Truly Donovan ( writes:
> Seriously, folks, Americans don't really think Canadians pronounce
> "house" as "hoose" -- what we think is that some Canadians pronounce
> it pronouncedly differently from the way we pronounce it and it is in
> fact a sound that we can't reproduce (from not having learned it in the
> the cradle, I think).  It isn't "hoose" but it doesn't sound like my
> "house" sounds, either.  I think it is actually a nice sound and regret
> that I can't make it.
OK, I can't resist trying to make Truly an even happier woman, so here's -- as my students say -- the Cliff's for how to make it. Pronunciation is Midwestern American for the most part. I don't know how well it'll work for speakers of other dialect areas -- play along and see, I guess.

  1. The sound is /@w/, that is, a shwa (/@/) plus W (or U): a diphthong, which means it's a pair of vowels, a vector vowel with an origin and a terminus. There are normally three diphthongs in N.American English:

  2. Diphthongs are simple: you start with the first full vowel and then move your tongue in the direction of the second semivowel -- either up and to the front of the mouth with /y/ (which is the semivowel equivalent of /i/), or up and to the back of the mouth, while rounding your lips, with /w/ (the semivowel equivalent of /u/). It's OK if your tongue never gets all the way there; the gesture is the important thing.

    You can get to distinguish both parts quite well by listening carefully and observing your tongue movements (in a mirror if you're visually oriented and have tolerant roommates, or just in front of the screen here) while saying words with diphthongs in them. Like the ones above.

  3. OK, now an experiment. You probably will notice that the first vowel of the diphthong /ay/ in the words rice and rise isn't quite the same, though in some sense they do feel the same. Most Americans say them as /r@ys/ and /rayz/, respectively. Say the two words out loud together repeatedly and you can't miss the difference in the first vowel. This is an "allophonic" difference, an automatic pronunciation difference that's perceptible but predictable, and thus ignored. But it is noticed if it's produced by a different rule, as an "accent", as Truly describes above. If you notice this distinction, you've got the first part of the Canadian /@w/ diphthong straight.

  4. Next, after saying /@/ like the /@/ in rice /r@ys/, instead of moving your tongue towards an /i/, at your incisors, try making /w/ instead, the way you do in /aw/, as in house [the verb: /hawz/].

    Canadians say this word /hawz/ the same as Americans, by the way -- /hawz/, with a real /a/, and not /h@wz/, which sounds strange to almost everybody, Canadians included. In fact, Canadians and most Americans also swap off /@y/ and /ay/, as in /r@ys/ - /rayz/, according to a very simple and completely predictable rule. More examples of the rule are height/hide, ice/eyes, bright/bride, five/fife, tripe/tribe, for instance. There are thousands more pairs and the rule is very simple. I regularly assign college freshmen to figure it out and they have no trouble once they learn to pay attention to sounds.

  5. It turns out that the same rule that determines when N. American English speakers use /ay/ and when they use /@y/ also predicts when Canadian English speakers (and a fair number of speakers in the upper tier of US states, including lots of Michiganders) use /aw/ and when they use /@w/, that sound that Truly's talking about.

    There's a Web page devoted to "Canadian Raising", as it's called in the trade, which has sound clips you can download and play while you practice. The URL is

    Any American who figures out this rule, though, can fool other Americans into thinking them Canadian, which (like knowing all the words to Tom Lehrer's "The Elements"), may be useful someday, in a somewhat bizarre set of circumstances.

    (The answers are in every introductory Linguistics text -- it's a standard example.)

  - John Lawler       Linguistics Department and Residential College     University of Michigan

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