American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

In this section we give representative examples of spellings for each of the GA vowel phonemes. In a number of cases, exceptional spellings are noted. Regularities are given as rules.

/ɪ/ Examples of spellings that represent the vowel /ɪ/

lip – /lɪp/

guild – /gɪld/

manage – /ˈmænɪd͡ʒ/

Exceptional spellings with e:

pretty – /ˈprɪt̬i/

England – /ˈɪŋglənd/

Exceptional spellings with u:

busy – /ˈbɪzi/

business – /ˈbɪznɪs/

Exceptional spellings with o:

women – /ˈwɪmən/

/ɛ/ Examples of spellings that represent the vowel /ɛ/

bed – /bɛd/

bread – /brɛd/

lever – /ˈlɛvər/

Exceptional spellings with a:

any – /ˈɛni/

many – /ˈmɛni/

Thames – /ˈtɛmz/

Exceptional spellings with ay, ai:

says – /sɛz/

said – /sɛd/

again – /əˈgɛn/

/æ/ Examples of spellings that represent the vowel /æ/

land – /lænd/

swam – /swæm/

quack – /kwæk/

laugh – /læf/

bath – /bæθ/

aunt – /ænt/

dance – /dæns/

command – /kəˈmænd/

Exceptional spellings with ai

plaid – /plæd/

Rule: In GA, though not in all varieties of American English, /æ/ does not occur before /r/. That is, marry = merry = Mary: /ˈmɛri/.

/ʌ/ Examples of spellings that represent the vowel /ʌ/

nut /nʌt/

color – /ˈkʌlər

son – /sʌn/

(m)other – /(ˈm)ʌðər/

one -/wʌn/

dove – /dʌv/

country – /ˈkʌntri/

Exceptional spellings with oo:

blood – /blʌd/

flood – /flʌd/

Rule: /ʌ/ does not occur before /r/: hurry /ˈhɜri/, worry /ˈwɜri/, thorough /ˈθɜroʊ/.

/ʊ/ Examples of spellings that represent the vowel /ʊ/

put – /pʊt/

bull – /bʊl/

sugar – /ˈʃʊgər/

bosom – /ˈbʊzəm/

wolf – /wʊlf/

woman /ˈwʊmən/

foot – /fʊt/

Rule: The spelling oo only represents /ʊ/ in: foot, good, hood (also the suffix), soot (roet), stood, wood, wool and in all words spelled –ook such as cook, took, except spook (AmE for ghost) and snooker (BrE biljartspel), which have /u:/.