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bienville
08-07-2014, 04:28 PM
Why does a person recognize that another person is saying something wrong if they say it the exact same way . . . but they have different accents?

I met a woman last night named Carrie.
Because of her accent, when she says "Carrie" it sounds like "Kiri".

Her: Hi, I'm Carrie. (sounding EXACTLY like "Kiri")
Me: Kiri? (sounding EXACTLY like "Kiri")
Her: No, it's Carrie (sounding EXACTLY like "Kiri")


Why does it sound wrong to her when I say it?
Why doesn't she hear that I'm saying her name exactly how she says it?

I'm looking for "How the Brain Processes Language" type answers. But any other helpful information or anecdotes are welcome. I suppose the reason that I'm looking for technical brainy explanations is that on a practical level I do understand this: She knows her name is Carrie, she knows I'm saying "Kiri", so she corrects me.

But, even though I understand it on a practical level, it still seems very strange to me. Two people vocalizing the exact same sounds with the exact same inflection, yet one recognizes that the other is wrong.

bienville
08-07-2014, 04:40 PM
Here's a scene from the show Flight of the Conchords (YouTube link). (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lI21nS-4D4&feature=player_detailpage#t=30)

Bret is introducing himself. With his accent "Bret" sounds like "Brit".
The woman he's speaking to keeps repeating "Brit?" and he has to spell it out for her. Once he gets her to say "Bret" he confirms that she's correct- but her "correct" pronunciation is more different from his pronunciation than any of her "incorrect" pronunciations.

Again, on a practical level I understand this. He knows his name is Bret and he knows she is saying "Brit". Still, it seems a very strange phenomenon.

Mangetout
08-07-2014, 04:52 PM
It's about context. When you know someone has a different accent, you unconsciously map the sounds so that you understand them - to my English ears, a Texan saying 'John' sounds like (what I would write as) 'Jaahn'.

If he makes an effort to say 'John' using English vowel sounds familiar to me, my brain is already converting them on the fly and I am likely to perceive him as saying "Jorn"

iljitsch
08-07-2014, 04:53 PM
First of all, are you really sure you're making the same sounds she is? When I was learning English (not my first language) I was perplexed by the strange and ways vowels are pronounced and the subtle differences between bad, bed, bat and bet, which we'd all pronounce the exact same way in Dutch. It takes some time to first hear the differences and then be able to reproduce them.

Another explanation is that the other person kind of subtracts your accent. So to you the other person has an accent that shifts every letter one position higher in the alphabet, and let's assume you have a neutral accent. So if she says X you year Y but if you say X she knows you mean X even though if her brother makes the same sound she knows he's saying W.

Elemenopy
08-07-2014, 05:05 PM
Little kids will do something similar. My daughter just turned 3, and the other day she pointed to the hospital as we drove by.

"Hopistal!" she said. (I just had a baby, so she knows it well.)

"You see the hopistal?" I mimicked.

"No, hopistal!" she corrected me.

"Hospital?" I said.

"Yes, that's the hopistal." So, she knew what it was supposed to sound like, but couldn't quite get it correct at that time.

I suspect this is related. In the same way it sounds off if, say, an American English speaker over-enunciates the accent on a borrowed foreign word. There was, I believe, an SNL skit about this a while back, about the office workers going for "enchiladas" and "chiles rellenos" with exaggerated Spanish accents.

CurtC
08-07-2014, 05:21 PM
About 20 years ago I was having a beer in Germany with an Englishman who was fluent in German. The beer glass I was drinking from said "König." I asked him the proper way to pronounce it. He said what sounded like (to my Texan ears) "koonig."

So I repeated back: koo-nig

He said, no, koo-nig

Again I said koo-nig

We did this several times before he stopped me and explained it a different way.

The basic cause I think is that the ö sound doesn't exist in my dialect, so when he said it, my brain automatically mapped it to the closest sound that I knew. I didn't even realize it was occurring.

A very similar thing happened with you and this woman named Carrie.

Inner Stickler
08-07-2014, 05:23 PM
Why does it sound wrong to her when I say it?
Why doesn't she hear that I'm saying her name exactly how she says it?I suspect the answer lies in vowel mergers. As an example, I have the cot-caught merger and it can be difficult if not impossible for me to detect when people are using ɔ instead of ɑ and vice-versa. It would be very possible for me to say Tom and someone from the NE would wonder why I insist on saying it oddly.

