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I have heard some American English speakers saying the word "tag" like [tεg], but the [ɛ] vowel is somewhat lengthened. Is that a specific regional accent? I can't find this pronunciation on standard dictionaries.

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You're right; some American accents raise the vowel /æ/ to [ɛ] and even to [e] before a /g/:

  • In New York, New Orleans and some Inland Northern American accents, /æ/ before /g/ is usually realised as [ɛə].
  • In Minnesota and Wisconsin, it's [eː~ej].
  • In Northern Mountain US and some Canadian accents it's [ɛː~ɛj]
  • In some Southern American accents, it's [æ~æɛə]

This phenomenon is called ‘æ-raising’ as explained by Wikipedia (all the above transcriptions also come from that article). This raising also occurs before the nasals /m n ŋ/.

Dictionaries don't show regional differences, they only give phonemic transcriptions.

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  • Thanks, that is very helpful. I never knew of such a thing! I now also understand why "thanks" sounds like "things" in the American accent.
    – user139414
    Jul 8, 2021 at 13:54
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    Thinks instead of thanks sounds more archetypally Australian than American to me. Jul 8, 2021 at 14:28
  • @user139414 I'd actually argue it's more often the other way. In the southeastern parts of the US, "thing" is often pronounced as if it were spelled "thang" and "thinks" is pronounced like the word "thanks."
    – trlkly
    Jul 18, 2021 at 7:31

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