These two words can be hard to tell apart if you’re not familiar with the difference in vowel sound. Watch the video to study the difference in mouth position for this minimal pair.
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Someone has asked me to explain the difference between the words ‘bottle’ and ‘battle’. So, this is the difference between the ‘ah’ as in ‘father’ [α], which is the vowel sound in bottle, and the ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’ [æ] sound, which is the vowel in battle. The first difference, you may notice, is in the corner of the mouth. Aa, aa, you can see the corners are pulled back and up a little bit. Aa, ah. In ‘ah’ as in ‘father’, they are not. They stay relaxed. Also, ah, aa, do you see the difference in the tongue? Ah, aa. It’s more present on the ‘aa’. On the ‘ah’ as in ‘father’ it is very relaxed, ah, resting on the bottom of the mouth. With the ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’ sound, it comes up and then presses forward, aa aa, so you can see more of it. Ah, aa. So as it comes up in the back and presses forward, it widens a little bit and becomes more noticeable in the mouth. Ah, aa. Let’s look at some pictures.
Here we see the two sounds side by side. The word bottle, with the ‘ah’ as in ‘father’ vowel sound, is on the left. The word battle, with the ‘aa’ as in ‘bat vowel sound is on the right. You can see in the word battle that the corners of the mouth are coming up and back a little bit. Also, you can see in the word bottle that the tongue is more relaxed. You can see some of the teeth. In battle, you can see more of the tongue as it spreads over the sides of those bottom teeth as it widens. Here are the two sounds in profile. You can see that there is a dark line running from the nose all the way down to the chin. This is from the tension in the corners of the lips coming up and back. This movement of the corners of the mouth also causes more tension in the bottom lip in the word battle. You can see in the word bottle how it is more relaxed, more hanging, than in the word battle.
Let’s look at some word pairs. As requested: bottle, battle. Cop, cap. Cot, cat. Chop, chapter. Rot, rat. Slop, slap.