Pronunciation: ang & ank

According to Standard North American English pronunciation, how do you pronounce "hang", "thank", and "bank"?

  • Long A, all the way.
  • short a
  • It depends on how drunk you are

0 voters

This issue has had me vexed for the past little while and I’d like some feedback from other native speakers.

At my current school we teach the kids how to write the KK for new vocabulary words. As I understand it, my speech is fairly close to what you would call standard North American. But recently I’ve been confounded by the listing in the Merriam Webster dictionary and the dictionary at dictionary.com

To my ear, standard pronunciation of the words “thank”, “hang”, and “bank” would all use the long “a” sound for the vowel. But the dictionaries all list it as a short “a”. Even in an IPA dictionary I get the same thing. Now, I can understand KK having this sort of thing, but IPA is supposed to be a phonetic transcription of how things are said, written phoneme by phoneme.

So, shouldn’t it be /hA[ng]/ not /ha[ng]/? (using Webster’s ASCII spelling conventions). I know Harry Potter says it with a short “a” sound, but isn’t the long “a” sound standard for North America? How do you say it?

And while we’re at it, wouldn’t “handkerchief” be pronounced with a long “a”? What about “clothes”? Is it proper/standard pronunciation to omit the /th/ sound? I know we frequently omit it in fast speech, but wouldn’t /klo[th]z/ be preferable to /kloz/?

I know it will be said different in different English language communities, but I’m specifically seeking confirmation of standard North American. I’m confident in my pronunciation, but then maybe I am influenced overly much by where I’ve lived.

I’m from New England and for me the ‘a’ in ‘ang’ and ‘ank’ is short.

To me, “thank” and the like have a long “a”. Even “bag”, for me, has a long “a”. There’s a slight “y” diphtong involved there though. Degrees may differ. Not the same as “hat”, “bat”, “cat”, “dab”, “tap”, etc. wich have short “a”. For me.

“Clothes” to me is /cloz/. The exact same pronunciation as “close”.

[quote=“puiwaihin”]
To my ear, standard pronunciation of the words “thank”, “hang”, and “bank” would all use the long “a” sound for the vowel. But the dictionaries all list it as a short “a”. Even in an IPA dictionary I get the same thing. Now, I can understand KK having this sort of thing, but IPA is supposed to be a phonetic transcription of how things are said, written phoneme by phoneme.

So, shouldn’t it be /hA[ng]/ not /ha[ng]/? (using Webster’s ASCII spelling conventions). I know Harry Potter says it with a short “a” sound, but isn’t the long “a” sound standard for North America? How do you say it?

And while we’re at it, wouldn’t “handkerchief” be pronounced with a long “a”?[/quote]

I’m a pretty sketchy with phonetics, so please bear with me. It is my understanding that the short “a” has a few allophones (I don’t know how many). This is something that I would guess most introductory phonetics books describe—but I’ve never read a book devoted to phonetics, so I don’t know.

For instance, the short “a” in “happy” is oral (velum touches back of throat, all air passes through mouth), the long “a” in “hate” is nasal (some air passes through the nose), while the short “a” in /ang/ is “nasal colored”.

To pronounce the /ng/ sound, the back of the tongue touches the velum. When most North Americans pronounce /ang/, they pull the velum a little bit away from the back of the throat to pronounce the /a/. Thus, the short “a” in this instance becomes nasal.

Personally, my pronunciation is noticeably nasal, but not to the same degree as my long “a.” This will vary by speaker, but I think that North Americans that pronounce a purely oral /ang/ are not speaking the standard pronunciation.

I abstain from voting because I would choose an option like “short ‘a’ that is nasal like long ‘a’.”

[quote=“puiwaihin”]
At my current school we teach the kids how to write the KK for new vocabulary words.[/quote]
Pardon my ignorance, but what is KK?

Here’s the KK symbols and some cool animations:
uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetic … meset.html

They are phonetic symbols used here in Taiwan.

Also, I don’t even know how to say bank, hang, etc. with the short a sound (I tried).

I say “hang,” “bank,” and “thank” with the long /a/ sound.

For me, “clothes” sounds almost like “close,” but is a little different. If you teach kids to say “close,” the sound just doesn’t come out quite right–it will be too open. When I say it, I lightly touch the tip of my tongue against the top of my mouth (the part right before the soft palate). It’s almost like my tongue is moving forward for the /th/ but gets lazy and stops behind the teeth instead.

Just my two cents.

in nyc, short a.

Yes, that is true. Thanks for bringing this point out. NYC has a distinctive accent. Southern accents, Bostonian, Chicagoan, and even NYC accents are not what you’d call standard North American accents. The standard pronunciation is what you would hear on a national news broadcast (as opposed to the local news which would use a prestige dialect from your region).

In some places you pronounce car /ka/ with no ending “r” sound. That is an example of non-standard pronunciation, but many people say it.

So, if you come from a place like New Jersey, NYC, the Deep South, Boston, you have to think about what most people from outside your area say. How would a leading newscaster (eg. Tom Brokaw) say it? That is what would be considered standard.

Everybody says some things in a non-standard way, and when teaching it helps to recognize that. That’s why I started this thread, to double check the standardness of my pronunciation in the face of disagreement from dictionaries.

I say short, but then I’m British. I would say many Americans pronounce this as a dipthong, i.e. consisting of two vowel sounds - an e plus that a-combined-with-an-e thing* (what’s it called?). That is what I would describe as a “whiny” American accent. OK, I admit, I am a bit prejudiced against whiny American accents.

