How to Pronounce the AH /ɑ/ Vowel

Jun 10, 2020

How to Pronounce the AH /ɑ/ Vowel

6/10/2020

Improve your American Accent! Learn how to pronounce the American English vowel AH /ɑ/, like in "father" - and learn how this vowel has replaced the AW /ɔ/ vowel!

 

(Video Transcript)

 

The AH /ɑ/ vowel is in the words father, hot, and mop. AH. The first thing you should notice when I say this vowel is the amount of jaw opening that occurs. AH. The jaw opens quite a bit. The tongue is low in the mouth, the tongue tip rests behind the bottom front teeth, and the back of the tongue pushes down. You should feel some tension in the back of the tongue as it pushes down. AH. The lips are relaxed. 

 

The AH /ɑ/ vs. AW /ɔ/ vowel

In some areas of the United States, the AH vowel has replaced the AW /ɔ/ vowel when AW occurs as a pure vowel. This happens in words like law and talk. Some areas of the United States pronounce these words using the AW /ɔ/ vowel. But I do not use the AW vowel in its pure form - I use the AH vowel instead (I’m from California), and that is the vowel I teach my accent clients. I pronounce the words law /lɑ/ and talk /tɑk/ with the same AH vowel as hot /hɑt/ and doll /dɑl/.

 

Stressed AH /ɑ/

Here’s what the AH vowel looks like in the word hot. The jaw drops low for the AH vowel, and the tongue is also low in the mouth. The tongue tip is behind the bottom front teeth, and the back of the tongue pushes down, which creates some tension in the back of the tongue. 

 

When AH is in a stressed syllable, like in the word hot, the pitch of the voice glides up and then down. AH. Hot. But when AH is in an unstressed syllable, the pitch of the voice is lower and flatter, and the vowel is said faster. AH. This is common in American English. Unstressed syllables are said faster and with a lower pitch and volume compared to stressed syllables. 

 

Unstressed AH /ɑ/

Here’s what the AH vowel looks like in an unstressed syllable, like in the word October.

 

Notice how the jaw drops less for the unstressed AH vowel. The tongue is also less tense in the unstressed AH, though that is difficult to fully appreciate in this still image. Tongue comes up for the T sound, lips round for the OH diphthong, then close for the B, and the tongue pulls back for the final ER sound.

 

Stressed AH vs. Unstressed AH

Here is a comparison of the stressed AH and the unstressed AH vowels. On the left is the stressed AH in hot, and on the right is the unstressed AH in October. Notice the difference in jaw opening and tongue placement. The unstressed AH has less jaw opening and there is less muscular tension than the stressed AH in hot.

 

Stressed AH. Hot. Unstressed AH. October.

 

Practice words and sentences

Here are some practice words and sentences:

 

Dollar. AH. Dollar.

It only cost one dollar!



Copy. AH. Copy.

Make a copy before you mail it.



Problem. AH. Problem.

She solved the problem.

 

Off. AH. Off.

Turn the faucet off.



Audition. AH. Audition.

He nailed the audition!



Gone. AH. Gone.

Within minutes, the brownies were gone.



Thanks so much for watching! And let me know how I can help you with pronouncing the AH vowel!