TriPolar
08-07-2014, 05:23 PM
People don't necessarily realize how their own accent sounds to others. They may pick up some subtle differences between what they are trying to say and the word you respond with:

Southern girl: Could you hand me that pin? (she means, pen, the thing you write with)
Me: What pin? (the thing you stick in something)
Southern girl: Not pin, PIN!

pulykamell
08-07-2014, 05:31 PM
The basic cause I think is that the ö sound doesn't exist in my dialect, so when he said it, my brain automatically mapped it to the closest sound that I knew. I didn't even realize it was occurring.

Also, the final sound is not a "g." It's kind of a breathy "h" type of sound, or, depending on the dialect, could be a "k" sound. It's not a voiced "g," though.

UDS
08-07-2014, 09:31 PM
Basically, the sounds you can hear are conditionedb the sounds you can make. Hiberno-English (for example) is characterised by the use of sounds which are common in Irish, but which do not occur in most of the dialects of English that are used in England. Users of those dialects do not hear those sounds; they hear somewhat similar sounds that occur in their own dialect and, when they try to imitate an Irish accent, they employ those sounds. They genuinely do not hear any difference between what they are hearing and what they are saying, but the difference is very evident to the speaker of Hiberno-English.

And the same goes for many pairings of dialects. If the OP had asked Carrie from New Zealdand to repeat first "Kiri" and then her own name, the OP would likely have heard the same word twice. But Carrie would have heard two different words, and would have had no difficulty in distinguishing them if another New Zealand speaker has said one or other word.

zombywoof
08-07-2014, 09:41 PM
Had the exact same sort of conversation in college with a Chinese friend trying to explain the pronounciation of his name "Hsu".

"Shoo"

Shoo?

No!...it's "Shoo"

Shoo?

No!...it's "Shoo"

(repeat several more times, give up)

bienville
08-07-2014, 09:56 PM
A lot of good info in this Thread, but I want to especially thank UDS. Really great post.

Ornery Bob
08-08-2014, 12:26 AM
Hearing seems like a mechanical thing, but it's not.

I used to work in a recording studio and when I started, for the first few weeks, the engineers would be talking about differences in sounds that I simply couldn't distinguish. They could hear differences in playbacks that I couldn't. It took several weeks for me to become attuned to the subtle differences that seemed like glaring problems to the experienced engineers. It was absolutely a learning experience and I had to work at learning how to listen carefully.

You think that you and she were making the same sounds, but you weren't and she is simply attuned to subtle but real differences that you are not.

CurtC
08-08-2014, 01:06 AM
Southern girl: Could you hand me that pin? (she means, pen, the thing you write with)
Me: What pin? (the thing you stick in something)
Southern girl: Not pin, PIN!

In this case, however, the words "pen" and "pin" are exact homophones to the southerner.

I can't think of any words with "en" that I would pronounce with the short-e sound, they all have the short-i sound. Pen, hen, then, when, enchilada, all have the exact same sound as "pin."

UDS
08-08-2014, 01:14 AM
In this case, however, the words "pen" and "pin" are exact homophones to the southerner.

I can't think of any words with "en" that I would pronounce with the short-e sound, they all have the short-i sound. Pen, hen, then, when, enchilada, all have the exact same sound as "pin."
And yet the "Southern girl" in Tripolar's example obviously did pronounce the words differently, since otherwise she would have attempted her clarification in some other way ("no, the pin for writing with!")

pulykamell
08-08-2014, 01:25 AM
And yet the "Southern girl" in Tripolar's example obviously did pronounce the words differently, since otherwise she would have attempted her clarification in some other way ("no, the pin for writing with!")

"Ink pen," of course!

Princhester
08-08-2014, 02:27 AM
Why does a person recognize that another person is saying something wrong if they say it the exact same way . . . but they have different accents?

You weren't saying it the exact same way.

CurtC
08-08-2014, 12:00 PM
And yet the "Southern girl" in Tripolar's example obviously did pronounce the words differently, since otherwise she would have attempted her clarification in some other way ("no, the pin for writing with!")

But my point was that the conversation couldn't have happened the way he described it; that was his retelling of it but with him missing a key point. A southern girl would not have said " Not pin, PIN!" because she pronounces them exactly the same. She would have said "not a straight pin, but a writing pen!" and pronounced pen and pin exactly the same.