*i.e. the first two vowel sounds in the following graphic:

p.s. KK sucks.

Thank, hang and bank are very nearly unpronouncable with a short a if you ask me.

I’m amazed that there are so many votes for “short A”. Are you people saying the word aloud before you vote? Say the word “hand” and then “hang”. If you voted short “a” I’d like to hear where you’re from to get an idea of what regions are influencing this.

I definitely say short a. I’m from Canada. I don’t say the short a quite as openly as I would in “hat” for example because I have to dive a bit deeper for the “nk” combo that follows the a. But it’s definitely the short a that I’m going for and it sounds a lot more like a short a than a long one. When I hear different regional American accents I can hear the dipthong sometimes but I still think it’s the short a they’re saying, just a bit accented. And as for ‘handkerchief’, well that’s a kerchief for the hand and hand is most certainly short a for me but again I know the dipthong is common for many American accents.

I voted for otion C

because of this:

Dude get to bed earlier and this won’t happen. :wink:

Thahnk you.

I have to go with the long a. Seems to me that those who defended the long a argument did so pretty well. I repeatedly tried to pronounce the three words with a short a, and I swear it sounded like Taiwanese to me.

I would probably say something like, “Do you mind if I heng my hat here while I go to the benk? Thenk you.” And then let them wonder where in the heck I’m from.

[quote=“Ramblin Rube”]I would probably say something like, “Do you mind if I heng my hat here while I go to the benk? Thenk you.” And then let them wonder where in the heck I’m from.[/quote]Sounds like the epitome of the NuZild ecksent to me.

[quote=“jdsmith”]I voted for otion C

because of this:

Dude get to bed earlier and this won’t happen. :wink:

Thahnk you.[/quote]
I went to bed around 1ish but couldn’t sleep. I was up every 30 minutes or so coughing with a really dry throat. :frowning:

As I see it, the “short - long” vowel system is an oversimplification used by phonics teachers. Phonics is quite a North American thing actually. In reality, the surrounding consonants can, and frequently do, modify the vowel sound. This is why KK, which is far more exacting than the system Websters uses, is so bloody complicated.

Compare: Can – Cane – Kahn (not Con)
Are they all “A” sounds? Which one is the short one?

Phonics is too simple, but children are simple, so it’s a good system to use teaching children. KK is powerful enough to describe any language in the world accurately (so they say), but its probably too powerful to be of much use to a student of just one language.

I would teach bank and hang as using the long A, but I wouldn’t use these words as good examples of a long A since they are somewhat “shortened” and also vary a lot with accent. For teaching phonics, I would stick with apple and cat.

[quote=“dearpeter”]As I see it, the “short - long” vowel system is an oversimplification used by phonics teachers. Phonics is quite a North American thing actually. In reality, the surrounding consonants can, and frequently do, modify the vowel sound. This is why KK, which is far more exacting than the system Websters uses, is so bloody complicated.

Compare: Can – Cane – Kahn (not Con)
Are they all “A” sounds? Which one is the short one?

Phonics is too simple, but children are simple, so it’s a good system to use teaching children. KK is powerful enough to describe any language in the world accurately (so they say), but its probably too powerful to be of much use to a student of just one language.

I would teach bank and hang as using the long A, but I wouldn’t use these words as good examples of a long A since they are somewhat “shortened” and also vary a lot with accent. For teaching phonics, I would stick with apple and cat.[/quote]

I really detest KK. It is supposed to be a simplified transcription system borrowed from IPA but it introduces a lot of error in transcription and has fossilized as an alternative spelling that often does not reflect standard pronunciation, but nonetheless must be taught because it will be on their tests in school. :fume: KK is not capable of transcribing every language in the world. It was simplified to only deal with English.

Phonics are certainly not an “American” thing, although the terms “short/long” may well be. Phonics is one of the keystones of linguistics. KK is supposed to be a phonetic script, but it fails to do the job.

I think we aren’t really disagreeing on anything, just the terminology is a bit off.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenyon_and_Knott
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internatio … c_Alphabet

[quote]
KK is powerful enough to describe any language in the world accurately (so they say)[/quote]
I keep getting corrected on this one lately. Live and learn. :wink: It is IPA that is so powerful I am told else where. But the Wikipedia link says the differences between IPA and KK are slight. Oh well. who cares, right?

About the other thing though, I think linguistics usually is discussed in terms of phonemes when words are broken down at all. Phonics is basically a spelling and learning-to-read system. Many students have successfully learned to read under teachers who refused to use phonics at all (not that I advocate this!).

And how about my Can - Kahn - Cane question w.r.t. phonics? What is Kahn if phonics only allows two basic sounds for each vowel?

And of course the original question seems to be unanswerable. The only question is whether or not a system more exacting than phonics is worth using or not. I personally bring many of the little inconsistencies of phonics and English spelling to the attention of my students and brush them off with a mighty “just because.”

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonics

I’m not dissing phonics. I believe in it strongly. And I hate KK too.

In fact, now that I really think about it, the A in apple is the same as the a in hang. But the one in hand is different. For regional data, my accent would be Nova Scotian, but people usually say that influences the o’s more than anything else.

Compare haing with hang. Hear any difference?

I got me a headache now.

Thank, hang and bank are very nearly unpronouncable with a short a if you ask me.[/quote]

Equally, I find it almost impossible to pronounce hang, bang and thank with a long a and I had no idea that some native speakers use a long a with these words. I obviously need to listen more carefully. Anyway, a good thread.