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On Thu, 14 Feb 2013 00:05:14 -0500, Amanda Babcock Furrow <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>[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 :)

Oy vey, the state of linguistics education, even teachers aren't aware that there _is_ dialectal variation on these points, oy vey.  

>Come to think of it, which vowel *is* in ostrich, cot or
>caught?

My rule of thumb, as a fellow single low back vowel haver, is that spellings with O have the "cot" vowel (something like /A/) and spellings with A have the "caught" vowel (something like /O/).  Cue eleventy people pointing out exceptions, or systems incompatible with this...

Alex