Today on Jeopardy there was a category on homophones, words that sound alike, but have different meanings.
Hereâ€™s the clue that threw me:
a homophone that can mean either a high-ranking member of a Mafia family, or the rising of the sun.
No wonder I missed that one. In the dialect of standard English that I speak, the words don and dawn are NOT homophones.
The Oxford English Dictionary gives the pronunciation of don as /dÉ’n/.
The International Phonetic Alphabet symbol /É’/ represents the vowel sound heard in lot, pod, and John.
The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary agrees with the OED pronunciation, but uses the symbol \ Ã¤ \ to represent this vowel sound.
The OED gives only one pronunciation for dawn: /dÉ”Ën/. The IPA symbol /É”Ë/ represents the sound heard in thought, Maud, fall, straw, and yes, dawn.
The Merriam-Webster Unabridged gives a pronunciation that agrees with that of the the OED, but uses the symbol of an o with a dot over it to represent the “aw” sound. I can’t get it to print in WordPress. M-W includes the regional \ Ã¤ \ sound as a second pronunciation.
I have no quarrel with regional speakers who make Dawn rhyme with Don, but I do object when a quiz show that draws contestants from all regions makes a nonstandard pronunciation part of a clue.
NOTE to teachers: the sound \ Ã¤ \ is already a stumbling block in learning to spell because it can be represented by either the letter a or the letter o. Thereâ€™s value in retaining the/É”Ë/ sound when teaching words spelled with aw.