On Wed, 2003-07-02 at 21:40, Christophe Grandsire wrote: > I don't think the number of vowels is the problem. The problem is more the > quality of those vowels. Not that native speakers agree on the quality of them. /&/ may be anything from half-way between [e] and [E] to [a] (in my experience---I've heard tell of American dialects that make it [I@], but never heard them). ((When languages split up, is the first thing to diverge generally pronunciation, or is that just a feature of the English being first a written language and only secondarily a spoken one? (Of course, there are exceptions, with individual words and such, but grammatically the dialects don't seem to me to be very much different.))) > For instance, for French people /&/ (that's > supposed to be the ae-ligature) and /V/ are very difficult to recognise (it > took me years to recognise them). /I/ and /U/ are also problematic (it took > me more than ten years to realise /I/ was different from /i/ - until then I > wondered why English dictionaries used this symbol in their phonetic > descriptions -, and I still don't know which words have /u/ and which words > have /U/ - is "book" /buk/ or /bUk/ for instance? I still don't know! -). It's /U/. (As is book, hook, sook, nook, chook (chicken), look, foot and hood.) I think as a generalisation, if it's in a syllable closed by /k/, /g/ and sometimes /t/ and /d/, it's probably going to be /U/. This rule does not apply when there's a /j/ (or former /j/ that was lost regularly) before it, though. (So it does apply in 'sugar' /SUg@(r)/, where the /j/ was lost irregularly, but does not apply in 'suit' /s(j)u:t/, where the /j/ has often been lost regularly).) Unfortunately, that's one that can't be reliable, because there are people who use the short/lax vowel in room, roof, whereas I don't... And exceptions, such as 'spook', will always be around to defy me. (To me, the American/British value of the vowel in 'book' often sounds like [Y], but I've been assured that Americans do say [U], which leads me to suspect that I probably say [u]. Some British pronunciations sound more like  or .) -- Tristan.