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I have been confident with my pronunciation of the word presentation, which is /prɛz(ə)nˈteɪʃ(ə)n/ or /ˌprez.ən'teɪ.ʃən/.

In the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, the pronunciation of this word is as above in both AmE and BrE. I also listen to the human pronunciation given by the dictionary and decide that it must be /ˌprez.ən'teɪ.ʃən/. Also, on http://dictionary.cambridge.org, both AmE and BrE versions are pronounced as /prez.ən'teɪ.ʃən/.

However, on the Oxford Learner's Dictionaries (http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com), this word is pronounced as BrE /ˌpreznˈteɪʃn/, AmE /ˌpriːzenˈteɪʃn/ with the human pronunciation being clearly different.

So my questions:

  1. Why do the two 'reliable' dictionaries give different versions of pronunciation of presentation?
  2. Are both right? Which is more common?
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    Isn't it simply a case of "British prez-en-tation, American pree-zen-tation"?
    – WS2
    Jun 8 '17 at 10:37
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    Why are you paying attention to British dictionaries when trying to figure out whether a variant pronunciation in American English pronunciation? All three American dictionaries I checked indicate that both pronunciations are acceptable. Jun 8 '17 at 10:43
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    I hear both versions, and while the short E version is likely more common (here in the Midwest US), the long E version is fairly common as well.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 8 '17 at 11:24
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    What is your question? Can a word such as "presentation" have two different, correct pronunciations–even in the same country? The answer is yes. As a native speaker of American English, I use /prez/ and the /priz/ variant seems odd, but we don't all speak the same. Jun 8 '17 at 11:30
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    You guys seem to miss my points. What I mean is learners of English in their non-speaking countries depend on dictionaries to learn English. But Cambridge says only /ˌpreznˈteɪʃn/ for both AmE and BrE while Oxford teaches them that /ˌpreznˈteɪʃn/ is BrE and /ˌpriːzenˈteɪʃn/ is AmE. Jun 8 '17 at 13:59
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Some answers to your questions:

  1. Why do the two 'reliable' dictionaries give different versions of pronunciation of presentation?

Who told you that these were "the two 'reliable' dictionaries"? These are both British dictionaries, and both seem to treat American pronunciations more or less as a side issue; they don't always get them correct. They are very reliable for the definitions of the words (at least the British English definitions, which are the same for most words as the American definitions) and the British pronunciations.

  1. Are both right? Which is more common?

Two of the American dictionaries I checked (Merriam-Webster and American Heritage), say that both /ˌprezənˈteɪʃən/ and /ˌpriːzənˈteɪʃən/ are acceptable pronunciations. I hear both. So for this particular word, these American dictionaries are batting 1000, while the British dictionaries are not. Unfortunately, neither of them gives pronunciations in IPA.

Which is more common? That may depend on which region of the U.S. that you live in, and I wouldn't want to guess the answer without access to a nation-wide survey.

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  • For what it’s worth, in a 2007 update for presentation the OED gives Brit. /ˌprɛznˈteɪʃn/, U.S. /ˌprɛznˈteɪʃ(ə)n/, /ˌpriˌzɛnˈteɪʃ(ə)n/, /ˌpriznˈteɪʃ(ə)n/. I can’t say that the /priz/ pronunciation personally rings any bells; I’ve only ever said /prɛz/. I can’t imagine anyone in the world ever saying /prez/ like prays.
    – tchrist
    Feb 17 '18 at 16:43
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Why do the two 'reliable' dictionaries give different versions of pronunciation of presentation?

Because English speakers pronounce the word in different ways.

Are both right? Which is more common?

Yes, both are right. I don't know which is more common. But if you choose a pronunciation from a reliable dictionary, there should be no problem. If you chat with other speakers and hear them pronounce the word differently from you, then maybe you can change the way you pronounce it. Reliable dictionaries won't give you bad pronunciations. You can also check forvo.com and listen to various native pronunciations.

It is also simply not true that, to quote part of your comment,

learners of English in their non-speaking countries depend on dictionaries to learn English.

Maybe you do. Most learners I know rely on more natural sources, such as podcasts, forvo, speaking with native speakers on Italki, Verbling, GoSpeaky, etc., YouTube videos such as Rachel's English, listening to English radio, watching movies, etc. Yes, you can start by consulting a dictionary, but you should rely more on these other sources if you're truly studying and learning the language. And I haven't even mentioned taking English classes or hiring a tutor. Okay, now I have mentioned them.

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