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I listened to the pronunciation of words containing ar with the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary I have on my computer; in particular, I checked the pronunciation of the following words:

  • Dare
  • Care
  • Mare
  • Bear
  • Bare

I noticed that the pronunciation, for example, of bare is reported as /ber/, but the word seems to be pronounced as /beər/. (I hope it's clear what I mean.)

Is that exact, or am I misunderstanding the pronunciation of those words?

Strangely, the pronunciation in British English of those words is shown as containing the /eə/ sound, but I perceive a single sound (maybe prolonged).

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  • This is one of the parts of English phonology which varies most widely between dialects - especially the terminal, which 'rhotic' dialects realize as a lateral consonant and 'non-rhotic' dialects mostly as a glide onto /ə/--except in certain phonetic contexts, where it may be realized as a tip-r with no preceding glide. Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 17:49
  • In British English pronunciation, it's definitely the diphthong that you show. Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 17:50
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    At least where I'm from in America those words all rhyme perfectly.
    – ssb
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 6:23
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    @kiamlaluno: it probably shouldn't. But for many Americans, like me, bear and berry have the same phoneme but are pronounced differently (/beɚ/ and /beri/). In fact, bear is pronounced differently depending on what phoneme the word after starts with (/beɚ/ for most consonants and at the end of a phrase, and /ber/ for vowels). This is too complicated for a learner's dictionary to deal with. Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 13:39
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    @kiamlaluno: On the other hand, the OALD gives /mæri/ for the pronunciation of marry, but to me the audio definitely sounds like /meri/ (although they pronounce parry with an /æ/). So they don't match the dialect with their pronunciation. Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 13:50

2 Answers 2

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The pronunciation of bare (and similar words) in American English varies between different AmE dialects. For Americans who don't drop their r's, it is either [ber] or [beər]; most Americans have the merry/Mary merger and treat these as the same phoneme. For some Americans (like me) this phoneme is pronounced /er/ before a vowel and /eər/ before a consonant or a pause. So I would say [ker ʌv] (care of) and [keər fɔr] (care for). For many Americans, the same holds for the phonemes in are, air, ear, oar, tour.

The OALD really has to choose one notation for this phoneme, even though it gets pronounced different ways; otherwise it would make learning English even more confusing than it needs to be. On the other hand, the OALD doesn't always manage to make the audio pronunciation match the written pronunciation: it gives /mæri/ for the pronunciation of marry, but to me the audio definitely sounds like /meri/; these two different pronunciations are both correct, but depend on the dialect of the speaker.

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It is pronounced as air in these instances; it is pronounced as our or are in the case of car, hard, bar, star etc.

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    -1, as I say "our" and "are" very differently.
    – Felix Weir
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:38

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