I was just wondering what words have the father vowel /ɑː/ in accents without the father-bother merger or the trap-bath split. My own accent (Australian English) has the trap-bath split so I can't tell if words with the /ɑː/ vowel have come from the trap-bath split or were originally pronounced like that.

  • 1
    this doesn't quite constitute an answer, but you may be interested in looking at the concept of lexical sets. The first vowel in father is in the PALM set, whilst low back vowels arising from the TRAP-BATH split are in the BATH set. If you can find a list of words by lexical set it will give you what you need. Alternatively if you can find a wordlist with both British and General American pronunciations, words with /ɑ(:)/ in both are in the PALM set, whilst those with /ɑ(:)/ in British but not American English are in either the BATH or START sets: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_set
    – Tristan
    Nov 22, 2022 at 9:41
  • to add, BATH & START can be distinguished in that START always has an <r> following the vowel
    – Tristan
    Nov 22, 2022 at 9:41

1 Answer 1


My "modernized" Boston accent keeps the broad a sound as a separate phoneme while having lost the Trap-Bath distinction. In adddition to nearly all clearly marked loan words(shAH, LAs Vegas, pAsta), interjections(huzzah, blah blah blah, tah-dah), and onomatopoeia(mwah, baah), I have the sound in:

  • Balm
  • Calm
  • Palm
  • Qualm
  • Alm
  • Psalm
  • Father
  • Aunt
  • Spa
  • Crappie(the fish)
  • Fa la(the musical interval)

For an accent with a palm-lot merger or full palm-lot-cloth-thought merger, there is a far broader range of words which can have the sound. Think any word spelled with a, au, o, or ou you don't say with the vowel of bad, lad, strut, foot, goose, or goat + the aforementioned words with the exception of aunt. Few accents have the equivalent of that pre-r, but there are a handful of accents in Ireland and the US that do.

  • I’m a reviewer for the site. This is an excellent answer, specific, compelling and informative. This might sound like a lot to ask, but if you wanted to try to provide short audio examples, probably from WikiCommons, I think it could make the answer even more informative for a passerby. Would be awesome if you’d consider it. Thank you.
    – Julius H.
    Dec 2, 2022 at 9:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.