What is the standard rule, if there is one, for pronouncing words beginning with the prefixes com-, col-, cor-, con-?
Very often these words have an /ɒ/ vowel, like in the word hot - in Gen American, I think it's the vowel /ɑː/. Other times they may have a schwa, /ə/, like the first vowel in amazing. Sometimes they seem to have a syllabic consonant, /m, l, r, n/.
Sometimes there even seem to be two words which are spelled the same but have a different pronunciation. For example content meaning "happy" and content as in "the content of the lecture", for which Cambridge Dictionaries gives the transcriptions /kənˈtent/ and /ˈkɒntent/ [US:/ˈkɑːntent/] respectively.
Here are some examples with transcriptions from Cambridge Dictionaries Online:
- common /ˈkɒm.ən/
- commercial /kəˈmɜː.ʃəl/
- colleague /ˈkɒl.iːɡ/
- collection /kəˈlek.ʃən/
- correlate /ˈkɒr.ə.leɪt/
- correct /kəˈrekt/
So my question is:
- Is there any rule for whether a schwa or full /ɒ/ or /ɑː/ is used?
- Are there generalisations that can be made which will help me have a good guess at which to use.
- Are there any rules that will enable me to tell in certain restricted situations.
- If I'm unsure about a particular example, would I be better to go with a schwa or a full vowel. Why?