southeast England), Mary, marry and merry each have distinctly different vowels, and none of the words Aaron, Erin, heron, or baron rhyme with any of the others. I would normally (unless I heard an Aaron himself say it otherwise) pronounce Aaron as "air-on," as in "It hasn't cooled down much yet, because I have only just turned the air on."

Kyla
02-24-2011, 12:58 PM
Again, not pronouncing them differently, I can see this being the result of growing up in an area where that's the norm; but claiming you can't hear the distinction, I'm not buying it unless you're an immigrant from a non-English speaking nation.

You've figured all of us out. It's a conspiracy to annoy you.

By the way, Mary/merry/marry are all pronounced the same in California, where I am from, along with a pretty significant percentage of the media in the United States.

bordelond
02-24-2011, 12:59 PM
Well, there you go. I'm not sure how I can explain how they are "supposed" to be distinguished. They just are different.
I've had a hard time finding good sound clips online. Maybe there's a simple song or a speech recorded online that I can listen to? Better yet, a source that pronounces words in isolation, like maybe something geared to second-language learners.

Else, I can break down and buy the Hindi/Urdu language-learning tapes at Barnes and Noble :D Maybe I can find them at the local library, or get them through interlibrary loan.

Both aspiration and non-aspiration are stronger in Indian languages than they are in any version of English. However, even if they weren't, an Indian wouldn't be confused on the voicing parameter. It's either voiced or not. The aspiration doesn't enter into it.
Non-aspiration stronger? Does not compute :D Johanna, Wendell, or any other phonetically-inclined Dopers -- a little help?

But if the aspiration is stronger ... yes, that makes some sense. Tell me ... does the difference between aspirated voiced consonants and non-aspirated voiced consonants get muddied up a bit over the telephone? Or is it consistently clear and easy to pick out over the phone? If it's easy to pick out over the phone, there's something you're keying in on, and you may be able to describe it.

Indians do notice that Anglos can't seem to tell the difference, say, between unaspirated [p] and [b].
This takes practice, and remains difficult at conversational speed. This is also one of the joys of Thai.

WOOKINPANUB
02-24-2011, 01:22 PM
I'd say Aaron and Erin are close but no cigar homophonically. As someone else illustrated, if I say them separately you probably couldn't tell the difference but you would if I used them both in a sentence. That being said, I don't know how many times I've encountered an east coaster who upon seeing my name in writing exclaims "oh, it's SHARI !" as if I'd been prouncing my own name incorrectly. Not sure what they hear when I say it.

Johanna
02-24-2011, 02:47 PM
Non-aspiration stronger? Does not compute :D Johanna, Wendell, or any other phonetically-inclined Dopers -- a little help?
I took it to mean "more distinctly articulated as such." In which aspiration isn't there at all, not even a little bit. In other words, a stronger absence. Like a loud silence.

Siam Sam
02-24-2011, 10:27 PM
I pronounce them alike.

panache45
02-24-2011, 10:45 PM
Continuation due to edit time out:

Now you're making me go back to my fishbowl comment. Those are foreign phonemes you've indicated, and still, they can be learned. But the distinctions of Mary/merry/marry are heard over and over on television and in movies. For an American to claim nonexposure to these phonemes and then claim one cannot distinguish them is disingenuous, unless one lives in a media-free environment. Again, not pronouncing them differently, I can see this being the result of growing up in an area where that's the norm; but claiming you can't hear the distinction, I'm not buying it unless you're an immigrant from a non-English speaking nation.

When I first moved to NYC, there were lots of new speech idiosyncrasies that I had to deal with, most of which were more obvious and more important than Mary/merry/marry. So it wasn't until a few miscommunications that I learned to differentiate them. Same with Aaron/Erin. Now that I've relocated back to Ohio, I've had to re-learn to pronounce them all the same . . . otherwise I get accused of sounding like a NooYawker.

Invisible Chimp
02-24-2011, 11:07 PM
I'm a fourth generation Oregonian and they're homophones. So are caught/cot. Baron and heron rhyme. Etc.

CurtC
02-25-2011, 09:28 AM
For an American to claim nonexposure to these phonemes and then claim one cannot distinguish them is disingenuous, unless one lives in a media-free environment. Again, not pronouncing them differently, I can see this being the result of growing up in an area where that's the norm; but claiming you can't hear the distinction, I'm not buying it unless you're an immigrant from a non-English speaking nation.

