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I often hear native English speakers pronouncing "multi-" as ['mʌltaɪ] (mul-tie), however all the dictionaries are saying that the only way to pronounce it is ['mʌltɪ] (mul-ty). Example words: multitasking, multimedia.

What is the right or more often used pronunciation? Does it differ in British/American English? Does it depend on context?

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Isn’t this a general reference question? –  tchrist Feb 26 '12 at 15:02
    
I am reminded of this question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/52604 –  GEdgar Feb 26 '12 at 20:32
    
I appreciate all the answer. But as per the pronunciation I need to know that is this pronunciation of a particular zone in America or it is common term use in US- English. –  shiv.mymail Jun 4 '13 at 10:31
    
This is not a pronunciation (like nukular, warsh, or keeng) which is common in one region of the U.S., but which might be ridiculed if you use it in another region. –  Peter Shor Jun 4 '13 at 11:14
    
That means it is common word and It is frequently used in US - english. So we can use it in our regular communication. –  shiv.mymail Jun 4 '13 at 11:53

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The prefix comes from a plural form of the Latin quantifier multus 'many'. As with other Latin plurals ending in -ī, the English pronunciations vary.

The Latin /ī/ was pronounced in Middle English as long /i:/ (as in Modern English seen), but the Great Vowel Shift (GVS), which turned Middle into Modern English, moved all the ME long vowels up a step on the vowel chart.

That meant that words like mice and house (/mi:s/ and /hu:s/ in ME), which were already at the top of the chart, couldn't go any further. So, to make room for ME /e:/ and /o:/ (as in seen and soon) at the top, they fell off and became diphthongs. In particular, ME high front /i:/ became ModE /ai/ , while ME high back /u:/ became ModE /au/.

Which is why mice and house are now pronounced /mais/ and /haus/. This means that multi- can be pronounced as in Latin or Middle English as /ˈməlti-/, or in post-GVS fashion as /ˈməltai-/.

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Yes, the Oxford English Dictionary lists /ˈməltaɪ/ as a U.S. pronunciation. When consulting "all the dictionaries", that is a good one to include.

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Notice the OED also includes a note about what happens when the second syllable gets reduced. –  tchrist Feb 26 '12 at 15:01
    
Slava said "all the dictionaries", not merely "all the free dictionaries". –  GEdgar Feb 26 '12 at 18:05
    
@JAsperLoy So what? Every library I know have has a subscription to the OED. Just go to the library to do one’s research. Shocking idea, I know. Couch-potato research isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. –  tchrist Feb 26 '12 at 20:20
    
OK, I admit that saying "all dictionaries" was a false generalization. What I actually meant was "all dictionaries I could easily get access to". –  Viachaslau Tysianchuk Feb 27 '12 at 21:40

Both are correct. mul-tie is how most Americans pronounce it. They also tend to say an-tie for anti- and se-mie for semi-.

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I think I disagree, but I'm not sure what pronunciations you are indicating. Perhaps you could show them in IPA, for less ambiguity. See eg bbc lessons for guides to IPA sounds and notations. –  jwpat7 Mar 9 '12 at 5:11

The answer to this question, depends on which form of English is spoken. As a British person, I have not heard anyone British say "mul-tie". It is always "mul-tee". I have only ever heard Americans say "mul-tie". So yes, it does differ in British and American English.

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