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I’m someone who speaks what I would describe as “a conservative American accent”. I sound like General American from a couple decades ago. I distinguish between the vowels in Mary, marry, and merry, as well as baht, bot, and bought. If the Mid-Atlantic Accent makes a distinction, chances are I do too.

However, every American English pronunciation dictionary I can find doesn’t also make these distinctions, so they’re useless to me.

Is there an American English pronouncing dictionary online that preserves the distinction between father–bother, cot–caught, and Mary–marry–merry?

I’ll show what I’ve found so far and where they fail to meet my use case. The tests are:

  1. It should not have a Mary–marry–merry merger, but instead distinguish between all three.

  2. It should not have a father–bother or cot–caught merger.

  3. It should pronounce words like “bath”, “tomato”, and “vitamin” the American way (/bæθ/ /təˈmeɪtoʊ/ /ˈvaɪtəmɪn/) instead of the British way (/bɑːθ/ /təmɑːtəʊ/ /ˈvɪtəmɪn/).

Carnegie-Mellon University

MARRY M EH1 R IY0
MARY M EH1 R IY0
MERRY M EH1 R IY0
Fail — 3-way merger

BAHT B AA1 T
BOT (not found)
NOT N AA1 T
BOUGHT B AA1 T
Fail — 3-way merger

AmEPD v0.2

MARRY M EH1 R IY0
MARY M EH1 R IY0
MERRY M EH1 R IY0
Fail — 3-way merger

BAHT B AA1 T
BOT B AO1 T
BOUGHT B AO1 T
Fail — cot–caught merger

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

marry ˈmer-ē, ˈma-rē
Mary ˈmer-ē, ˈma-rē, ˈmā-rē
mer​ry ˈmer-ē, ˈme-rē
Fail — 3-way merger

baht ˈbät
bot ˈbät
bought ˈbȯt
Fail — father–bother merger

Read Lexicon

The only one without either merger that I could find was the Read Lexicon, a word list for the Shavian alphabet, which is a writing system that distinguishes between all those and then some, but it defaults to British pronunciations in words like “tomato” and “vitamin”.

marry 𐑥𐑨𐑮𐑦 ˈmæri
mary 𐑥𐑺𐑦 ˈmeəri
merry 𐑥𐑧𐑮𐑦 ˈmeri
Pass

baht (only found as “bt”)
↪bt 𐑚𐑭𐑑 bɑːt
bot 𐑚𐑪𐑑 bɒt
bought 𐑚𐑷𐑑 bɔːt
Pass

bath 𐑚𐑨𐑔 bÆθ
bath 𐑚𐑭𐑔 bⱭːθ
Trap–bath split is easily filterable due to its use of uppercase IPA letters

tomato 𐑑𐑩𐑥𐑭𐑑𐑴 təˈmɑːtəʊ (only)
vitamin 𐑝𐑦𐑑𐑩𐑥𐑦𐑯 ˈvɪtəmɪn (only)
Other words are British-only

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  • 4
    I vote for reopening this question: The request for a specialised ressource is perfectly on-topic here. Jul 12, 2023 at 15:28
  • 1
    In typical/traditional Mid-Atlantic accent, BATH is either PALM/START or an intermediate sound near [äː], not TRAP.
    – Nardog
    Jul 13, 2023 at 1:27
  • Does "mid-Atlantic" here mean "like they talk in Philadelphia and Baltimore" or "like early-twentieth-century film actors talked"? Aug 8, 2023 at 19:28

2 Answers 2

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The American Heritage Dictionary has:

  • Mary: mâr′ē
  • marry: măr′ē
  • merry: mĕr′ē
  • baht: bät
  • bot: bŏt
  • bought: bôt
  • bath: băth, bäth
  • tomato: tə-mā′tō, -mä′-
  • vitamin: vī′tə-mĭn
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Kenyon and Knott's Pronouncing dictionary preserves distinctions, but doesn't label them. It gives 4 transcriptions of "Mary" (mɛrɪ, mɛ:rɪ, merɪ, mærɪ), one for "marry" (mærɪ} and one for "merry" (mɛrɪ). It does not list "baht" but does distinguish "bot" (bɑt) from "bought" (bɔt), though doesn't indicate that merger exists in some dialects (meaning that it is not a complete listing of all pronunciations, relevant to understanding their 4 variants of "Mary" and their 1 variant of "merry, marry").

The problem with "Mid Atlantic Accent" is that it's an extinct theatrical dialect, but there is a book "Speak with distinction" which probably provides the standards set by the author (Edith Skinner).

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