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Muke Tever wrote:

(snip good and useful replies to Mr. Johnson's questions)
>> whats the difference between [a] and [A]? I've heard that [a] is the
vowel
>> in "father" while [A] is the vowel in "ought", but I think I pronounce
>> these vowels the same way. Is this because "father" and "ought" use the
>> same vowel in some dialects of English but not in others? Or is it just
>> that the difference is very subtle? or what?

>[A] is a back vowel, [a] is a front one.  [a] is not in General American
English, tho [A] is. Not everyone makes a distinction between the first
vowel in
'father' and the one in 'ought', but IIRC the first is [A] and the second
one is
[O].>

Right on the last point.  But I seem to have learned a different brand of
phonetics back in the 60s, where [a] was the low _central_ vowel of 'father'
etc. as well as  RP 'cup'.  IPA "inverted a" (or is it "script a"?) was low
back unrounded, IIRC, XSampa [A], and according to my teacher only found
dialectally in the US......Ah well, 40 years ago.......

The front vowels from high to low were: i I e E &. Period.  There was a
low-ish frontish vowel, but retracted from [&] position-- "a with a heavy
dot on the upper left curve" --which represented "Boston a" as in 'park,
car, Harvard' etc.-- still to be heard from the mouth of Senator E. Kennedy
and in old recordings of JFK and RFK. (A ghastly sound, IMHO, despite my
admiration for JFK). That was a special symbol which I believe has been
discontinued. So maybe "[a]" has taken over that spot?? But then, what is
the low central vowel?

>[a] is the 'a' in Spanish.
Sorry, this is unclear.  To me, the "vowel in Spanish" [sp&nIS] is the same
vowel as 'cat'.  Or did you mean "the vowel _of_ Spanish" e.g. _la, casa,
madre_ etc???? That would be my interpretation.  [a] is also French a
(madame, ša, Chirac, etc.) as far as I know.
Aargh. Sampa, schmampa.