Pronunciations of "class" as found in Collins American English Dictionary

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The Collins American English Dictionary gives

class two pronunciations, presumably with respect to American English.

Does this mean American English speakers use both equally and that both are okay? (Btw, English is a second language for me.)

william007

Posted 2015-06-14T12:20:10.823

Reputation: 1 791

@pazzo I disagree; it seems to me that even if the practice here is peculiar to Collins, the larger question of How to use a dictionary is pretty central to language learning -- particularly since we accept Collins as an 'authority' and indeed require questioners to consult such an authority before they present their questions here. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-06-14T12:58:01.677

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To OP, for what it's worth, my opinion is that it's not equally likely in the sense that a person will sometimes use one pronunciation and sometimes the alternate one. Most people will pronounce a word (virtually) consistently, and that's part of what we think of as dialect. This topic is quite complex. (For one thing, I can't speak every dialect of my first language perfectly. I think not many people can, in any language.) For starters, check out the vowel chart on this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Phonetic_Alphabet_chart_for_English_dialects.

– Damkerng T. – 2015-06-14T13:06:10.660

Well I would retract my close vote, and the rationale behind it, would the question not be reedited to read Dictionary conventions when indicating alternate pronunciations, an edit of @TRomano that throws a good specific question to the wind of vagaries. – None – 2015-06-14T13:50:53.747

1@pazzo: I was editing the title to reflect what I saw to be the general question posed in the body of the post, taking "class" to be merely an example. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-06-14T14:07:34.063

The original question, title and body, asks only about "class," as far as I read it. @TR – None – 2015-06-14T14:44:48.073

@pazzo: Not unreasonable on your part. It depends on how one understands "does this mean" and "equally". – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-06-14T15:17:56.077

"Do American speakers use both pronunciations equally?" would suggest that the question is specifically about the word "class". "Does this mean…" suggests that the OP is interested the general question, and "class" is only an example. Either way, an answer should address the general question as well as the example, because we explain things on ELL. Closevoting a question over a fine point of wording, which a learner, being a learner, might not understand, when it doesn't affect the answer, is not helpful. – Ben Kovitz – 2015-06-14T21:42:27.497

Answers

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You should be aware that Collins is not an entirely reliable authority for American pronunciation.

I can't find any statement on the Collins site detailing their approach to phonetic representation, and there's a lot of wiggle room in 'broad' transcriptions representing phonology; but I think this particular representation is flat wrong.

In my experience, US pronunciation of class ranges from /klas/ through 'Standard' /klæs/ to a diphthongalized /klæᵻs/ (and even /klæjɪs/!); but /klɑs/ would occur only with speakers deliberately emulating British speech.

There are a lot of different realizations in AmE for the /æs/ collocation, which in practice will all be perceived as identical by any US speaker; but /klɑs/ will be perceived as 'foreign'.


Here's a review which corroborates this judgment.

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2015-06-14T12:20:10.823

Reputation: 176 469

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Could they be referring to certain Boston accent speakers? Wikipedia mentions the "broad a" being used by some in that region (on the pages Northeastern New England, Phonological history of English short A, and Boston accent, though with some "citations needed".)

– Dan Getz – 2015-06-14T20:50:16.540

@DanGetz The Boston 'broad a' is [a] where RP has [ɑ]. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-06-14T20:53:35.073

@StoneyB You mentioned Collin is not reliable authority for American pronunciation, may I know are there reliable sources I can refer to? As I am not a native speaker, I can't distinguish them. – william007 – 2015-06-15T08:31:54.667