TriPolar
08-08-2014, 12:44 PM
In this case, however, the words "pen" and "pin" are exact homophones to the southerner.

I can't think of any words with "en" that I would pronounce with the short-e sound, they all have the short-i sound. Pen, hen, then, when, enchilada, all have the exact same sound as "pin."

I think it's not quite exactly that in all cases. The southern vowels sometimes get extended almost into two syllables. So 'pen' becomes sort 'pi-in' instead of just 'pin'. My first name is Ed, and my friend named Ed from Mississippi draws that out until it's clearly 'Ay-ed'. Since this is common for them I think they pick that subtle difference up in the case of the girl I mentioned. Side note, I heard that Julia Roberts had to take speech lessons to get that effect out of her speech before she could land any important roles.

Mangetout
08-09-2014, 05:29 PM
Here's another (stupid) example of context and perception, based on a lame joke.

A person with a generic English accent saying "beer can" sounds like a person with a parody Jamaican accent saying "bacon" - try it with any of the UK voices on this online text to speech engine:
http://www.oddcast.com/home/demos/tts/tts_example.php

UDS
08-10-2014, 08:47 PM
But my point was that the conversation couldn't have happened the way he described it; that was his retelling of it but with him missing a key point. A southern girl would not have said " Not pin, PIN!" because she pronounces them exactly the same. She would have said "not a straight pin, but a writing pen!" and pronounced pen and pin exactly the same.
And my point was that, if the conversation did happen the way she said it, then she didn't pronounce the two words identically. He just failed to hear the distinction, because it's not a distinction that features in his variety of English.

CoastalMaineiac
08-10-2014, 09:09 PM
http://io9.com/5919805/the-science-of-accents
Babies are born with the ability to form any kind of sound. Put a kid in the right environment, with two different spoken languages, and they'll be able to flawlessly speak them both, no matter how different and contradictory they are. An ornithologist even noted that, because she played bird calls in the car, her child was able to imitate different birds, and identify them by sound. At some point, though, we lose the ability to make certain sounds. And before that happens, we lose the ability to hear them.

Emphasis mine.

Just because your ears cannot hear the distinction, doesn't mean Carrie's ears cannot hear it.

Johanna
08-10-2014, 09:41 PM
Although people lose that ability after childhood, a competent linguist—particularly a phonetician—can regain it with study+practice.

CoastalMaineiac
10-12-2014, 06:31 PM
Although people lose that ability after childhood, a competent linguist—particularly a phonetician—can regain it with study+practice.

This interests me. Do you have a cite? Preferably one that discusses the kinds of study and practice you must do to learn to distinguish the sounds?

jtur88
10-12-2014, 07:16 PM
You mean,if two people say "cuber", one of them is cutting meat into squares and the other one is having a missile crisis?

My Danish lingustics instructor demonstrated it this way. Hold a feather an inch in from of your lips and say the two words "spin" and "pin". Notice how only the second one blows a gust of air at the feather. "Spin" contains a Danish /p/, which is pronounced without the gust of air, even if there is no /s/ before it. But an English speaker cannot hear the difference.

septimus
10-12-2014, 07:29 PM
The part of cerebrum which learns to distinguish phonemes is plastic only at a very early age. For example, English has two related phonemes D and T (which linguists sometimes write "th"); these are respectively voiced and aspirated. Thai has a third related phoneme (which linguists write "t") which is neither voiced nor aspirated. Although I've trained myself to pronounce Tor Tow, when I hear it, it usually seems to map (depending on speaker) to Dor or Thor. I sometimes have to inquire to be sure which consonant is being spoken! (Thai also has an unvoiced unaspirated Por Pla midway between English B and P.)

Many Westerners learn Thai on their own: I've spoken to some who are very conversant in the language, yet are still unaware of the existence of that third phoneme!

Thus "Kiri" probably distinguishes "Carrie" and "Kiri" but her threshold separating the two vowels is different from OP's.

I had something similar happen for me. I met a guy, Len, who came from the part of U.S. that seems to pronounce pen as pin. Because he called himself "Lin" I started thinking of him that way, and even added him to my phonebook as "Lin." :smack: Sometimes I'd call him "Lin." -- "Goddamn it," he'd say, "my name's not Lin it's Lin!" :D

Kimstu
10-12-2014, 07:52 PM
My Danish lingustics instructor demonstrated it this way. Hold a feather an inch in from of your lips and say the two words "spin" and "pin". Notice how only the second one blows a gust of air at the feather. "Spin" contains a Danish /p/, which is pronounced without the gust of air, even if there is no /s/ before it. But an English speaker cannot hear the difference.

