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A recent question has reminded me of something I’ve been wondering about for a while: what is the correct way to pronounce tuple?

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1  
What is a non-mathematical example of this? –  GEdgar Jun 27 '11 at 15:19
    
I don’t know what “correct” means, but the three most frequent pronunciations used by native speakers are [ˈtʰʌpɫ̩], [ˈtʰupɫ̩], and [ˈtʰjupɫ̩]. –  tchrist Jun 5 at 13:58

7 Answers 7

up vote 26 down vote accepted

There are two possible pronunciations, one to rhyme with two pull (/tupəl/) and the other with supple (/tʌpəl/).

Take your pick. There will always be someone to agree with you... violently :)

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How to rhyme tuple with two? –  Tim N Feb 17 '11 at 10:27
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@Tim, look now... –  Benjol Feb 17 '11 at 11:18
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You say a Tuple and I say a Tuple ;) –  mplungjan Feb 17 '11 at 14:45
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Just being picky here, but "two pull" and "tuple" are not perfect rhymes, since "pull" is [pʊl] and the "ple" in "tuple" is [pəl]. –  Kosmonaut Apr 3 '11 at 15:07
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I've always pronounced it two-ple. In Python programming circles you'll find proponents of both forms - and usually we're pretty accepting of each other's craziness ;) –  Wayne Werner Apr 30 '12 at 14:19

I don't use either of the pronunciations Benjol mentioned. I say /tjupl/, the first syllable rhyming with "stew".

I suspect that Benjol has a dialect in which "dew" and "do" are homonyms, but they aren't for me or most British speakers.

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Really? I've never heard anyone in England say "tewple" - it's always "toople". –  Marcin Jun 27 '11 at 19:16
    
(Or, in one instance, "tupple"). –  Marcin Jun 27 '11 at 19:23
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You may never have heard it. But I assure you that on the rare occasions when I say the word I pronounce it /tjupl/, like "tulip" and "tutor". Why the downvote? –  Colin Fine Jun 28 '11 at 12:03
    
"Most British speakers" certainly does not accord with my observation. –  Marcin Jun 28 '11 at 17:09
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@Marcin: I didn't say anything about how most British speakers pronounce "tuple": I said how I pronounce the word, and made a subsidiary comment about how British speakers pronounce "do" and "dew". –  Colin Fine Aug 15 '12 at 16:55

I am a British speaker.

I pronounce Dew and Do differently (dew - stew - chew / do - too - who).

But tuple/quintuple/quintuplets I pronounce with 'up', not 'oop' (tuple - supple).

So do any other British speakers I know.

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The "dew"/"do" distinction you are referring to is because UK English allows the /j/ onglide to occur after coronal consonants, /t,d,s,z/ and so on. Although both AmE and BrE can distinguish "fool" /ful/ and "fuel" /fjul/, AmE treats both "dew" /dju/ and "do" /du/ as /du/. –  Kosmonaut Apr 3 '11 at 15:59
    
Yes, @kosmonaut, that is quite right. I used the other words to try to provide 'sounds like' examples for my own pronunciation in the absence of IPA symbols. (I've seen them used on here but I don't know how people do it) –  Karl Apr 3 '11 at 16:12
    
@Karl: IPA symbols are easy. Just open up a page that already has them and use murine snarf-N-barf to insert whatever you need. –  tchrist Apr 3 '11 at 17:45
    
Oh, just like that? Excellent, thanks. ( @tchrist ) –  Karl Apr 3 '11 at 18:12
    
Really? Every programmer I have met in England says "toople". –  Marcin Jun 27 '11 at 19:17

From dictionary.com:

tjʊp ə l, ˈtʌp ə l)

So, the actual pronunciation is actually either "tew-pel" or "tu-" as in "but".

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Isn't /ˈtʌpəl/ more like "tupple" than "tew-pel" or "too-pel"? –  psmears Jun 27 '11 at 12:33
    
My pronounciation guide puts it as "ʌ" as in "but"!! I always said "but" as in "boot"... Jks. Don't know what happened when I posted that answer. –  Thursagen Jun 28 '11 at 11:48
    
/tjʊp ə l/ is yet another pronunciation, that nobody else has mentioned. I say /tjup ə l/ with a tense /u/ not a lax /ʊ/ –  Colin Fine Feb 18 '13 at 17:15
    
@ColinFine I would say that /tjʊpəl/ is almost certainly a typo. Stressed /jʊ/ is not a phonotactically valid sequence in any type of English I’m familiar with, except just possibly as a variant of /yud yəd/ for ‹you’d› (and there it’s probably just the result of allophonic lengthening of the schwa before a voiced plosive, as is regular). –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 5 at 20:33

It should be pronounced to rhyme with quintuple, sextuple, octuple etc, since these are its origins.

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1  
This is how I've heard it pronounced in the USA (except that I would leave "quadruple" off the list since the "u" there is long). This one may be subject to some regional differences, given @Ham and Bacon's answer. –  JeffSahol Jun 27 '11 at 12:20
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@JeffSahol: You're right that there are regional differences: for example the "u" is long in "quintuple", "sextuple" is long in British English. Saying it's "like quintuple" is about right, because although in my experience there's quite a lot of variation in how people say that word, exactly the same variation occurs with "tuple" :-) –  psmears Jun 27 '11 at 12:35
    
The pronunciation analogy with 'quintuple' etc. won't necessarily work because of of how stress modifies vowels. There could also be a competing analogy with 'double'. –  Mitch Jun 27 '11 at 13:33
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So next question. What is the correct pronunciation of those three words! –  Martin Smith Jun 5 at 21:54

When I first heard of tuple in C.J. Date’s book An Introduction to Database Systems, he goes to the trouble of explaining that it is pronounced like couple. That was in an early edition around 1983.

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I'm not entirely convinced that Date has any right to pontificate, but +1 for actually providing some evidence, rather than 'this is what I do'. –  TimLymington Jun 23 '13 at 20:15

I was a little surprised to hear two people who sounded like Brits (Tim Isted and Dave Addey) both saying "tupple" in the "Introduction to Swift" session (402) at Apple's WWDC 2014. (Unfortunately, this is not public.) Like Colin Fine, above, I've always said /tjuple/, and thought that was standard in the UK. Then again, Tim and Dave work for Apple, so maybe they've adopted a company standard.

On "tjuple" vs. "toople": my guess is that this is the same UK vs. US variation as we see with "stew".

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There are three common pronunciations: [ˈtʰʌpɫ̩], [ˈtʰupɫ̩], and [ˈtʰjupɫ̩]. –  tchrist Jun 5 at 13:55
    
@njr0 In the "Intermediate Swift" session (403) from WWDC 2014, Brian Lanier uses the "tew-pel" pronunciation. So I don't think they have agreed on anything internally at Apple :) –  smileyborg Jun 5 at 23:27

protected by tchrist Aug 13 at 14:38

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