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That's right, Mary and air have different vowels.  Not terribly 
different, but I can hear them.  The vowel in Harry, Mary, and marry is, 
I believe, the same vowel as in cat.

OSTRICH and COT are the same vowel for me, too, which is different than 
the one in CAUGHT.


On 02/14/2013 12:05 AM, Amanda Babcock Furrow wrote:
> This discussion has been fascinating to cot/caught-merged
> (Pittsburgh-born[1]) me, not least because I've finally realized
> that it's *caught* and not *cot* which is the back-rounded
> one!  I never would have guessed.
>
> On Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 07:27:51PM -0500, Tony Harris wrote:
>
>> Actually "Harry" and "hairy" sound different to me too, with the
>> first having the same vowel as "Mary" and "marry", and the second
>> having the same vowel as "hair" (which rhymes with "air" and
>> "fair").
> ...do I read you right here, Tony, that "Mary" actually does
> not have the same vowel as "air" for you?  I could never have
> imagined that being the case for anyone.
>
> tylakhlp'f,
> Amanda
>
> [1] We had phonics in second grade.  I loved it, except for
> the perplexing nonsense about there being different vowels
> in OSTRICH and whatever other word they used to exemplify
> the other vowel.  I don't recall the teacher being able to
> explain that one to us :)
>
> Come to think of it, which vowel *is* in ostrich, cot or
> caught?