The vowels in 'book' and 'good' are both represented by an inverted omega in the international phonetic alphabet (ʊ), according to the OED. Can it not express their difference? 'Isaac Pitman's Shorthand Instructor' uses the sentence 'That book is not much good' to show the six short vowels in English. Maybe he presupposes a different pronunciation of 'book', but how is that represented in the IPA? The symbols used by the Pitman book are ĕ (book) and ŏŏ (good).

  • 1
    If you're asking about the phonemes then they're probably the same in most accents. If you're asking about the phonetics then there will be IPA modifiers. I'm not good at phonetics but I would guess the vowel in book is rounded.
    – curiousdannii
    May 18 '17 at 8:04
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    Check your source. On page 18 of the copy of a 1901 edition of the Instructor on Google Books the sentence is That pen is not much good; pen does employ 'short' e and this sentence does employ the six English 'short' vowels. Moreover, Google Books reports no instance of That book is not much good in its corpus. May 18 '17 at 10:34
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it appears to rest on a typo or transcription error. May 18 '17 at 10:38
  • @StoneyB, you're right, sorry, I copied it wrong and didn't check again.
    – Toothrot
    May 18 '17 at 14:04
  • However, there is a difference in some dialects, so it is a valid question, even if one citation is not May 18 '17 at 20:16

Some people pronounce book and good the same, so there is no reason to differentiate them. Other pronunciations vary minorly, and can be created in International Phonetic Alphabet by usage of diacritics. Some people pronounce book like ʊ̜, which is the inverted omega you mentioned earlier plus a less rounded/unrounded diacritic (probably doesn't show up well). That sound is fairly rare. So, yes, IPA can express the difference in accents where it exists, but not well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near-close_near-back_unrounded_vowel gives you other possible characters for the sound.

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