Automata theory is a study in the fields of theoretical computer science and mathematics. See this Wikipedia page for more information. What is the pronunciation of the word automata? Is it auto-m-A-ta (where the capital A says its name) or auto-m-ah-ta?
closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, Daniel δ, Mitch, Brendon, MετάEd Jan 20 '12 at 18:46
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It's au-TOM-ah-tah, the plural of automaton (au-TOM-ah-ton - proper pronunciation here) but not to be confused with automation (au-to-MAY-tion).
I have no idea why the difference exists. However, I note that it's similar to the difference in better known words robot (RO-bot) and robotics (ro-BOT-ics).
Hopefully someone who has more familiarity with formal pronunciation notation and / or etymology can help fill in the gaps.
The OED’s entry gives the pronunciation of automaton as:
Looks like there’s plenty to choose from there! ☺ My own is /ɔːˈtɒməˌtɑn/ in the singular, and of course /-ə/ in the plural. (I don’t have the cot–caught merger.)
The notes under the etymology are particulary copious:
The OED’s ‘transferred sense 3c’ referenced above is the one about somebody acting like a machine, and corresponds to the RAE’s sense 3. The OED also admits a sense 4 from the field of Computing.
For the record, the RAE entry for autómata confirms that the current Spanish spelling, autómata, is not just masculine (just like all the other -ata words of Greek derivation in Spanish), but also singular. So Spanish este autómata is singular where English these automata is plural, as all students of finite automata know. The Spanish plural would be estos autómatas, oddly enough, which risks sounding like a double-plural to the English ear. English finite automata translates to los autómatas finitos in Spanish.