In phonetics, that's the distinction between "unaspirated" and "aspirated" consonants.

gigi
10-13-2014, 11:47 PM
I met a woman last night named Carrie.
Because of her accent, when she says "Carrie" it sounds like "Kiri".

Her: Hi, I'm Carrie. (sounding EXACTLY like "Kiri")
Me: Kiri? (sounding EXACTLY like "Kiri")
Her: No, it's Carrie (sounding EXACTLY like "Kiri")


I pronounce Carrie like marry and Kerry like merry. (Kiri would be like bleary.) My friend doesn't hear the difference in the two vowels sounds (or Mary for that matter), even when I show him exaggeratedly how my mouth is making a different shape.* So there just must be a block.


*Picture "Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?!" from that movie that time.

ultrafilter
10-14-2014, 01:57 AM
You think that you and she were making the same sounds, but you weren't and she is simply attuned to subtle but real differences that you are not.

There's a little bit of a misperception here that's worth clearing up. The differences between sounds don't have to be subtle for someone not to be able to pick up on them. I had a conversation with a Chinese friend one day where I was trying to explain the difference in pronunciation between "lunch" and "launch". She can't hear the difference because it's not important in her native language, even though no English speaker would confuse those two without significant background noise.

MrAtoz
10-14-2014, 08:49 AM
I pronounce Carrie like marry and Kerry like merry. (Kiri would be like bleary.) My friend doesn't hear the difference in the two vowels sounds (or Mary for that matter), even when I show him exaggeratedly how my mouth is making a different shape.* So there just must be a block.

I'm not thrilled with the word "block," but I'm very much like your friend. I cannot hear--and indeed, cannot even imagine--a difference in pronunciation of those words. Not even when people are (they assure me) exaggerating the pronunciation to illustrate the differences. This is what I hear:

"The girl's name? That's Mary. And what happens at a wedding? That's Mary. And when you're happy? That's Mary. See? They're completely different!" I can only shake my head.

robert_columbia
10-14-2014, 09:30 AM
...I cannot hear--and indeed, cannot even imagine--a difference in pronunciation of those words. Not even when people are (they assure me) exaggerating the pronunciation to illustrate the differences. This is what I hear:

"The girl's name? That's Mary. And what happens at a wedding? That's Mary. And when you're happy? That's Mary. See? They're completely different!" I can only shake my head.

I sentence you to ten years exile in New Jersey. You'll recognize the difference by the end of the first month.

naita
10-14-2014, 09:34 AM
There's a little bit of a misperception here that's worth clearing up. The differences between sounds don't have to be subtle for someone not to be able to pick up on them. I had a conversation with a Chinese friend one day where I was trying to explain the difference in pronunciation between "lunch" and "launch". She can't hear the difference because it's not important in her native language, even though no English speaker would confuse those two without significant background noise.

Your example is only "not subtle" to you... well, and me, and quite a lot of other people, but my point is that just as with the subtle differences mentioned by the post you reply to, it depends on who's doing the defining. The OPs "Kiri" may consider the differences as substantial as those between "lunch" and "launch".

Jimmy Chitwood
10-14-2014, 10:17 AM
Your example is only "not subtle" to you... well, and me, and quite a lot of other people, but my point is that just as with the subtle differences mentioned by the post you reply to, it depends on who's doing the defining. The OPs "Kiri" may consider the differences as substantial as those between "lunch" and "launch".

Yeah, the difference, to me, between Mary and merry is easily as stark as the difference between lunch and launch. I actually have no idea which of the three vowel sounds (Mary/merry/marry) people without the accent use to represent all three of those sounds, because when I try to replicate it, I'm choosing between one of three distinct ways of saying it, whereas I think people without the accent have some fourth way of doing it that is sort of in the middle.

A big part of it is that not only are we used to using the different sounds, we've experienced the difference in the way our mouths move when we use them. Telling me (a Philadelphian) that it's hard to imagine a difference between Mary and merry (or lunch/launch) is like telling me that there's no difference between smiling and frowning - I've done these things thousands of times and I can feel what happens when I do.