I can't hear the difference between Mary/merry/marry in normal speech. Until I started hanging out on a usenet group that deals with some of these issues a bunch of years ago, I had no idea that there were people who pronounced them differently. Now if you and I sat down, and you said the words slowly and carefully, I would probably be able to hear a slight difference. But that difference, to me, would sound like the same basic vowel sound which you just add a little affectation to when you say them.

Several years ago, I was in Germany and was in a bar enjoying a beer with an Englishman who spoke fluent German. The beer I was having was called "König" and of course, being in Germany, was served in a glass with that name on it. I asked my companion how to properly pronounce it. From my POV, the conversation went like this:

Him: Koo-nig
Me: Koo-nig
Him: No - Koo-nig
Me: Koo-nig
Him: No - Koo-nig
Me: Koo-nig
Him: No, listen carefully - Koo-nig
Me: Koo-nig
Him: No...

Finally he explained that it's like an "ee" sound but you round your lips like you're saying "oo." After he explained this, I could sort-of hear a slight difference. But to me, it still sounded like he was saying the "oo" sound but he just said it in kind of a strange way.

The point is that if you don't grow up surrounded by people who make a sound distinction, your brain just doesn't process that difference as a distinctly different vowel sound.

I was born in 1961, and in my younger years we had a TV but it only got one channel, so hearing TV newscasters was something that I was never ever exposed to. Maybe younger people will have an easier time with the vowels than I do because of the prevalence of TV.

BwanaBob
02-25-2011, 11:44 AM
I was "lucky" to be raised in a multi-language household, so I guess I retained more phonemes; plus being raised in NY I got the merry/marry/Mary distinction for free.

Not to stir shit up further, but these three words have 3 different IPA renderings, so can I safely assume that they "should" be distinct, but many regions have erased the distinctions (and don't hear them)?

Acsenray
02-25-2011, 11:54 AM
The IPA does not purport to determine how things should be pronounced.

Achren
02-25-2011, 12:38 PM
Now if you and I sat down, and you said the words slowly and carefully, I would probably be able to hear a slight difference. But that difference, to me, would sound like the same basic vowel sound which you just add a little affectation to when you say them.

I agree with this. I pronounce marry/Mary/merry so that they rhyme, but there are a few Youtube videos where people pronounce various words and I can hear the difference. But like CurtC said - I had to know which word they were saying, listen very closely, and generally watch the video a couple times to really understand the difference.

Also, for me at least, I have to hear these words all at the same time. If someone says merry and then 20 minutes later mentions Mary, I wouldn't notice the difference unless it differed greatly from my pronunciation. Or if they picked on how I said some word and taught me to say it "correctly". :)

I still say pen and pin differently, so there's that.

Oh, and I just thought of something - for hearing accents on TV, it's not always an actual accent that you'd hear. I know that Kyra Sedgwick gets a lot of flak for her accent on The Closer, but I bet not everyone who watches the show know that it's a bad accent. So there's exposure, but it's not to what people would actually sound like. Kinda like how the Australian accent most Americans would think of would be something like Steve Irwin, though I learned (from some thread here I think) that that's not how most Australians sound.

Irishman
02-25-2011, 01:07 PM
What would really help everyone is a link to the sounds:

http://www.antimoon.com/how/pronunc-soundsipa.htm

That site has audio files for different IPA depictions, with Amer and Brit variants. It's been very helpful to me.


I live in Jersey, but grew up on Long Island.

To me, Aaron and Erin are totally different, as are baron & heron, marry & merry, hawk & hock, Don & Dawn. But father and bother rhyme. Could somebody explain how father and bother wouldn't rhyme? I'm confoozled.

Look at my link. Listen to the Brit varients of father and hot (ɑ: vs ɒ).


i have a question for those who claim they're homophones. i understanding pronouncing it the same, but deep down, in the back of your head, don't you have an inkling that "properly" they're not supposed to sound the same?

"Properly" is a judgement. To those of us who do not distinguish them, that is proper, so someone who does make them sound different is just being weird.

for example, i grew up in the south and have a bit of a drawl to my speech - so that drawer is pronounced like door with an 'r' after that d. however, i do KNOW that it's supposed to sound liker draw-er, but i just can't bring myself to say it as such. wondering if you midwesterners "know" just like i do but just aren't bothering, or you really can't hear the difference between aaron and erin, and mary/merry.

