I am not a native English speaker and thus the variation of pronunciation always amazes me. How can the exact prefix or letters pronounced so differently in some words, for example:

  • Accent is pronounced as "æksənt" and Acceleration as "əkˌseləˈreɪʃn" - almost as if it is written with an "i" as (icceleration).

  • Enter as "entər" and Entangle as "Inˈtæŋɡl" - again as if written with an "i" .

  • Trivial as "trɪviəl" and tribunal as "traɪˈbjuːnl"

These are only few examples as there are many other prefixes with this type of variations in pronunciation. Why is this, What am I missing and is there a rule of thumb for pronouncing these kind of prefixes?

Every answer and opinion will be greatly appreciated.

  • 1
    There is not one rule; there are many applicable rules. The "a" in "acceleration" and the "e" in "entangle" are pronounced as /ə/ or /ɪ/ due to vowel reduction before stressed syllables. (I wrote an answer about a similar example here). The stressed "i" in "trivial" is pronounced as /ɪ/ due to a general tendency called "ion shortening." – herisson Jul 19 '16 at 20:44
  • Thank you for the comment, especially the article on the ion shortening was eye-opener. – Doe McBond Jul 19 '16 at 21:45

You should have a dictionary that shows which syllable is stressed. The vowel in a stressed syllable will be pronounced in full, and the vowel in an unstressed syllable will be reduced (pronounced with /ə/ or a short vowel). If you know French and Latin, a good rule of thumb is that the word will be stressed on the same syllable that it was in French or Latin. (Generally, French words are stressed on the final syllable, and Latin words on the penultimate or antepenultimate syllable).

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