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Oral vs. Aural

Do you pronounce “oral” and “aural” differently? How then?

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I somewhat self-consciously pronounce "oral" with a sound that tends toward a long O, and "aural" with a sound that tends toward AW. But I am aware of making a special effort in this respect.

I understand the difference is purely one of dialect. It is no less correct to pronounce the words differently than it is to pronounce them identically.

speedwell2 May 11, 2004, 5:18am

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aural is sometimes pronounced "OW-ral" although as per speedwell's reply this is normally only used when wishing to make a specific distinction between the two terms, in most cases the intention is clear from the context

ribeye May 12, 2004, 7:54am

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Oral should be pronounced as the first two letters dictate - "or," as in the sentence "trick OR treat."

The "au" in aural sounds like "are," as in the sentence "we ARE dead meat."

People like to use a dipthong (the sound two or more vowels make when pronounced together - the "oi" in "poison") when pronouncing "aural," resulting in something sounding like "oooaaarull." People from NY tend to speak like that (myself being from NY). This blending of pronunciations creates confusion between the two words.

Look at it this way - you don't drive an ooaaatomobile. You drive an automobile. Similarly, you can go nORth, not nAUth.

drenglish May 15, 2004, 9:56pm

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it's hard to explain, but usually if you deepen your voice on "aur" in "aural", people will get it.

sam May 16, 2004, 2:07pm

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um.. are you all americans :P

its really simple really. the or in oral is pronounced shorter than the au in aural.

the au in aural isn't "ow" or "are" its the same sound as "audible"... it all originates from latin.. like audit!

and oral is pronounced quicker, the sound of an "ore" say, or from latin oratario or something. get some of the english accent in there!!!!

karen May 17, 2004, 1:22am

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Karen, I'm from Texas. But you just excellently described what I was getting at in my previous post. Thanks for that. :)

speedwell2 May 17, 2004, 4:04am

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I believe the "au" in "aural" should be pronounced like the "aw" in "awful," but not like the "a" in "are." "Oral" can, according to American Heritage, be pronounced the same as "aural," or you can make it longer and pronounce the "o" like in "odious."

Anonymous Coward May 17, 2004, 11:19am

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I'm from West Michigan, and they are spoken exactly the same here. People usually avoid the word 'aural' and try to come up with some other way of saying 'pertaining to the ears or hearing'.

Chance Likely August 4, 2004, 7:02am

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Chance Likely is correct for not only West Michigan, but for the rest of the country as well. The two words, aural and oral, fall into a category of homonym referred to as a homophone; meaning two words which are pronounced the same, but spelled differently. The mistake in pronunciation is perpetuated by those who are attempting to draw a distinction between the words when spoken together; an example of this occurrence is when one is describing aural/oral communication within the context of hearing loss. However, a quick perusal of virtually any dictionary will illustrate that the proper pronunciation of both words is the same.

bkdoc September 9, 2012, 3:55pm

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bkdoc is absolutely right, and they are pronounced exactly the same in British English as well. The pair regularly appear in lists of homophones, such as this one:

Warsaw Will September 11, 2012, 6:44am

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For all (or most?) British, Australian, New Zealand, South African speakers, they are pronounced differently, like this:

Oral: /ˈɒrəl/
Aural: /ˈɔːrəl/

Which in my Australian accent come out something like:

Oral: [ˈɔɹəɫ]
Aural: [ˈoːɹəɫ]

The American descriptions of how to pronounce these make no sense to me. All of these "o", "a" and "au/aw" sounds are handled very differently by Americans/Canadians.

For us, "oral" does not begin with the same sound as "or". It begins with the same first sound as "octopus" /ˈɒktəˌpʊs/ ... the "short o" sound, the vowel sound in "cot".

"Aural" DOES begin with the sound of "or", which is also the sound of "awe" and the first sound of "audible", "awesome", "awful". For us, the letter combinations "or", "au" and "aw" are usually pronounced the same way, the vowel sound in "caught".

For some in the US, who pronounce "cot" and "caught" the same way, this is not going to make any sense.

Imralu August 13, 2016, 5:12am

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