Cheiromancer wrote:I have a special difficulty in that the first vowel in "father" sounds to me exactly like the vowel in "caught". At least when I say it. I suppose that the latter is supposed to be farther back-I can get a different vowel if I open my mouth wide, tilt my head back and say "caw" - like what a crow says. But this sound, I thought, was omega.
Would I be correct in assuming you're an American like me, then? This particular issue has a name: the cot-caught merger. It's one of the distinguishing characteristics of North American English, right up there with the voicing of 't' between vowels (making "latter" and "ladder" homophones) and rhoticism (the tendency to give an 'r' at the end of a word or syllable its full enunciation). I think something very similar is currently happening within American English itself, with "dawn" and "don" becoming homophones in certain regions of the U.S. A crow's caw is actually a pretty good approximation of the vowel in British "caught" (and thus the Greek omicron) as distinct from the 'a' in "father" (and thus the Greek long 'α').
Omega is just a slightly more open version of the 'o' in English "bone." Hence, one might tabulate these three vowels like this:
ο = 'aw' as in 'law' (assuming a dialect of Am. Eng. where the don-dawn merger hasn't taken root)
ᾱ = 'a' as in "father"
ω = 'o' as in "bone"
In an effort to simplify things, I've tentatively committed to a single sound for those letters or diphthongs to which I'd previously assigned two alternatives. Hence:
ει = /e:/
ηι = /ei/
ευ = /eu/
ηυ = /e:u/
I'm still not sure what to do with long vs. short alpha. My own ears would swear it's this way:
α = /ʌ/
ᾱ = /a/
But the standard pedagogy seems to say something more like this:
ᾱ = /a:/
Then again, the apparent /ʌ/ sound of unstressed /a/ might be phonetic rather than phonemic (i.e. /ʌ/ may just be an allophone of what is essentially /a/). That is to say, they may be considered the same sound within the language in question even though how the sound actually comes out varies according to stress and context.
EDIT: I may have found the solution to the long/short alpha issue:
α = /a/
ᾱ = /ɑ/
Also, I found a very useful resource for those of you who are interested but don't know what some of the more unusual phonetic symbols mean: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPA_vowels_chart_with_audio