I learned /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ represent two different vowels.

However,recently I read a book, the American writer said she didn't differentiate between /ɑ/ or /ɔ/. She used only /ɑ/ for everything so I think dog, door,caught, cot, core, car must be /ɑ/.

It's easier for me to just say that everything represents /ɑ/. Though, I learn new words with /ɑ/ or /ɔ/ from reading,can I pronounce them with only /ɑ/?

  • I'm not great with the vowel symbols. However I can tell you that the words you mentioned are pronounced slightly differently based on dialect. Personally I speak with one distinct vowel sound in door and core, and another in caught, cot, and dog (and I think also car, but it's hard to get that one straight in my head). But there are definitely two distinct vowel sounds for me, here.
    – WendiKidd
    May 6, 2013 at 17:20
  • And I (who am from Alabama) pronounce caught and dog with the same vowel, /ɔ/; core and coat with a diphthong, /oʊ/; and cot and body with the same /ɑ/ I use in car. May 6, 2013 at 21:01
  • I would note (original from Florida and now in Wisconsin) that this /a/ usage is incredibly slight so much that I had to really try hard to notice any difference (and I have almost no accent). /a/,specially when appearing with an /r/, is more of a dialectical/accent feature that varies by region, with some uses being very characteristic of certain regions. Bostonians, for instance, might pronounce "card" much like "cad". For me, words like "dog" have the vowel sound somehow falling, while "caught" has the vowel sound rising. Either way it is extremely slight.
    – BrianH
    May 6, 2013 at 21:44

1 Answer 1


You can use /ɑ/ for /ɔ/ when it's not before an 'r', and /or/ for /ɔr/.

Very few Americans who don't live in St. Louis pronounce core and car (or cord and card) the same (and you definitely should not learn to speak English with a St. Louis accent; you risk being misunderstood). But many Americans pronounce core with a vowel closer to the IPA /o/ than to /ɔ/. And the majority of Americans on the West Coast (and many farther east) merge /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ when they're not before an 'r'.

  • 2
    In St Louis, where I now live, /ɑr/ for /ɔr/ is the "signature" of the dialect. The main east-west throughway is Highway Farty-Far. May 6, 2013 at 23:30

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