The diphthong /aʊ/ doesn't really make sense to me as a transcription. I'm a Southern British English speaker, and when I say and hear 'how' it sounds to me like /hæɒw/.

/a/ doesn't seem to exist as a monophthong on it's own in English, but I imagine that this sound is pronounced like a short version of /ɑː/ as in 'father', because that's the first vowel sound in the diphthong /aɪ/. And /ʊ/ is the vowel sound in 'book'. If I put those two sounds together (short father and book) when I say "how", it sounds like a Belfast "haoo" - it doesn't sound anything like my British pronunciation.

Why does /aʊ/ transcribe the sound in 'how'?

  • What does the PRICE vowel sound to you? Do you find /aɪ/ accurate?
    – Nardog
    Feb 13, 2019 at 13:49
  • 3
    Similar: Why is the “long i” sound in English written /aɪ/? In phonetic transcription, [a] indicates a vowel that isn't as far back as [ɑ]. Feb 13, 2019 at 14:01
  • 1
    Can you describe more about your accent? If short /ɑ/ doesn't exist for you, I assume that means you have "aunt" as /ɑːnt/ like RP rather than /ɑnt/ like many other southern accents, but then how do you pronounce "amber"?
    – abarnert
    Feb 13, 2019 at 21:06
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    For the record, it's truly your pronunciation what is misleading you. I pronounce [aʊ]. Feb 14, 2019 at 10:48
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    I guess the problem is that there is no 'default' pronunciation defined for English (unlike in some other languages like German or French), there are just regional pronunciations, and general ideas about how 'good English' is supposed to sound (based on specific regional pronunciations). As to 'how' being pronounced /haʊ/, I learned that in my first year of English in secondary school, so I'd say it's at the very least 'a valid' pronunciation. (In the meantime, I have lived in Dublin, Ireland, for almost 8 years, which coloured my pronunciation quite a lot.)
    – dumetrulo
    Feb 18, 2019 at 8:29


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