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coleopterist

Pronunciation of 'aunt' in the US

I was under the impression that all Americans pronounced aunt like the insect, ant (/ænt/), or relatively similar sounding variants such as the southern aint (/eɪnt/). According to both Webster and ODO, some Americans pronounce it as ah-nt (/änt/, /ɑnt/, or /ɔnt/) which is pretty close to the British ah-nt (/ɑ(:)nt/). Webster offers a similar alternative for the contraction, can't. Who are these Americans who favour the British pronunciation?

9 answers answer to the question Pronunciation of 'aunt' in the US

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ipso updated 2 January 2013
The Northeast. This US dialect splatter chart shows that just over 75% of Americans pronounce aunt and ant (the bug) the same. It’s broken down further, but the ~ohnt pronunciation is primarily from the Northeast.
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aszekely updated 2 January 2013
I've found two groups of people who pronounce aunt that way. First, many New Englanders (people from the Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) do so. Also, many African-Americans from the East Coast also pronounce aunt that way, whether or not they are from New England.
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RainDoctor updated 2 January 2013
This may not be the answer; however, I just wanted to add this. I have always thought why the digraph <au> in aunt has a TRAP vowel variant, whereas the same digraph receives LOT/THOUGHT vowels in other set of words. After reading Christopher Upward's The History of English Spelling, I have found an answer. Spelling change and pronunciation change <aun> > <an> aunswar > answer haunde > hand daunce > dance braunche > branch avauntage > advantage <an> > <aun> hanch > haunch vant > vaunt No spelling change, but variant pronunciations aunt Variant spellings gauntlet vs gantlet staunch vs stanch gauntry vs gantry
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Danny hall updated 21 December 2013
It's a matter how you treat diphthongs in your vernacular. I'm from Virginia and on average we say the AU not the AN for pronouncing our uncles wife. The same can be said for daughter, which is Dawter, not Dwater or Dotter.
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DMH updated 16 June 2014
why is there not any reference to where it first originated. How do the British pronounce AUnt (ont) or the sound from taunt. Funny that we put a letter in front of aunt and we have no problem saying the longer pronunciation. Mind you I am from east coast Canada. Forgive me for not writing each word twice.... I spell colour, favour, and neighbour with the 'U'. But then I favour 'FOR' over fer and 'TO' over ta as well. Since I've moved to the west we have been ridiculed for our speech (not that much), mostly AUnt.
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JoAnn Kunkle updated 17 July 2014
I was just discussing this with a friend of mine who is black. She was brought up in New York City, her mother and father were from Mississippi. Her mother's family lived east of New Orleans and have gone back in their family history about four generations to an ancestor who was a slave from Martinique. All of those family members spoke French. The family also has white blood and Indian blood. Her maternal grandmother spoke French and English and her mother refused to speak French. My friend was musing over some ladies who lived on either side of their home in NY City who were not related but were called aunts. On one side was the English pronunciation like taunt and on the other side was the ant pronunciation and she wasn't sure why there was that difference. She uses the taunt pronunciation and she feels most black people that she knows says aunt this way. The word tante when pronounced correctly is like taun. Maybe the t was lost but the au sound stayed.
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Meade updated 10 November 2014
"Ant" is actually how Northerners say it. In the Southern USA - especially in Virginia and The Carolinas, it is pronounced the proper way : AW-NT "AW-NT" is Southern, not Northern. "Ant" is Yankee.
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Adam updated 16 December 2014
I am from Connecticut originally and moved to the Midwest. I grew up with it as "on"t. I always thought "ant" was a mispronunciation. After moving, all people I've encountered said, "ant". Upon research, I found out that Eastern VA and the North east (particularly New England) say "on"t whereas the rest of the country "ant" is standard. Both are considered correct. I never knew about "can't" however. Even in "puritan" CT we pronounced it like ant. Of course aunt has another vowel and can't doesn't which is the cause, I believe. And while it's almost unheard of now, I enjoyed shan't. Again, pronounced like ant.
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Joe updated 8 April
I'm from Vermont. My family pronounces aunt like "arnt" identical to "aren't".
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