In the course of checking out stimuli for an experiment, I came across an interesting word pronunciation. The speaker is a woman in her mid-20s who has lived all her life in central Ohio. Here's a short version — see if you can guess what the word is:
Note that the preceding clip includes the word in question and also the initial consonant of the following word…
Here's a clip including all of the preceding word and the following word as well:
If you're like me, you probably heard this as something like "the Kerr Center" (or "the cur center", though this seems less plausible). But this earlier use by the same speaker, in a more extended context, may help a bit:
The interviewer asked for clarification and got this response (from which I took the original clip):
By now you may have guessed that the phrase is "Career Center", referring to this institution or one like it — and that the environment /r__r/, perhaps in combination with the speaker's familiarity with the phrase, has led to a considerable lowering and backing of the (nominal) /i/ vowel.
We've all got speech features like this, which pose potential problems for cross-cultural understanding among humans, much less for automatic speech recognition algorithms.
[This recording comes from the Buckeye Corpus, collected at Ohio State in 2000 or a bit before that.]