Would an American native speaker be able to hear a difference between /ʌ/ and /ɑ/ in pronunciation of "done" and "don" and recognize which one was said without a context? For me as a non-native speaker, they sound quite similar.

  • A native of where, Andrej? To a speaker of RP English the use of ɑ in either word ("darn") would sound like a dialectal variation. It would be understood though. If you said someone was a dʌn, it might not be. – Old Brixtonian Apr 3 at 13:39
  • A don is a university teacher, especially a senior one at Cambridge or Oxford, and a dun is a debt-collector. – Michael Harvey Apr 3 at 13:48
  • "Bun" and "barn" are similar, but "I live in a barn" and "I live in a bun" do sound different from each other. – Old Brixtonian Apr 3 at 13:54
  • @Michael Harvey: These are very old debts if the guy collecting them's a dun! – Old Brixtonian Apr 3 at 14:01
  • @MichaelHarvey Yes, and when you're done with the debt collector, you were dunned. – Lambie Apr 3 at 14:59

It's unclear what variety of English you're talking about. In General American English, they use /ɑ/ in words like bot, don, hot, cot and /ʌ/ in strut, cut, done. So /dʌn/ will be understood by natives of both the UK and the US as done.

However, /dɑ(ː)n/ will be understood by most Americans as don, but by British as darn because British English uses /ɒ/ (a rounded version of /ɑ/) in most words where GenAmE uses /ɑ(ː)/.

  • 1
    So the answer is yes, they would hear a difference and recognize which vowel was said, right? – Andrej Adamenko Apr 4 at 1:27
  • 2
    @AndrejAdamenko: Yes. Also, s I said, it depends on the accent. – Void Apr 4 at 4:32

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