Cot-Caught Distinction

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The vowels /ɑäahɑäahɑäah/ and /ɔôawɔôawɔôaw/ are different phonemes and are, therefore, contrastive in English in many dialects. 



not/knot naught
mod Maude
pod pawed
rot wrought
knotty naughty
hottie haughty
sod sawed
la law
Nah gnaw
brot brought

However, this contrast (often referred to as the Cot-Caught Distinction) is not present in all dialects. in some cases the vowels have merged altogether. In parts of the west, like Utah, the words in the table would be pronounced (and cued) with /ɑäahɑäahɑäah/. In parts of Canada and New England, the vowels haven't merged entirely. However, many of the words in the left column (e.g., sod, pod, knotty) would be pronounced identically to their counterparts on the left.