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I hear "dayta" more often, but what's the correct pronunciation?

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Perhaps the more interesting question is "How was data originally pronounced?". According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term first appeared in 1946, and was used early on in 1956 in the Data Processing Industry. According to a data processing industrialist, the term has been pronounced "day-ta" in his field for as long as he can remember. –  mareoraft Sep 2 at 6:03

6 Answers 6

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Wiktionary marks:

  • /ˈdeɪtə/ as UK, US
  • /ˈdætə/ as US
  • /ˈdɑːtə/ as Australia, UK formal

Merriam-Webster lists all three pronunciations, and provides a sound file for /ˈdeɪtə/.

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This sounds right to me. There's nothing more formal about the dahta pronunciation though. It's a dialectical, even personal matter. –  Noldorin Jan 26 '11 at 23:49
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I think the t in 2 and 3 should be a d! –  reinierpost Apr 19 '12 at 17:27
    
What's the android's name on Star Trek? Say it with me...Day-ta. I rest my case. –  user23235 Jul 7 '12 at 7:25
    
@Greg That may be how the crew of the Enterprise pronounces the name of their droid, but that's flimsy evidence to rest a case on. NOAD lists two pronunciations; moreover, Macmillan's American edition lists one, while their British edition lists a different one. M-W lists three ways to say the word, presumably all valid. –  J.R. Jul 7 '12 at 17:21
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@reinierpost What you are calling a ‘d’ is phonologically a simple flap, written as [ɾ] to represent that particular allophone of phonemic /t/. I don’t think you (should?) usually write out the allophone if you are using slashes for a broad phonemic transcription the way you would when using square brackets for a (comparatively) narrow phonetic transcription. –  tchrist Jul 7 '12 at 20:09

That depends on which country you live in and what your definition of "correct" is. The US and Australia, for example, predominantly use "dayta" but New Zealanders say "dahta".

In short, either is correct but different countries' cultures have different norms.

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And some people say dæta, rhyming it with how a Boston native would pronounce "flatter". :) –  Robusto Jan 26 '11 at 19:14
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This is incorrect. Day-ta is far more common in Britain. –  user3444 Jan 26 '11 at 19:36
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In fact, thinking about it, I hear American's on TV say 'datta' and 'dahta' far more often than 'day-ta'. –  user3444 Jan 26 '11 at 19:43
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@ElendilTheTall is correct. We Brits usually say "day-ta". (Though there is a notable minority that says "dahta".) –  Noldorin Jan 26 '11 at 23:48
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@Orbling: Or in the West Country, evidently. :) –  Noldorin Jan 27 '11 at 19:14

In American English, either is acceptable. "Dah-tuh" is more common than "day-tuh" in my personal experience, though it's hard to say which is more prominent overall. (Regional speech differences can inflect the decision about pronunciation as well.)

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My personal experience is the opposite -- but that's just me :) The only time I ever hear dah-tuh is on television. –  Billy ONeal Jan 26 '11 at 22:26
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This is amusing, since for almost every other English word, Americans use a (very) long "a" vowel sound, whereas Brits use a short one. I suppose the case is reversed here. –  Noldorin Jan 26 '11 at 23:50
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In New York we say "day-tuh" :) –  user3075 Aug 2 '12 at 17:04

I vaguely remember being told that day-ta was the correct pronunciation, and that was because there was a vowel (the second 'a') following the consonant (the 't'). Now whether or not that actually applies, someone please comment because I'd love to know if I was given a load of hogwash there.

Personal experience, I find that I hear and use day-ta more than dah-ta. It is similar to the different ways that 'SQL' is pronounced among us techies - some spell it out, and some pronounce it as "sequel". Thinking about it, I find that when it is the word "data" all by itself, I use day-ta, but when it is part of another word ("database", for example) I tend to use dah-ta instead. Again, not sure if this is something that I just happened to have picked up over the years or if it is even correct. Anyone else notice the different pronunciation in situations like this?

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The NOAD reports the pronunciation as /ˈdædə/ /ˈdeɪdə/, using the American English IPA; using the British English IPA, the pronunciation is /ˈdeɪtə/.

The difference between /ˈdeɪdə/ and /ˈdeɪtə/ is the same difference between /ˈɪdəli/ and /ˈɪtəli/ (the pronunciation for Italy).

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Are you sure NOAD lists ˈdædə/? You might confuse flap "t" with "d" –  Theta30 Sep 17 '11 at 14:01
    
Yes, I am sure. –  kiamlaluno Sep 17 '11 at 14:42
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The NOAD uses "d" for "flap t" in its pronunciation symbols. I don't know of any good justification for this; /d/ and /t/ are perceived as different phonemes in American English, even in cases where they are both replaced by a flap. –  Peter Shor Jul 7 '12 at 13:02

There's no such thing as "correct" pronunciation.

Now, to answer your question, here's what LPD3 says on this (Wells 2008):

Preference polls

BrE:

ˈdeɪtə 92%

ˈdɑːtə 6%

ˈdætə 2%

AmE:

ˈdeɪțə 64%

ˈdæțə 35%

ˈdɑːțə 1%

NB: ț stands for the (voiced) alveolar tap (flap) here. Wells uses a slightly different symbol, not the usual IPA one.

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Great answer! Note that these preferences are just for the first vowel; I don't believe that 100% of Americans use alveolar taps (although indeed the vast majority do). –  Peter Shor Jul 8 '12 at 20:41

protected by Will Hunting Jul 7 '12 at 13:52

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