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A friend said that epitome is pronounced as epi-tuh-mi and not epi-tome (with the tome like home). Who is right? Also, is the pronunciation purely dependent on the region where you learnt English?

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2 Answers 2

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Epitome comes from Greek but it was introduced in English via the Medieval French épitomé. It's now very rarely used in French, really found only in scholarly works.

Note the acute accent at the end. This is why you pronounce it with an 'i'. For instance: Beauté => Beauty.

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    So, I was wrong. :'( Apr 21, 2011 at 7:00
  • Of course, French has that accent because it was highly stressed in Greek: ἐπιτομή. It's the long eta "ē" and the syllable taking the stress for the whole word.
    – lly
    Aug 6, 2018 at 4:18
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As reported by the NOAD and the OED, Epitome is pronounced /əˈpɪdəmi/ in American English and /ɪˈpɪtəmi/ (or /ɛˈpɪtəmi/) in British English.

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    @Peter Shor Usually, in American English a non accented t that is not at the beginning (nor at the end) of a word is pronounced /d/, as in Italy; Ito, Prince Hirobumi; cartage; Carter, Angela; aorta; etc.
    – apaderno
    Apr 21, 2011 at 12:24
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    @kiamlaluna: But if this is a feature of your accent (definitely not universal in American English), you distinguish between a "t" and the "d" by the length of the preceding vowel, so catty and caddy are still pronounced differently, even if the "t" and "d" are pronounced the same. With due respects to the NOAD, I think prescribing the /d/ in pronunciation guides is just likely to confuse everybody. Apr 21, 2011 at 12:40
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    @kiamlaluna: I believe the NOAD is wrong; they're pronounced differently. See the vowel length wikipedia page. Catty is pronounced /ˈkædi/ while caddy is pronounced[ˈkæˑdi]. What happened phonetically is presumably that once the length of the vowel became a distinguishing mark between voiced and unvoiced consonants, Americans became lazy about distinguishing their t's from d's in certain situations. Apr 21, 2011 at 13:14
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    @kiamlaluna: thanks for the links. So, to summarize, Americans do distinguish between the phonemes /t/ and /d/ at the beginning of unstressed syllables, but many do this just by lengthening the previous syllable. Most of them probably don't even realize they're pronouncing the "t" and "d" the same in catty and caddy. This does mean the phonemes "t" and "d" merge between two unstressed syllables, so the last two syllables of quantity and chickadee would be pronounced identically. Brits then hear Americans as pronouncing "t"s and "d"s identically. Apr 21, 2011 at 13:55
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    If anybody's still reading this, I just realized why Americans use a /dʒ/ in the pronunication of congratulations. It was probably originally pronunced /kənˌgrætjuˈleɪʃənz/, much closer to the British pronunciation. I suspect that first, the /t/ turned into a /d/, and then the /dj/ turned into a /dʒ/, giving /kənˌgrædʒuˈleɪʃənz/. (Merriam-Webster says both /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ are valid pronunciations, but does not mention /tj/; I use /dʒ/.) May 9, 2011 at 16:00

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