Hector_St_Clare
10-14-2014, 10:29 AM
I'm not thrilled with the word "block," but I'm very much like your friend. I cannot hear--and indeed, cannot even imagine--a difference in pronunciation of those words. Not even when people are (they assure me) exaggerating the pronunciation to illustrate the differences. This is what I hear:

"The girl's name? That's Mary. And what happens at a wedding? That's Mary. And when you're happy? That's Mary. See? They're completely different!" I can only shake my head.

I'm from New England so I pronounce 'Marry', "Mary" and "Merry" all very differently, but outside the northeast, most people don't.

gigi
10-14-2014, 11:36 AM
I'm from New England so I pronounce 'Marry', "Mary" and "Merry" all very differently, but outside the northeast, most people don't.

Understood, but I'm talking about someone who doesn't hear the difference even when they are pronounced differently.

WOOKINPANUB
10-14-2014, 11:54 AM
"Not The Craw . . . the CRAW"!

As I believe someone already said, if they have different accents they aren't pronouncing it the same exact way.

My own name rhymes with "marry" as pronounced by a West coaster. I've had more than one East coast native imply I pronounce it incorrectly.

"Oh, it's not Terry, it's TAAARY". Not in SoCal it isn't :rolleyes:

Chefguy
10-14-2014, 12:05 PM
In phonetics, that's the distinction between "unaspirated" and "aspirated" consonants.

And is one of the things that distinguishes a fluent speaker of many languages from one who is not. A native Spanish speaker would not say "tah-ko" like a native English speaker, but more like "t'ahko".

Hector_St_Clare
10-14-2014, 12:50 PM
And is one of the things that distinguishes a fluent speaker of many languages from one who is not. A native Spanish speaker would not say "tah-ko" like a native English speaker, but more like "t'ahko".

Yes, English aspirates unvoiced consonants at the start of words but not in the middle. Many other languages either don't aspirate at all, or they have distinct sets of aspirated and unaspirated consonants. Some Indian languages, for example, distinguish the two so that 'k' and 'kh', 'g' and 'gh', 'b' and 'bh', 'ch' and 'chh', 'j' and 'jh', etc. are distinct sounds. This is why 'Ghandi' is a bad misspelling of 'Gandhi'- in Hindi, the two sets of phonemes are entirely different and the two words aren't homophones.

eschereal
10-14-2014, 01:13 PM
I pronounce Carrie like marry and Kerry like merry. (Kiri would be like bleary.)

There is kind of a big difference between "Kiri" and "bleary". The guttural ("K") lends a glide to the attack of the vowel in many dialects of English, which would not be present in "bleary". That is probably what Carrie was hearing: the "ar" part is not supposed to be pronounced that way, to her "Kiri" sounded like "Kyiri", where the vowel attack was actually suppose to be flat (lacking the "y" glide).

gnoitall
10-14-2014, 01:30 PM
Zathras (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zathras) understands problem. Also his brother Zathras. And his brother Zathras. And his baby brother Zathras. Zathras understand problem very well. Very sad when someone addresses Zathras as one of his brothers. But Zathras is used to it.[Zathras] also refers to himself in the third person, although sometimes instead of himself he refers to his brothers, as the story mentions that Zathras is one of 10 different brothers whose names all sound nigh-indistinguishably like 'Zathras'. This fact is revealed by a younger brother of the first Zathras—the second Zathras to be seen—who may appear twice as "War Without End" features Tim Choate in a dual role as two Zathrases discussing the condition of the great machine. It is explained that the way to differentiate one Zathras from another is to listen to the inflection of the name. However, as he demonstrates the differences to Ivanova, she (and the audience) are unable to detect any difference between one and the others.

gigi
10-14-2014, 02:02 PM
There is kind of a big difference between "Kiri" and "bleary". The guttural ("K") lends a glide to the attack of the vowel in many dialects of English, which would not be present in "bleary". That is probably what Carrie was hearing: the "ar" part is not supposed to be pronounced that way, to her "Kiri" sounded like "Kyiri", where the vowel attack was actually suppose to be flat (lacking the "y" glide).

I'm not getting it. To me, the first vowel in Kiri/Kyra/Keira have the same ee sound as bleary. Maybe the OP is using "Kiri" to represent a different vowel sound (there is a fifth sound people use besides Mary/merry/marry/meerkat to represent "Carrie/Kerry" but I can't think of how to show it).

BubbaDog
10-14-2014, 02:54 PM
Actual conversation I had with a West Texas girl when I was in collge.

