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On 10/25/06, David J. Peterson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> This phenomenon is known as the near merger: sounds that
> almost merge, but which, technically, remain distinct.
[snip snip]
> the idea is that these are cases where a native speaker
> can't tell the difference, but they *produce* the difference,
> consistently.

That reminds me of something I recently read in Wikipedia, on the
pronunciation of |th|, which suggested that those who front(?) the
sound to [f] or [v] don't merge it completely since people still know
which sound a given word "should" have even if they (think they)
pronounce them identically.

Wonder whether that's the same effect.
-- 
Philip Newton <[log in to unmask]>