General Question

Sweetpea's avatar

Can anyone explain the "cot-caught merger" ?

Asked by Sweetpea (406 points ) December 16th, 2010

Can anyone explain the “cot-caught merger” to me? I pronounce them exactly the same. Do some pronounce them differently? (If so, how?) I have looked all over the internet, but can’t find an answer.

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15 Answers

Kayak8's avatar

I pronounce them differently—they don’t even sound the same to me. I pronounce cot as thought it rhymes with pot and “caught” more like cast/cought (rhymes with ought). Cot is one syllable sound when I say it and caught is a diphthong.

Kayak8's avatar

I also hear a difference between tin and ten, pin and pen, etc.

jaytkay's avatar

It is regional. You can find out where you fit in here:
Quizz – What American accent do you have?
http://www.gotoquiz.com/what_american_accent_do_you_really_have

Lol the first pronunciation question is, “If you say the words “cot” and “caught” do they come out sounding the same or different?”

tedibear's avatar

@Kayak8 hit it for me. I kawt a fish and then slept on my caht.

Afos22's avatar

@tedibear I agree, but ‘ah’ has different pronunciations. It is like a doctor a doctor “say ah”,>open wide.

tedibear's avatar

@Afos22 – yes, that’s the “ah” sound that I meant.

morphail's avatar

To people with the merger, the vowel is /ɑ/. For people without the merger, cot is /ɑ/ and caught is /ɔ/.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@Kayak8 – unless your pronunciation of “caught” is very unusual, the sound you make is not a diphthong.

I pronounce the vowels in cot and caught differently – the phenomenon seems to be restricted to the US and Canada.

Seelix's avatar

@Kayak8 – Should there not be a difference between tin and ten, pin and pen? I guess it’s a regional thing there, too, but no one I’ve ever spoken to pronounces those words the same way.

Sweetpea's avatar

I have never heard tin, ten, pin, pen pronounced the same either. However, we often, but not always pronounce bag, beg, egg, leg all the same…a long (a) sound. We also pronounce aunt and ant the same (like the bug).
One of the oddest things I ever saw though, was out of a kids book from Texas…it was saying that the vowel (e) at the end of committee should be pronounced as a soft (i) sound.
Did someone say that Caught should be pronounced as a soft (a) sound? Like Cast? Wouldn’t that make it sound like Cat?

chocolatechip's avatar

@morphail For people without the merger, cot is /ɑ/ and caught is /ɔ/

This link should help dispel any confusion.

http://web.uvic.ca/ling/resources/ipa/charts/IPAlab/IPAlab.htm

Sweetpea's avatar

chocolatechip, thank you! That chart ought to keep me busy for a while! Looks interesting. (Did I pronounce that correctly?)

DominicX's avatar

Yeah, it’s regional. In some parts of the country, people still pronounce the vowel sounds in “caught” and “cot” differently (the former being an open-mid rounded back vowel and the latter having an open unrounded back vowel). In California, the caught-cot merger is almost complete to the point where most California residents pronounce the two the same. I know I do. For me, there’s no difference in the way I pronounce “caught” and “cot”, or “dawn” and “pot”, it’s all the same vowel sound to me.

SuppRatings's avatar

Caught has a much more distinguished ‘ah’ sounds while cot still has it to some degree. This really depends on region and the person.

Stinley's avatar

I’ve got a scottish accent and they are nearly the same – cot is just a wee bit shorter than caught. Imagine I said “Aww what a cute kitten”. Then put that aww in caught. In England the difference is marked – cot is the same but caught is more like how I say coat. But coat is pronounced cay-oat in England.

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