Her: My name is Va.
Me: Va?
Her: No! Va!
Me: Va?
Her: No! Va!!
Me: Va?
Her: No! Va!!!!!!
Me: I have no idea here.
Her: Va! Va! As in Va-Oh-La (Viola)
Me: Oh! Vi!
Her: Yes Yes, Va!

eschereal
10-14-2014, 02:54 PM
I'm not getting it. To me, the first vowel in Kiri/Kyra/Keira have the same ee sound as bleary. Maybe the OP is using "Kiri" to represent a different vowel sound (there is a fifth sound people use besides Mary/merry/marry/meerkat to represent "Carrie/Kerry" but I can't think of how to show it).

But it is not the sound of the actual vowel itself, it is the attack (start) of the vowel sound. Most Americans, I think, add the "y" attack to certain vowel sounds. The similar word "carry" tends to be pronounced like "kyarry", compare that to "car", which has a clean, hard attack. Guttural consonants – c, k, g – draw the tongue into a position that makes the "y" sound a natural transition into the palate-formed vowels.

Morbo
10-14-2014, 03:06 PM
My Australian friend once wrote this down and asked me to say it: "Rise Up Lights"

She then said "You have just said 'razor blades' in an Australian accent."

bordelond
10-14-2014, 03:10 PM
... there is a fifth sound people use besides Mary/merry/marry/meerkat to represent "Carrie/Kerry" but I can't think of how to show it).

That fifth sound can be something close to short "i" in General American (Newscaster Speak) "mitt". That's my go-to vowel for the first syllable in "Kiri" if no one indicates otherwise. For what it's worth, that's how you'll usually hear Kiri Te Kanawa's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiri_Te_Kanawa) first name most commonly spoken.

Flywheel
10-14-2014, 03:13 PM
My Australian friend once wrote this down and asked me to say it: "Rise Up Lights"

She then said "You have just said 'razor blades' in an Australian accent."

Now write down and say: PSDS

You have just said "pierced ears" in a Boston accent.

gigi
10-14-2014, 05:20 PM
That fifth sound can be something close to short "i" in General American (Newscaster Speak) "mitt". That's my go-to vowel for the first syllable in "Kiri" if no one indicates otherwise. For what it's worth, that's how you'll usually hear Kiri Te Kanawa's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiri_Te_Kanawa) first name most commonly spoken.

Yes - thanks. But I say Kiri Te Kanawa as "bleary" -- that's what I was channeling upthread.


But it is not the sound of the actual vowel itself, it is the attack (start) of the vowel sound. Most Americans, I think, add the "y" attack to certain vowel sounds. The similar word "carry" tends to be pronounced like "kyarry", compare that to "car", which has a clean, hard attack. Guttural consonants – c, k, g – draw the tongue into a position that makes the "y" sound a natural transition into the palate-formed vowels.

I would say I attack Carrie/carry and car the same way - k and then the vowel sound. But at this point I could be wrong!!

Chefguy
10-14-2014, 05:46 PM
Now write down and say: PSDS

You have just said "pierced ears" in a Boston accent.

Now say "chester draws", and you have "chest of drawers" in Boston.

panache45
10-14-2014, 11:36 PM
I go through this all the time with my own name. The form of my first name that I use has 3 letters: 2 consonants separated by a vowel. Simple. But when I just say my name, people tend to think I'm saying something else. So I have to spell it. Like:

What's your name?
Dan.
Den?
No, Dan.
Din?
No, Dan, D-A-N.
Oh, Dan!

And don't even ask me about my last name:

What's your last name?
Washington.
Well, Mr. Morningschteiner . . .
Do you spell "wash" with an "M"? Do you pronounce "ton" "schteiner"?
I'm sorry, it's just that "Washington" is such an unusual name.

gnoitall
10-17-2014, 12:00 PM
My Australian friend once wrote this down and asked me to say it: "Rise Up Lights"

She then said "You have just said 'razor blades' in an Australian accent."
Also know as "Strine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strine)".

elfkin477
10-17-2014, 08:28 PM
Now say "chester draws", and you have "chest of drawers" in Boston.
We don't say "drawer" and "draw" exactly the same. It's subtle, but different. But we obviously don't pronounce drawer the way you're supposed to. Borrower either.

Dawn and Don, taught and tot, caught and cot, those we actually do pronounce exactly the same. Some people claim they saw Dawn and Don differently, but it always sounds like "That's not true, I say don and don!" yeah.

