Logo/Linguaphiles, I am in need of your guidance.

What were you taught when it came to phonics of words that start with the letter "I"?

When is a short/long "I" sound used and what are the rules for determining so?

Why are "ice", "Ireland", "iron", etc. pronounced with a long "I" sound while "indigo", "internet", etc. pronounced with a short "I"?

Now some of you might say if the "I" is followed by a consonant and vowel the "I" takes on a long "I" sound, but how does that rule apply to words like "imagine", "inadequate", "iridium", "Italy", etc.?

  • I am not familiar with how I would pronounce your name. Is it a short I like ih-rosh or long like eye-rosh?
    – Octopus
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 20:41
  • this is what sprung about this question in the first place, i pronounce it with a short i much like ih-rosh
    – irosh
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 20:42
  • 4
    It should be noted that names, especially those "borrowed" from foreign languages, are outside any "rules" that might otherwise apply. (Though the "rules" do affect how people will attempt to pronounce an unfamiliar name.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 21:17
  • You will note that "in" and "im" are almost always short (I'm sure there's an exception somewhere, but none comes to mind at present). Otherwise you can attempt to use the open/closed syllable thing, but that's not much help if you don't know how the word is divided.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 22:24
  • If you're going to try to discuss pronunciation in a silent medium, you'd do well to use an English phonemic notation for the sounds; then you'd all at least know what the other was saying, instead of just writing. Writing about speech sounds using the English alphabet is confusion worse compounded. Here's a set of symbols (which can be copied and pasted, btw) for American English, from Kenyon and Knott. Somebody who speaks RP can link to a phonemic system for that; between them, you have quite a lot of the Anglophone world. Commented May 9, 2015 at 0:22

1 Answer 1


You'll never find a rule that works 100%, because vowel length/tenseness was distinctive in earlier English, and it remains distinctive. You will find rules that work partially, because of shortening and lengthening processes that took place in the history of English. Vowels were once shortened before several unstressed syllables or before several consonants, so today, long vowels remain rare in these environments.

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