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Quoting Tristan <[log in to unmask]>:

> 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).

Dialects that have undergone the Northern Cities Shift (generally
any large city from Boston on west to Chicago) tend to do this.  In
'real' Chicago accents that I often hear, /&/ is more like [E&] or
[e&], though sometimes [I@] as you say.

In the south and west, an entirely different phenomenon of prenasal
raising of /&/ means 'man' sounds similar to Northern 'men'.

> (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 [2] or [8].)

Tangent: one problem with Americans trying to learn French
or German in the past is that textbooks, published in the UK,
would explain the mid front rounded vowels in those two languages
by reference to the pronunciation of English <er>. Naturally,
since most Americans speak rhotic dialects, this is entirely
misleading and would only confuse speakers of French and
German.

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Thomas Wier            "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
University of Chicago   half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of
1010 E. 59th Street     Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter.
Chicago, IL 60637