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I've always pronounced it dɪˈvaɪsɪv (rhymes with incisive). Today at his press conference, President Obama pronounced it dɪˈvɪsɪv (rhymes with dismissive).

I've heard the latter pronunciation off and on. To me, it always sounded like a hyper-correction. I'm wondering now if there are regional variations? AmE vs. BrE? Or is it just random?

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I'm assuming the second pronunciation is a formation based on division, but I could be wroing. –  Robusto Jan 16 '13 at 20:08
Both are familiar, both are widely used, and there is no difference, rather like the two pronunciations for either or tomato. Just individual idiosyncracy. You may continue pronouncing. –  John Lawler Jan 16 '13 at 20:17
@JohnLawler: Tomayto/tomahto is more than individual idiosyncracy. I have never heard the former in Britain nor the latter in the US (other than from expatriates). Your pronouncement is thus not very helpful. –  TimLymington Jan 16 '13 at 20:24
@TimLymington Likewise for route. I've never understood how they get rout from that word. –  spiceyokooko Jan 16 '13 at 20:59
Divisive comes from divise I think, which is why the generally accept pronunciation continues as if that e is still in place. –  spiceyokooko Jan 16 '13 at 21:03

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I believe that all verbs that end in -ide (/aɪd/) regularly produce adjectives ending in -isive (/aɪsɪv/) where the diphthong is preserved.

  • cicatrisive
  • collisive
  • decisive
  • derisive
  • divisive
  • incisive
  • indecisive
  • precisive
  • previsive
  • subdivisive
  • subrisive
  • undecisive

In contrast, verbs ending in -mit /mɪt/ regularly produce adjectives ending in -issive /mɪsɪv/, with a double s to keep the i vowel “short”.

  • admissive
  • commissive
  • dismissive
  • emissive
  • fissive
  • insubmissive
  • intermissive
  • intromissive
  • irremissive
  • manumissive
  • missive
  • omissive
  • permissive
  • photoemissive
  • promissive
  • remissive
  • retransmissive
  • submissive
  • transmissive
  • unsubmissive

Both the OED and the OALD agree with this.

I’m thinking therefore that the “other” pronunciation is less broadly accepted, perhaps a regionalism or sort of hypercorrection due to interference with divisible /dɪˈvɪzɪbəl/.

It certainly sounds odd to my own ear.

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The dictionaries disagree, so they must be both right!

Actually, I've heard four pronunciations; /dɪˈvaɪ.sɪv/, /dɪˈvɪ.sɪv/, /dɪˈvaɪ.zɪv/ & /dɪˈvɪ.zɪv/,

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Those are the ones given by my Webster's 3rd New Int'l, but OED only lists the first (as do several others). An oddity. –  Robusto Jan 16 '13 at 20:07

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