Pairs like Erin and Aaron are mixed, some people pronounce both like other people pronounce Erin, and others slightly different. I was made aware of this when I realized I could sometimes tell without context if people mean my college friend Erin or the boy Aaron she was dating at the time.

eschereal
10-18-2014, 03:02 AM
Dawn and Don, taught and tot, caught and cot, those we actually do pronounce exactly the same. Some people claim they saw Dawn and Don differently, but it always sounds like "That's not true, I say don and don!" yeah.

I can hear the difference, but it is so not-ingrained that I cannot produce it most of the time. "Dawn" is what sounds normal to (the mid-country folk), to say "don" so they know you do not mean dawn, you say a vowel that sounds like a mix of "ah" and a short a (as in "bad"), like you are pushing the vowel toward your palette. To me, it seems kind of backwards, an "o" vowel sound should not be flattened like that, "o" is round for a reason.

To me, "caulk" sounds exactly like a word for rooster. At least, the way most of us 'round here say it.

Terminus Est
10-18-2014, 04:54 AM
I once had an American friend ask a Scottish friend where he was from. He's from Stirling, but in his accent it came out something like "StaeRRRling". I could hear the difference and he could hear the difference, but she (my American friend) couldn't. Which led to this conversation:

He: I'm from Stirling [StaeRRRling].
She: Starling?
He: Nae, StaeRRRling.
She: Starling, with an "A"?
He: Nae, with an "aaaeee"!

wombattver
10-18-2014, 10:13 PM
This is fascinating to me! My Aussie husband does NOT recognize other accents (dialects) at all. It's bizarre to me. I'm always translating for him when we watch "Outlander" or anything other than Aussie or British. When we were first dating, I had a conversation with a shopkeeper with a heavy Cuban accent and he was impressed and said "I didn't know you knew Spanish!" Uh, I don't, the shopkeeper was speaking English!

When we lived in Singapore, I used to watch a terrible local sitcom in which they spoke typical English/Singlish to get used to the sounds and he came in one day and wondered why I'd be following a show that's in Mandarin.

Which also reminds me of my NYC friend. We were about 23 and debating the pronunciation of "gnocchi" and asked the Italian waiter how he said it. He replied and we turned to each other and said, at the exact same time, "See?!" :D

Aspidistra
10-20-2014, 06:11 AM
This may be the thread for a spelling peculiarity that has always interested me.

In Oz/UK/(other places possibly?) the informal term for mother is spelled "Mum"
In the US, it's spelled "Mom"

Those spelling differences seem to mask an underlying uniformity - because of the vagaries of vowel pronunciation, an American saying "Mom" and an Aussie saying "Mum" would actually sound ... pretty much the same, really.

I can't think of any other words this would apply to.

Arcite
10-24-2014, 10:15 AM
I'm from Philadelphia, so to me Mary, marry, and merry have always had three very distinct pronunciations. (Over the summer I dated a girl from Chicago named Mary, who teased me about the way I pronounced "marry.")

I have a question for those who pronounce those three words the same way. For each word, I can think of a number of rhyming words and/or words which use the same vowel sound:

Mary:
airy
hairy
dairy
fairy
vary
pair, pear
rare
stare
tare
bear
care
wares

marry:
Larry
tarry
carry
Harry
Barry
parry
Gary

merry:
Jerry
Terry
berry
very
ferry

Do people who pronounce Mary, merry, and marry the same, pronounce the first vowel sound of all of the above words the same? If not, for those who say they cannot hear or understand the distinction, does thinking about the difference between all of those words help you understand?

CurtC
10-24-2014, 10:47 AM
Do people who pronounce Mary, merry, and marry the same, pronounce the first vowel sound of all of the above words the same?

Yes, in my Texas dialect, all of those words have the same exact vowel sound.

MrAtoz
10-24-2014, 11:06 AM
Do people who pronounce Mary, merry, and marry the same, pronounce the first vowel sound of all of the above words the same? If not, for those who say they cannot hear or understand the distinction, does thinking about the difference between all of those words help you understand?

Yes. Every one of the words you list rhyme perfectly to me. So no, thinking about the difference between all those words doesn't help me understand. Because to me, there simply is no difference.

That's dialects for you. Frustrating, isn't it? :)

LSLGuy
10-24-2014, 11:31 AM
Yes. Every one of the words you list rhyme perfectly to me. So no, thinking about the difference between all those words doesn't help me understand. Because to me, there simply is no difference.

