91: iPad/iPod, the world's newest /æ,ɑ/ (short a/short o) minimal pair

Even some native speakers of English are worried about the similar pronunciation of the newest Apple product. Comparing pronunciation of the iPad to the older iPod.


Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 91st podcast.

I've mentioned a few times that Pronuncian is now on Twitter, and many of you have become followers and now get an instant update when new content is added to the website, or a podcast is published, or a video is added to our YouTube channel.

I was hesitant to put Pronuncian on Twitter because I really didn't think another distraction would help me to create content. This week, however, I had a fun surprise discovery about a bit of popular culture I would have otherwise disregarded. I was looking through varius Twitter feeds that mention the word "pronunciation." Among them I found a large number of people commenting that in certain dialects of English, Apple's newest gadget, the iPad, sounds nearly identical to their other popular gadget, the iPod, iPad/iPod.

When I first heard of the iPad this week, I didn't immediately think, "Wow, Steve Jobs just invented a new minimal pair," but he did. Minimal pairs are two words that are identical except for one sound. The words iPad and iPod are identical except that iPad is pronounced with a short a, and iPod is pronounced with a short o.

What a perfect time, I thought, for a little short a/short o review podcast!

The short a sounds like (short a) and is the vowel sound in the word cat. It's pronounced with a slightly lowered jaw. The body of the tongue is pressed forward and the front of tongue is low and pressed lightly into the bottom front teeth. The lips are relaxed. Listen carefully:

(short a)

To transition into the short o sound, the jaw opens and the body of the tongue moves back and drops low into the bottom teeth. The lips are more rounded than for the short a sound, but still relaxed. Listen carefully:

(short o)

Listen to both sounds side-by-side. I'll say the short a, then the short o (short a, short o) again (short a, short o)

Let's practice some short a/short o minimal pairs. I'll say the word with the short a first, then the short o. Please, repeat after me:

hat, hot
tap, top
lack, lock
battle, bottle
pack, pock
iPad, iPod

The new Pronuncian.com short a and short o lessons give you details about the pronunciation and spelling of the sounds of English, so if you want to know more about the short a and short o, that's that place to look. You can also find free minimal pair practice for the short a and short o from either page's sound drills. I'll link to the short a and long o lessons and drills from this show's transcripts. You can find those at www.pronuncian.com/podcast. Transcrips, lessons, and drills are all part of Pronuncian's free content. If you want additional videos, quizzes, and listening exercises, you'll need a Pronuncian subscription. You can sign up for your subscription at www.pronuncian.com/join.

Don't forget, if you want to be notified whenever we add another new spelling and pronunciation lesson, follow us on Twitter. We are username Pronuncian, p-r-o-n-u-n-c-i-a-n.

That's all for today everyone. Thanks for listening.

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