The thing is, even if I hear them sounding different than I say them, that doesn't mean I interpret that difference as being an intentional differentiation of the vowel sounds. If you said the sentence, "Marry me, Mary, and make me merry," I might pick up that you are distinguishing the vowels, but otherwise I'd never connect the word "Mary" at the beginning of a conversation with "merry" at the end of the conversation and realize you are trying to make them sound differently. I would just think that is how you make the "marry" sound.

I pronounce both the first and second syllables of those two words differently. I could never confuse the two in speech.

This probably isn't goig to translate in type, but I pronounce them as follows:
Aa (ron) = like 'air' (drawn out)
E(rin) = like 'Eh" (shorter)

(Aar)on = like 'stand on the step'
(Er) in = like 'get in the house'
(please tell me those examples sound different to you)

I can understand the distinctions you are making, but unless making a deliberate effort, "air uhn" and "ehr uhn" are going to be pronounced the same to me. If I concentrate, I might make a distinction on the "in" vs "uhn", but usually will not.

Seriously, I've heard these words (Mary, merry, marry) used numerous times on television over the years, with the distinct pronuciations you claim to find impossible to fathom. Do you not hear the difference when those who do speak these words? Or is it that you cannot bring yourself to use those pronunciations?

Unless the words are juxtaposed next to each other, we won't realize they are intentionally being distinguished, and will just assume the speaker is saying that word a little funny, like they do from wherever they are from, as opposed to here, where we say them correctly the same.


You misread my post. I was not annoyed. It was sounding as if some people never heard anyone pronouncing the three words differently. I have difficulty believing this. I believe people are raised to not make the different vowel sounds; but that is light years from "I don't hear the difference". If "not hearing the difference" is the case, then I'm truly amazed; I can't fathom any phonemes that I can't distinguish. Maybe I can't pronounce them, but certainly I could hear the difference.

How about, hearing it sounds a little different, but not recognizing that the difference is intentional, and just thinking, "my you say things weirdly"?

bordelond
02-25-2011, 01:43 PM
And there's not necessarily a whole lot of difference between a "foreign" phoneme and one that's just not in your particular dialect.
Although in this particular case (Aaron/Erin; baron/heron), the phonemes in question ARE in virtually all American dialects. I don't think any American dialect lacks the "short a" of "bat", and I know "short e" in "bet" is essentially universal in American English. The differences seem to lie in where these vowels can occur by the phonetic rules of the dialect, and how the vowels are affected by adjacent "r"s.

Acsenray
02-25-2011, 02:24 PM
I really don't know what you're arguing at this point.

jackdavinci
02-25-2011, 02:33 PM
I imagine Aaron as being correctly pronounced Aah-rawn, although I pronounce it Aah-rin. I've never heard it pronounced "Eh-rin" or "Eh-rawn" as others have suggested.

bordelond
02-25-2011, 02:54 PM
I really don't know what you're arguing at this point.
Succinctly -- the vowels (viz /æ/ and /ɛ/) that lend distinction between "Aaron" and "Erin" essentially exist in every American English dialect.

That was in response to your post that "... there's not necessarily a whole lot of difference between a 'foreign' phoneme and one that's just not in your particular dialect." If we're dealing with American English speakers, it's a virtual certainty that these both of these vowels (/æ/ and /ɛ/) are, indeed, in their particular dialect.

Acsenray
02-25-2011, 03:12 PM
Succinctly -- the vowels (viz /æ/ and /ɛ/) that lend distinction between "Aaron" and "Erin" essentially exist in every American English dialect.

That was in response to your post that "... there's not necessarily a whole lot of difference between a 'foreign' phoneme and one that's just not in your particular dialect." If we're dealing with American English speakers, it's a virtual certainty that these both of these vowels (/æ/ and /ɛ/) are, indeed, in their particular dialect.

But not in the contexts we're talking about (for example, followed by [r]), and context can be crucial in phonemic systems.

Look at the problems that English speakers have with the Vietnamese name Nguyen. It starts with a phoneme [ŋ] that exists in almost every dialect of English, but never appears word initially. When used that way by a Vietnamese speaker, there are the same problems of perception and understanding. Most English speakers parse it as something like [nuwɪn] or [nujɛn] or [wɪn].

And even if your point is taken, it really doesn't mean anything. Are you trying to assign some kind of blame or deficiency to those people who don't perceive phonemes the way you do? It just doesn't work that way. If you haven't been taught a certain sound combination, it's very common that you just won't be able to hear it, regardless of news anchors or whatever. It's a nearly unremarkable phenomenon in human speech.