That's dialects for you. Frustrating, isn't it? :)This. Born in California, lived all over, Midwest for the last 20-ish years, and now Miami.

All 60-ish of Arcite's words are pronounced exactly the same by me. And almost always sound to me as though other people pronounce them exactly the same too.

For some people some times I can hear them slightly making a MAAAAARRRRRRy sort of noise that is subtly different. It sounds more like an affectation than a genuine difference though. And I can't tell you now which of the three word sets has this subtly different sound.

Arcite
10-25-2014, 11:45 AM
Yes. Every one of the words you list rhyme perfectly to me. So no, thinking about the difference between all those words doesn't help me understand. Because to me, there simply is no difference.

That's dialects for you. Frustrating, isn't it? :)

Yes, I desperately want to help you see the light. :)

I think I can sort of understand not being able to make those three different sounds yourself, since we know you really have to learn how to make a particular sound in childhood to make it well. What I don't get is how someone cannot even hear the difference, even when demonstrated by someone pronouncing the three different words in a deliberately exaggerated manner, with exaggerated mouth movements as well (as someone upthread said they did,) so as to highlight the differences. They're three different sounds. How can you hear them all the same way?

(I guess I'm someone with a knack for languages. When they gave us that Pimsleur test in the 8th grade, I got the highest possible score. I've had speakers of different dialects or languages explain or demonstrate various subtleties of sound in their language to me, and while I often can't reproduce the sounds accurately, I'm always able to hear them.)

Acsenray
10-25-2014, 11:56 AM
There was, I believe, an SNL skit about this a while back, about the office workers going for "enchiladas" and "chiles rellenos" with exaggerated Spanish accents.


My name is Antonio Mendoza ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGjty394oyw

BigT
10-26-2014, 05:15 AM
Yeah, the difference, to me, between Mary and merry is easily as stark as the difference between lunch and launch. I actually have no idea which of the three vowel sounds (Mary/merry/marry) people without the accent use to represent all three of those sounds, because when I try to replicate it, I'm choosing between one of three distinct ways of saying it, whereas I think people without the accent have some fourth way of doing it that is sort of in the middle.

I have the merger in my accent, and I'm pretty sure it's "Mary." Because I can, if I want to, say merry and marry differently than I normally would, using the vowels in bet and bat, respectively, but I cannot say "Mary" in any other way (a vowel similar to, but not quite the same as, that in bait. The difference is that it has no diphthong.)

Plus, frankly, I've always just thought I was saying a "long a" vowel in any of these situations. And the "long a" corresponds with Mary.

septimus
10-26-2014, 06:15 AM
I think I can sort of understand not being able to make those three different sounds yourself, since we know you really have to learn how to make a particular sound in childhood to make it well. What I don't get is how someone cannot even hear the difference, even when demonstrated by someone pronouncing the three different words in a deliberately exaggerated manner ...

This is opposite to what I've read ... and to my experience. Some new sounds (e.g. NG at beginning of words) I can hear but had to practice to pronounce. But other new sounds (unaspirated T, unaspirated P) I could learn to pronounce but still often need to inquire, 30 years later, to be sure which consonant I've just heard. Tones are easy to pronounce but I usually ignore them (inadvertantly) when listening.

Alessan
10-26-2014, 07:08 AM
Anyway, back to the OP:

My name's Josh. People call me that both in English and in Hebrew. However, in English, it's pronounced the usual way ("Jaash"), which in Hebrew, I insist on it being pronounced "Joshe" (it's sort of between "Pause" and "Gush". Hebrew vowels are different). If an Israeli calls me "Jaash", I assume they're making fun of American accents.

JKellyMap
10-26-2014, 07:46 AM
Anyway, back to the OP:

My name's Josh. People call me that both in English and in Hebrew. However, in English, it's pronounced the usual way ("Jaash"), which in Hebrew, I insist on it being pronounced "Joshe" (it's sort of between "Pause" and "Gush". Hebrew vowels are different). If an Israeli calls me "Jaash", I assume they're making fun of American accents.

Similarly, Spanish speakers are better off pronouncing my name (John) by imagining a Spanish word chan -- the only difference is the voicing of the initial consonant -- rather than struggling with the misleading letters "j" and "o," which imply very different sounds in Spanish than their English equivalents.