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How is the prefix "quasi-" pronounced?

Are there any situations (e.g. depending on the word it prefixes or is part of) in which it would be pronounced differently?

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In Br. Eng. it's always kwo-zee, but I've no doubt lots of Americans will say kway-zai, if only to be contrary. – FumbleFingers Jun 11 '12 at 14:50
Canadians pronounce it kwo-zee, but I can't promise I haven't heard kwo-zai pronounced north of the border. I've never heard kway-zai. – JAM Jun 11 '12 at 15:00
In the US, is often pronounced differently in Quasimodo. Also see (warning: pronounces the word on entry) howjsay.com; hover mouse over pink word to repeat audio. – jwpat7 Jun 11 '12 at 16:15
@FumbleFingers: Always? I pronounce it /ˈkweɪzʌɪ/ ('kwayz-eye'), which happens to be one the pronunciations the OED gives. – Barrie England Jun 11 '12 at 17:50
@Barrie England: I must stand corrected then. Obviously you're at least as "english" as me - more so, on the basis of names. I hear both, but I've always assumed the /ˈkweɪzʌɪ/ version is American-influenced. – FumbleFingers Jun 11 '12 at 18:14
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Here's what I found in the LPD3, CPD17, and ODP (some irrelevant information omitted):

The Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (Wells 2008)

principal variant: ˈkweɪzaɪ

other variants: ˈkweɪs-, ˈkwɑːz-, ˈkwæz-, -i

The Cambridge Pronouncing Dictionary (Roach, Hartman, and Setter 2006):

UK: kweɪzaɪ, kwɑː-, -saɪ, -zi

US: kweɪsaɪ, -zaɪ; kwɑːzi, -si

Note: quasi- takes secondary stress on the first syllable, eg. quasi-stellar /ˌkweɪzaɪˈstelə/, US /-saɪˈstelɚ/

The Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English (Upton, Kretzschmar, and Konopka 2003):

BR ˈkweɪzʌɪ, ˈkwɑːzi

AM ˈkwɑzi, ˈkweɪˌzaɪ

It's interesting to see how its pronunciation changed with time. For example, the eleventh edition of the Everyman's Pronouncing Dictionary (by Daniel Jones, 1956) gives the following:

quasi kwɑːzi [old-fashioned ˈkweisai]

However, in one of the earlier editions of the same dictionary - it was published under the title "An English Pronouncing Dictionary" in 1919 - there is only one variant listed:

quasi ˈkweisai

Now, I'm not a big fan of prescriptivism but here's what the Pocket Fowler's (2008) says:

"The recommended pronunciation is kway-ziy rather than kwah-zi."

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Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈkweɪzʌɪ/ , /ˈkwɑːzi/ , U.S. /ˈkwɑzi/ , /ˈkweɪˌzaɪ/


I am not sure I am totally convinced by the OED on this one, though. I am British, but I thought /ˈkwɑzi/ was the normal pronunciation and it is the one I habitually use.

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There are many Latin words that have a more heavily Englishized pronunciation that used to be traditional in the U.K., alongside a newer Europeanized pronunciation. I suspect the OED is simply behind the times on this word; probably a hundred years ago you'd have had no difficulty finding British speakers who pronounced it /ˈkweɪzʌɪ/. – ruakh Jun 11 '12 at 15:06
@ruakh: what's the Latin pronunciation? – Mitch Jun 11 '12 at 15:17
@Mitch: In Classical Latin, I think it would have been something like /ˈkʷaːsiː/. – ruakh Jun 11 '12 at 15:44

I'm an American English speaker who uses this prefix on a daily basis (I'm a mathematician). I, and everyone else I know, say "kwah-zee".

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['kweizai] sounds rather cacophonic! Why not stay closer to the much more euphonic — and economic — original Latin pronunciation ['kwazi]?

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Welcome to EL&U. Please note that this is not a discussion forum, but a Q&A site; please use the Your Answer box only to provide a definitive and direct response to the original post. I encourage you to take the site tour and visit the help center for additional guidance. – choster Dec 14 '14 at 17:43
[ˈkwazi] is not any kind of “original Latin pronunciation”. I highly doubt it was ever, at any stage of Latin in history, pronounced [ˈkwazi]. As ruakh said in his comment two and a half years ago, the Classical Latin pronunciation would be [ˈkʷaːsi]. I also don’t see what’s so cacophonic about [ˈkweɪzaɪ] … – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 14 '14 at 18:09
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