AHunter3
02-25-2011, 03:19 PM
How are you pronouncing "baron"? In my speech, "Erin", "Aaron", "baron", and "heron" all rhyme. I'm an American, btw.

I'm also an American and to my ears (and tongue) none of those four words rhyme with any of the other three!

Erin = ɛr in

Aaron = e rǝn

baron = bæ rǝn

heron = hɛr ǝn

bordelond
02-25-2011, 03:26 PM
And even if your point is taken, it really doesn't mean anything.
I disagree -- my ultimate point is that it's a lot easier to (a) take a phoneme you already use naturally and learn to re-apply it in different contexts than it is to (b) adopt a phoneme that has no analog in your own dialect.

Look at the problems that English speakers have with the Vietnamese name Nguyen. It starts with a phoneme [ŋ] that exists in almost every dialect of English, but never appears word initially. When used that way by a Vietnamese speaker, there are the same problems of perception and understanding. Most English speakers parse it as something like [nuwɪn] or [nujɛn] or [wɪn].
All true, but you're describing an English speaker that's trying to wing it. With prompting and repetition, an English speaker can learn to produce [ŋ] word-initially. I concede that few English speakers will be motivated to master this in real life ... but there's no insurmountable physical or cognitive impediment.

Are you trying to assign some kind of blame or deficiency to those people who don't perceive phonemes the way you do? It just doesn't work that way. If you haven't been taught a certain sound combination, it's very common that you just won't be able to hear it, regardless of news anchors or whatever. It's a nearly unremarkable phenomenon in human speech.
Not trying to assign blame or deficiency at all. I agree with you that these distinctions have to be taught to adult learners. Voice coaches do routinely. I just want to remind the thread's readers that the distinctions can actually be learned -- both perception and (with more difficulty) fluent production.

AHunter3
02-25-2011, 03:27 PM
Well, dangit, that's a danger of zombiethreads: I may answer differently now than I did then!

Not even close. I grew up in the South, and "Aaron" rhymes with "hey run", not "baron", and definitely not "Erin" or "heron". ("Erin" should rhyme with "heron").

The first syllables of Erin and heron rhyme. I'm going to go with 2011 vintage me though and say Erin and heron don't rhyme because of the second syllable. Less schwa for Erin, more I.

Acsenray
02-25-2011, 03:35 PM
I disagree -- my ultimate point is that it's a lot easier to (a) take a phoneme you already use naturally and learn to re-apply it in different contexts than it is to (b) adopt a phoneme that has no analog in your own dialect.

Maybe, maybe not. When it comes to trying to get the guy sitting at the bar next to you to hear things in a way he's not used to, you can be surprised.

All true, but you're describing an English speaker that's trying to wing it. With prompting and repetition, an English speaker can learn to produce [ŋ] word-initially. I concede that few English speakers will be motivated to master this in real life ... but there's no insurmountable physical or cognitive impediment.

I didn't mean to suggest it's insurmountable, but it is highly unlikely.

Not trying to assign blame or deficiency at all. I agree with you that these distinctions have to be taught to adult learners. Voice coaches do routinely.

Voice coaches do it with people who have a reason to expend extensive effort relearning phonemes and often with people who are already proficient and flexible with language. And, as you say, they are highly motivated. People who just happen to be watching TV when an anchorman comes on with a MINMINM accent are not likely at all to pick up on it and draw contrasts with their MIMIM accents.

I just want to remind the thread's readers that the distinctions can actually be learned -- both perception and (with more difficulty) fluent production.

Yes, just like the people on this board who have made a conscious effort to understand language, pronunciation, etc., have been able to. Even then, it can require conscious effort in order to apply such learning.

But it's not something that should be expected from people who haven't. It's uncalled for to accuse them of living in fishbowls.

bordelond
02-25-2011, 03:40 PM
It's uncalled for to accuse them of living in fishbowls.
:confused:

That was someone else altogether.

Acsenray
02-25-2011, 03:47 PM
:confused:

That was someone else altogether.

I realize that, but it looked like the arguments were pointing in the same general direction.

Succintly: People who take the time and effort to study language can probably learn the distinctions. That should not raise expectations that people who have not taken such time and effort will be able to perceive them. And it's easy to overestimate the abilities and underestimate prejudices of the general public.

We're not only talking about bare skill and ability. We're also talking about the psychological factors surrounding language. Most people want to believe that they speak correctly and that everyone who is different is wrong. It's evident in this very thread. This reflexive attitude itself is a barrier to perception and understanding.

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